SAID is broken and needs to change

Accessing better funding is an urgent need/ StockSnap from Pixabay

When the government fails to help, who is supposed to?

By Katlyn Richardson, Contributor

The Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program is intended to help people with disabilities but, in reality, leaves many to fall through the cracks. As a single person with no dependents the maximum one can make is about $1000. In a city like Regina or Saskatoon, that makes even renting an apartment a nearly impossible task.

Typical rent for a good one-bedroom apartment is typically around $1000 before other costs are added. Not to mention the fact that an individual cannot have more than $1500 in liquid assets (meaning no more than $1500 in a bank account or easily accessible means of retrieving this amount that is personally tied to you).

The reality of this program is it forces disabled people in Saskatchewan to rely on a broken system that does not care for individuals so long as on paper something is being done. I have personally experienced how unfair the application process alone is for SAID.

A few years ago I was in a situation where I almost had to drop out of university due to a bad period where it seemed like nothing could keep my chronic illness regulated. I was given the choice to stay in university and struggle physically and mentally, or go on SAID and hopefully get control of what was going on. So, I applied with hope for the best.

Between applying and getting an answer on if I was even approved for the Saskatchewan Assistant Program (SAP) – think of this as the government’s way of saying “here’s some money now quit bugging us” – It took almost four months, which meant I struggled for another semester so I could at least somewhat afford to live and care for myself. I had three different doctor’s notes stating that I should not work as I could be a hazard to myself and the physical stress would be harmful to my health.

However, when I was interviewed about the impact of my disability on my daily life, I was having a good day with minimal symptoms and because I was okay and managing I was denied for the SAID program because the interviewer (who is a social worker with minimal medical knowledge, if any) decided I am not impacted by my disability significantly enough and was told to look at a seemingly able-bodied individual and judge if they are truly disabled.

It was decided because my parents (who are both disabled themselves!) could potentially look after me, I was not a good candidate for this program.

Now, I know I am so lucky my parents would do whatever I needed to make sure I am okay and can have food and a roof over my head. Others are not always that lucky. If I was living with abusers who put me at serious risk, I would have been left in danger because this program that is meant to help disabled people “participate better in their community” would have left me stuck in a place where I was not comfortable.

I lived in Prince Albert at the time and if you think Regina is bad, Prince Albert is so much worse. Regina made me feel free. I felt trapped even visiting Prince Albert. SAID would have given me the ability to live in Regina completely independent of my parents and I would not have lived in a town where I was scared to get sick because there were no permanent neurologists and if something went wrong with my illness warranting a hospital visit I might be in a dangerous situation. This is the other problem with SAID.

If you live in towns like Prince Albert where you need to travel about one and a half hours away or more for certain medical appointments, SAID only provides about $1000 to live on plus a bit for travel for medical purposes (there is not a specific amount paid out for this, but on average my dad spent about $100 between gas and food every time I had a medical appointment, so my mom would try to book her appointments for the same day so less money was spent).

I remember one of the people I spoke to about my case for SAID even asked me why I didn’t just see a specialist in PA, and they were shocked to learn I had no choice because there was a lack of certain medical providers. The sad fact is, I was eligible for more money (including travel!) living in Regina where my trip to a neurologist was maybe a 15-minute bus ride than the town where the trip could be two hours in the winter.

SAID is a flawed program with many issues but in the end, it only services those with disabilities on paper. In reality, it is a program intended for the government to avoid a human rights lawsuit for not providing financial aid to those with disabilities.

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