Extension of the Compassionate Care Benefit for Caregivers, boosts in saving mechanisms for seniors, and increased research funding

On April 21, 2015, the Federal Government of Canada announced its 2015 budget, Strong Leadership: A Balanced-Budget, Low-Tax Plan For Jobs, Growth and Security. The budget contained various points of interest for members of our community. Parkinson Society Canada thanks the federal government for their commitment to supporting seniors, caregivers and the research community through the increased funding and renewal of support for various institutions.

The Parkinson community saw a big win in caregiver support reflected in the budget through the expansion of the Compassionate Care EI benefits from six weeks to six months. This was one of the specific asks outlined in Parkinson Society Canada’s pre-budget submission to finance. It was also reflected in Parkinson Society Canada’s briefing note shared with policy makers during our most recent visit to Ottawa on March 31st, and is currently being used by the Parkinson Ambassador Network. This win is not only reflective of our work, but also the collective efforts of our partnering coalitions who all asked for this important change.

While Parkinson Society Canada believes this is a great step forward for caregiver support, there still remain some concerns on how members of the Parkinson’s community will access this benefit. To date, there are many members of our community who have difficulties receiving an end-of-life diagnosis from their physician, which is a necessary component to becoming eligible for this benefit.

Parkinson Society Canada is looking for members of our community who are willing to share their experiences in attempting to access the Compassionate Care EI benefit. If you, or someone you know, would like to share your story with us, please contact us at advocacy@parkinson.ca.

Another piece of good news is the government will provide up to $42 million over five years, starting in 2015–16, to help establish the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. Research on aging and brain health issues, such as dementia, may lead to better diagnostic tools and more effective treatments that improve the quality of life of Canadians affected by Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions. The government is also allocating an additional $14 million in funding over two years for the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to evaluate and disseminate data about best practices with respect to palliative care services.

In addition to the increased investments in brain health research and caregiver support, Parkinson Society Canada was delighted to see policies aimed at boosting saving mechanisms for seniors, helping them manage their finances. The Government of Canada has committed to reducing the minimum withdrawals for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) permitting seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings, as well as increasing the annual contribution limits to Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) from $5,500 to $10,000 annually. This is great news for seniors as neither the income earned in a TFSA, nor withdrawals from it, affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits such as Old Age Security (OAS), the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits and the Goods and Services Tax Credit.

The government also introduced a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities to help with the costs of ensuring their homes remain safe, secure and accessible. The credit is worth up to $1,500 for those spending up to $10,000 on things like wheelchair ramps, walk-in bathtubs and grab bars.

For more information on the budget and how it pertains to the Parkinson community, please contact us at advocacy@parkinson.ca.