Human Rights and Social Policy

Advocacy

Inclusion NB is a provincial non-profit organization that supports people with an intellectual or developmental disability and their families. It is estimated that 22,000 New Brunswickers have an intellectual or developmental disability. These New Brunswick citizens, we well as their loved ones, want to see transformational change that will ensure that people have opportunities to live a good life on an equal basis with others.

People with an intellectual or developmental disability want and deserve real opportunities to live a full life as contributing members of New Brunswick society. People want to be – and should be – fully included in school and in their communities, have access to the supports and financial resources needed to live in a home of their own, and be gainfully employed.

Consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we are working to advance the following issues.

Inclusive Education – All Ages, All Stages

Early Learning

While the investment of government funding to reduce childcare costs in New Brunswick is a positive step, it has also opened the door for early learning centres to become more selective when accepting children. As a result, it is becoming more and more difficult for families of children with a disability to access affordable, quality childcare.

What we are advocating for:

  • Develop and adopt a provincial policy on inclusive early learning and childcare to ensure that families of children with a disability have equal access to inclusive, affordable childcare. This policy should ensure that early learning centres do not discriminate against children with a disability.

K-12

New Brunswick is leading the way both nationally and internationally with regards to inclusive education policy and legislation. Yet, inconsistencies in understanding and effectively implementing Policy 322, the Inclusive Education Policy.

What we are advocating for:

  • Maintain strong legislation and policy for an inclusive K to 12 education system and to on-going education and training on the effective implementation of Policy 322. Additionally, commit to maintaining the current restrictions on alternative education sites to the high school grades and to investing in the development of knowledge and in the human resources needed to increase capacity for an effective inclusive education.

Post-Secondary

Many students with a disability have the desire and drive to attend post-secondary education, yet the opportunity to pursue their goals is not a reality for everyone.

What we are advocating for:

  • Expand the number of seats available at NBCC and CCNB through the special admissions processes and adopt practices such as inclusive “micro-credentialing” (tailored, industry-specific, rapid training) to increase opportunities for post-secondary learning.

Housing Inclusivity: housing that is safe, affordable, physically accessible, close to activities, amenities, and services and welcoming of all people within diverse and dispersed mixed income developments, structures, and neighbourhoods.

Inclusive and Affordable Housing

The province has released its new multi-year housing strategy. This includes initiatives aimed at making housing more affordable and accessible for New Brunswickers. Given the high rates of poverty experienced by people with a disability, access to adequate and affordable housing is a critical and immediate need.

Housing Inclusivity and Housing Accessibility are equally important, but distinct.

Housing accessibility addresses the physical and sensory accommodations that many people have in order to live in community. A housing situation is inclusive when the residence, or the structure of that residence, is a home-by-choice, and not the result of congregation of people in a housing unit, development, or neighbourhood, based on demographic characteristics.

Inclusive housing is safe, affordable, and accessible – but it is also dispersed.

What we are advocating for:

  • Commit to adopting Inclusion NB’s proposed definition of housing inclusivity in the implementation of the strategy.
  • Develop and adopt policy and programming design to ensure that people with a disability are prioritized in housing programs, including the new initiatives presented in the Provincial Housing Strategy.
  • Revise current policies to make Portable Rent Supplements more flexible, including to enable the transfer of Portable Rent Supplements to a direct payment benefit to persons with a disability.
  • Support community-based disability organizations and researchers to develop and implement the processes required to assess housing needs for people with a disability, including through the collection of relevant, provincial data related to this population.

More than 77% of working aged New Brunswick adults with an intellectual or developmental disability are unemployed or underemployed.

Inclusive Employment

People with an intellectual or developmental disability want to work, yet more than 77% of working aged New Brunswick adults with an intellectual or developmental disability are unemployed. Our economy needs everyone to contribute to our provincial labour force. Evidence shows that, with the right support and approaches, people with a disability can become long-term, valued employees.

In 2019, the Department of Social Development adopted new standards for the Employment and Support Services Program (ESSP) to modernize the services being delivered by 38 day-program agencies across the province.

Many of these agencies have operated in a group setting which often meant that people were not involved in paid employment. A significant amount of work remains to implement the new ESSP standards, including a new way to fund agencies to deliver supported employment services in their community.

