Originally posted by Prosper Canada at prospercanada.org
Next to social isolation, poverty is the biggest barrier felt by Canadians with disabilities. Too many Canadians with disabilities are living paycheque to paycheque, earning too little to get ahead. However, the Indigenous population experiences a disability rate twice that of the non-Indigenous population. As Indigenous people with disabilities represent a marginalized population within a marginalized population, the complexity of their unique situations and needs cannot be ignored. It is estimated that over 350,000 Indigenous people in Canada live with a disability.
To help combat poverty for disabled Canadians the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) came into effect in 2008. The RDSP is a long-term savings plan that helps Canadians living with disabilities and their families to save for their future. As well as being a tax deferred saving plan, the RDSP offers bonds and grants from the federal government. The Canada Disability Savings Bond (CDSB) provides eligible individuals with up to $20,000 without making any contributions and the Canada Disability Savings Grant (CDSG) provides up to $70,000 when contributions are made. The RDSP has to be opened by age 60 and bonds and grants are payable to age 49. Since 2008, uptake of the RDSP has been less than anticipated with only 24 per cent of eligible Canadians opening an account.
Despite the high number of Indigenous people in Canada living with a disability, there is a lack of participation in government programs such as the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the RDSP. British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) Indigenous RDSP Navigator Program was created with the support of the Vancouver Foundation and is part of the Access RDSP project. Access RDSP was launched in 2016 as a provincial initiative between BCANDS, Disability Alliance BC (DABC) and Plan Institute. Its goal is to see every eligible individual in British Columbia and the rest of Canada hold an RDSP. Access RDSP was designed to reach the population that has been inaccessible from the launch of the RDSP by providing one-on-one support to navigate the requirements. Access RSDP has developed a shared understanding of the gaps that exist within the DTC/RDSP program and works to understand the system and the barriers that they need to help their clients overcome.
The following barriers contribute to the low up-take for the RDSP:
  • The DTC cost is not covered and there is no set fee for what a doctor can charge. The financial barrier is too great for many clients who survive on disability benefits alone.
  • Lack of access to health care practitioners.
  • Transportation costs to get DTC forms signed by health practitioners. There is often no access to public transportation in rural communities and clients have to travel for medical appointments.
  • Health care practitioners’ lack of knowledge about the client’s medical history in cases where their doctor/specialist has retired, they have no general practitioner or they use walk-in clinics.
  • Lack of understanding by health practitioners on how individuals qualify for the DTC. This results in the client’s inability to apply for the DTC.
  • Delays with DTC adjudication where the client has difficulty contacting CRA for updates.
BCANDS RDSP navigators provide support to Indigenous clients in the following ways:
  • Provide them with information packages and assist clients in connecting with health practitioners.
  • Complete tax returns up to 10 years prior through BCANDS’ partnership with the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.
  • Assist clients in obtaining identification to open RDSPs.
  • Provide information and resources to health practitioners about the DTC Certificate and review the DTC prior to submission to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  • Support clients to complete legal representative agreements to allow caregivers to submit the DTC and open the RDSP on their behalf.
  • Follow-up with CRA when there are delays in processing and informal reviews are requested when DTC’s are denied.
  • Support clients through the whole process of obtaining an RDSP.
BCANDS Indigenous RDSP navigators work with all Indigenous people including BC’s 203 First Nation Communities, BC’s 37 Métis Chartered Communities, and Inuit, Métis and First Nations across Canada now residing in BC. BCANDS works one-on-one with these communities to foster relationships while raising awareness and support for the BCANDS Indigenous RDSP Navigator program. As of September 30, 2017 RDSP navigators have helped open 38 RDSPs, completed 45 tax returns and have over 100 clients at various stages of the DTC certificate process.
About BCANDS
BCANDS is an award winning, provincial, Indigenous not-for-profit, charitable society that serves the unique and diverse disability and health resource/support service needs of the Indigenous population. BCANDS has led the way for over 26 years in delivering disability and health resources, information and support services to their clients, families, support workers and communities. BCANDS is a “stand alone” organization and the only organization of its type in Canada.
Thank you to BCANDS for sharing information about the program and the need for services in this area. To learn more about BCANDS and the Indigenous RDSP Navigator Program visit: http://www.bcands.bc.ca/