Hot! Feds trim funding for disabled groups

WinnipegSun.com – Opinion – Drop to 65% of current levels over three years
September 06, 2012.   By Harry Wolbert

Canada’s disabled recently received some rather depressing news.

Human Resources and Social Development Canada announced the disability component of the Social Development Partnership Program (SDPP-D) is going to change. This is a federal program which a number of national nonprofit disability organizations, such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and People First of Canada, have been relying on for their direct funding. And it’s that funding which will soon be drying up.

Over the next three years, the amount of directed grant and community inclusion initiative funding will decrease to 65% of current levels in 2013-2014 and 35% in 2014-2015.

I expect those groups whose mandate is primarily that of an “advocacy” organization to face the greatest challenges. While the government trough has not completely dried up, one thing is for sure: Change is on the way and Canada’s disability community had better get ready.

Organizations have been told the changes are meant to “better address disability issues and maximize the impact of federal funding.”

The “transformation” announced contains three elements. The first involves a move away from directed funding to more open and competitive calls for proposals for most SDPP-D funding. The second calls for increasing the use of partnerships and the leveraging of partner resources. And the third deals with improving the focus on “tangible outcomes” for Canadians with disabilities and the reporting of those outcomes.

Thing is, those partnerships among provincial and national disability organizations already exist.

A really good example of this is the Community Inclusion Initiative. It’s a pan-Canadian effort that includes the Canadian Association for Community Living, People First of Canada, provincial and territorial associations for community living, various community partnerships, and all three levels of government.

There are few of us who’d have a problem with improving the “reporting of outcomes.” However, our movement is united in that the funding and application processes are not areas in need of any changes. If anything should change, it is the level of funding, which currently stands at $11 million per year.

Canada’s disability community has been well-served by the Social Development Partnerships Program. Policies and best practices for supports and services have been advanced that make inclusion a reality in all aspects of community.

So, why make changes to a program that has become so successful and has a proven track record? This is what many disability advocates cannot understand.

It appears as though the Harper government is no longer content to just go after groups like the environmental lobby. It now feels it necessary to go after groups which advocate on behalf of people living with disabilities.

It is often said a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. In my opinion, the changes announced aren’t necessary.

Canada’s disability rights movement has been the catalyst for changing society and making it more inclusive and accessible. We will continue in some form to be that agent of change. I am confident of this.

— Wolbert is a disability and anti-poverty advocate.

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