What we are advocating for:

  • Fully implement the 2019 ESSP service standards, which require agencies to focus on paid employment as a key priority for working-aged people receiving services.
  • Prioritize developing strong agency leadership in shifting to supported employment services.
  • Develop and implement a new formula to fund ESSP agencies to strengthen their capacity to support people to work. The current model is based on group and centre-based services with people occupying seats in programs. This makes it difficult to provide individualized employment supports and services and limits real pay for real work.

New Brunswick has the second highest rate of people with a disability in the country at 35.3%

Modernize Disability Supports and Services

New Brunswick has the second highest rate of people with a disability in the country at 35.3%, and many people within this population require disability supports and services to participate in the community in meaningful ways. There is still a substantial number of younger adults with a disability living in institutional settings, including nursing homes, which are meant to serve the needs of seniors in their last years of life. Often, people with a disability lack real choice over where they live and the support that they receive.

What we are advocating for:

  • Eliminate the practice of placing younger adults in institutional settings. Develop, adopt, and fund a Home First policy to support adults under 65 with a disability to live where and with whom they choose.
  • Support people currently living in institutional settings to move to a home of their choosing in the community.
  • Modernize disability services programming and legislation to focus on individualized supports, and choice, control, and autonomy for people with a disability.

New Brunswick’s Social Assistance rates are the lowest in the country.

Social Assistance Reform

Many New Brunswickers with an intellectual or developmental disability rely on Social Assistance for their income, yet they live in deep poverty.

New Brunswick’s Social Assistance rates are the lowest in the country. A single person with a disability receives a maximum $886 per month to meet their basic needs. In addition, New Brunswick has some of the strictest criteria in the country to access provincial disability income benefits, leaving many people to live on basic social assistance of $637 per month.

New Brunswick’s current wage exemption, which is a full exemption on the first $500 of net income earned per month plus a 50% exemption on the balance, is too low.

What we are advocating for:

  • Increase Social Assistance rates for people with a disability to a minimum of $1500 per month.
  • Develop and implement less restrictive eligibility criteria that is open, fair, and transparent and introduces a right of appeal – available in other provinces.
  • Enhance the current policy on employment incentives to increase the wage exemption to a full exemption on the first $800 of net income earned per month, plus a 50% exemption on the balance.

The Supported Decision-Making and Representation Act

In December 2022, after many years of advocacy by Inclusion NB, the Supported Decision-Making and Representation Act (Bill 20) was passed unanimously in the New Brunswick legislature.

The Supported Decision-Making and Representation Act represents a significant shift in adult decision-making laws in New Brunswick and is deeply rooted in a human rights approach. When proclaimed into law later this year, it will replace the very outdated Infirm Persons Act. The new legislation will ensure the right for people with a disability to make their own decisions based on their wishes and preferences, even if they need some support.

It’s an important time in our province. On January 1, 2024, The Supported Decision-Making and Representation Act was proclaimed into law. This legislation represents a significant shift in how we think about decision making rights, self-determination and legal mechanisms for assisting people who may require help with making decisions.

This Act ensures that New Brunswickers, including seniors and adults with a disability, can make their own decisions – big and small – about their own lives.

This can happen with support, if needed, and most importantly, will result in having those decisions recognized under the law.

This approach – true to the principles of inclusion – has been many years in the making. Protecting the autonomy and dignity of everyone to participate in their decision-making is the very cornerstone of an independent and full life.

Next steps:

  • Inclusion NB is developing training around supported decision-making and the new Act for various audiences, including self-advocates, families, lawyers, and others.
  • Inclusion NB is exploring funding to create training for those authorized to complete capacity assessments (physicians, nurse practitioners, and psychologists) under the new Act.

Health Care and Mental Health Care

Good health and well-being are crucial for people with an intellectual or developmental disability to live well and to contribute to their communities. Yet, many people face barriers to accessing health care.

People with an intellectual or developmental disability experience mental health issues at a significantly higher rate than the general population. However, significant gaps remain in the provision of mental health supports and services.

What we are advocating for:

  • A new service model designed to provide quality mental health support to people with an intellectual or developmental disability and a co-occurring mental health concern.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Name(Required)
Email(Required)