Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network did an Op-Ed piece for the Vancouver Sun which came out today.  The piece provides a really good overview of the RDSP and also outlines why this is such an important plan for people with disabilities.

Only in Canada: World’s first RDSP puts trust in families  

By Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of PLAN

In the midst of the global economic crisis, some of Canada’s most financially vulnerable citizens have just won a lottery of future possibilities.

Except that luck had nothing to do with it. It took a combination of desperation and vision, research and persuasion — not to mention partnership building between a small non-profit, some big financial institutions, and two levels of government.

The result? The world’s first Registered Disability Savings Plan, an innovative policy that’s already attracting international attention, even thought it’s not available until Monday, Dec. 1.

Similar to a Registered Educational Savings Plan, the RDSP is designed specifically for people living with a disability. It allows anyone already eligible for a disability tax credit to invest savings tax-free until withdrawal, up to a lifetime limit of $200,000. Friends and family members can also contribute to the RDSP of a loved one.

Given that Canadians living with a disability are disproportionately poor, receiving, for the most part, less than $10,000 a year in provincial disability support payments, this is already a big step forward. But it gets better. As an incentive for people to set up an RDSP and contribute to the plan, the government has also created the Canada Disability Savings Grant and the Canada Disability Savings Bond.

Through the disability grant, the government will provide up to $3 in matching funds for every $1 invested, to a maximum of $3,500 a year. The disability bond provides $1,000 annually to the plans of the most vulnerable — low-income families unable to contribute anything themselves.

What does that mean to my family and the half a million others across the country who have a son or daughter with a disability? It means the difference, potentially, between mere survival and a genuinely good life.

Most parents do whatever they can to provide the conditions and resources necessary for their children to grow up as healthy as possible, to have access to education and meaningful work, to live in their own homes, to be part of a community that loves and nurtures them.

For parents of children with a disability, the aspirations are the same, but the obstacles are higher. Social isolation, compromised earning capacity, and the challenges of living independently make the stakes even higher. Hoping that our children will outlive us, we also worry about how they’ll manage, and who will look after them, once we’re gone.

These were among the concerns that inspired the establishment of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Networks (PLAN) 20 years ago. A not-for-profit charity created by and for families, PLAN focuses on ensuring a safe and secure future for our relatives with a disability. It was the pursuit of such futures that fuelled our search for a mechanism that would help provide some long term financial security for our relatives. Most of us are realistic. We don’t expect our sons and daughters to live a life of extravagance. Neither do we expect government to provide everything. In fact, PLAN declines government funding and is built on a model that is sustained by families themselves. Our parent members have always lived up to our responsibilities and will continue to do so.

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