"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Saturday, April 27, 2013

This & That

Just a quick note to say that I've updated the "Places To Be" link on the sidebar (about 1/3 of the way down the page if you're not familiar with it).

It's nice to see that the IWK has brought back the EASE program (which has been conspicuously absent for quite some time now) and HACL still has some interesting upcoming workshops [such as "Planning for the Future - Pre-employment", "Planning for the Future - Living Independently in the Community" and "Putting it All Together - Individual Program Plans (IPPs)"] over the next couple of months.

And, of course, I would remiss not to mention my own upcoming workshops in May, one in Halifax (May 13th) and one in Berwick (May 18th) - both will include presentations on "Understanding the Legal Options to Support an Adult with an Intellectual Disability" and "Protecting Your Child's Financial Future".

That's not all, of course - there are a few other interesting upcoming events to be found there as well so be sure to check out the entire list.

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One other tip to pass on - we've talked in the past about the importance of the Disability Tax Credit and even some information on how to go about applying for it. But I recently came across an article that sets out some of the issues to be aware of with such companies. So you might just want to check that out, too. After all, forewarned is forearmed, right?

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Almost forgot - for anyone interested, the federal government is conducting a study concerning government programs for persons with disabilities and issues related to saving for the future. You might be eligible to participate if you or an immediate family member is in receipt of the Disability Tax Credit. Participation involves either a 2-hour focus group or a 40-minute telephone interview.

To volunteer for the study, call 1-866-770-4649 and leave a message with your name and telephone number. Someone will call you back to confirm your eligibility for the study.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention .. you will be paid a $75 honorarium for participating.

So we have that going for us, which is nice.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Tax Time Tips

Realizing this might be a wee bit late for some (such as those who do a much better job of getting their act together than I), but hoping it will fall in the category of better later than never (as opposed to "too little, too late"), I offer you some tips for that most favourite time of the year ... Income Tax time!

First up: Tax Planning and the Disability Tax Credit
(And just as an aside, if you're not familiar with the DTC, you have some serious reading to do - just follow that last link and scroll down past this post.)

Secondly: The new Family Caregiver Amount Credit
(Not to be confused with the Caregiver Amount Credit - both of which can be claimed in the right circumstances)

And Third: Isn't it frustrating when you KNOW something to be so, know you've read it before but you just can't seem to find the proof? And even more frustrating when it's a tax question that you take to the CRA, only to be told that "No, you're wrong, you can't do that", when you KNOW darn well you can?

Well, that was my story until this past weekend when I finally came across the proof I was looking for (ironically, by following a link on this very blawg). All this to say...

Yes, Victoria, you can claim the cost of your child's private LD school tuition (and room and board, if applicable) if your child has the DTC. (Scroll 3/4 of the way down this page and look at No. 8 "Fees for Specialized Camps (Summer and Winter) and Specialized Schools").

There you go - run along and have some fun now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

He's Baaaaack...

UPDATE: The Assembly of First Nations' Response

I've written on more than one occasion about the discrimination faced by Jeremy Meawasige (and other First Nations' children) like him.

Let's say it altogether, shall we?

J-O-R-D-A-N-'S  P-R-I-N-C-I-P-L-E

Now that wasn't that so hard, was it?

For once, I am pleased to report good news. For now anyway. *
OTTAWA — The Federal Court has ordered Ottawa to reimburse a First Nations band for the cost of taking care of a severely disabled teenager living at home — a ruling that could have widespread implications for federal social services on reserves. 
“It sets an important precedent to ensure all First Nations children across Canada are given equal access to essential government services,” said Paul Champ, the lawyer for the boy’s mother. 
The case centres around 18-year-old Jeremy Meawasige, who has hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, spinal curvature and autism, is self-abusive and can only communicate with his mother, Maurina Beadle.

You might recall that federal officials have been arguing (both in and out of court) that they were in complete compliance with Jordan's Principle and providing funding in line with provincial programs. But the court found that what they had refused to hadn't taken into account was "provincial provisions for special circumstances".

Of course, some of us might call that very proposition into question too - since when, exactly, has there been "provincial provisions for special circumstances", you ask?

Good question.

And up until the 2011 decision of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Boudreau, it appeared that the answer was that there were no "provincial provisions for special circumstances", at least not in Nova Scotia.
["As you know the Direct Family Support program bases its respite amount on $10 per hour. Unfortunately Services for Persons with Disabilities (SPD) staff have not been authorized to increase this hourly amount at this time. In regards to the possibility of increasing your monthly amount, in order that you can use the additional funding to pay extra per hour, SPD has not been authorized to allow any increases which result in payments exceeding $2200 per month. As Brian’s current respite allowance already exceeds $2200 per month no increase may be authorized at this time."]
However, Boudreau, as you will recall, not only settled the question of whether the Services for Persons with Disabilities program is authorized by legislation, it also made it clear that there is nothing voluntary about the SPD program  (once eligibility for services has been shown/accepted, a legal entitlement arises automatically) and, as with any other “assistance” under the Social Assistance Act, eligibility triggers not just a right to that assistance but one that is to be immediately provided.

Even better, the court in Boudreau found that, generally, the SPD Program falls under the ‘special needs assistance’ provisions in the Social Assistance Act and, in situations where the legislation does not stipulate a maximum amount for such assistance, the Department should be paying “reasonable” amounts sufficient to meet the need.

And so it was, with a stroke of Justice Rosinski's pen in the Boudreau decision, that the Province could no longer rely on the November, 2009 directive from the Director of the SPD program limiting the Direct Family Support program approval levels for respite funding to $2200 per month.

And that decision in Boudreau, you see, was exactly what Maurina Beadle and the Pictou Landing Band Council relied on in their successful judicial review application for Jeremy Meawasig.

Back to that good news I mentioned in the beginning of this post - the Federal Court ruling now obligates Ottawa to uphold Jordan’s principle ... in more than just principle, one might say.
“Jordan’s principle is not to be narrowly interpreted", Justice Leonard Mandamin warned.
And although Mr. Justice Mandamin didn't say exactly how much the federal government should be paying to the Pictou Landing band council, after noting that Jeremy's mother is often the only one who is able to understand and communicate with him and Jeremy's only other option would be institutionalization and separation from his mother and community, the court indicated that it should be a lot more than the $2,200 it is already paying. It is expected that this decision will give Jeremy's mother and the band council grounds to demand a full reimbursement.

There's more to this story, of course.

Go read the piece in the Chronicle Herald to see the reaction of Jeremy’s 23-year-old brother, Jonavan Meawasige, who has taken on much of Jeremy's home care over the past two years, while also trying to fish for a living and the expected implications for other First Nations children, including in a separate case on First Nations child welfare in front of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, where it is being argued that First Nations children have the right to welfare services on par with what provincial governments offer off-reserve children.

Well, imagine that. Now what do you suppose they will think of next?

* Hoping and praying this decision won't get appealed by the federal government. And that our provincial government will stop trying to do an end run around the Bourdreau decision, telling families that it has no absolutely no application to their particular case, when that is, at a minimum, very debatable.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BLAWG MAKE OVER

A new look. A makeover of sorts for Spring.
Or, at least, what passes for Spring in Nova Scotia.

So what do you think?