FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Social Development plans to spend a record $1.1 billion in 2013-14, an increase of $4.7 million from the previous year.

“Supporting individuals, families, seniors and persons with disabilities who need our help the most is a top priority for our government,” said Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé. “These estimates are a clear demonstration of our government's commitment to manage smarter while still providing the essential programs and services that our residents need and that the taxpayers can afford.”   

The budget estimates include funding increases to social assistance rates, which will rise by about seven per cent over six months. A $3.5-million investment in 2013-14 will increase social assistance rates by four per cent starting in October. The social assistance rate will increase by another three per cent in April 2014.      

“Our government is committed to helping reduce poverty in New Brunswick,” noted Dubé.  “Increasing the social assistance rates will help to improve the quality of life for people in need.”

The department will invest $3 million in the construction and renovation of affordable housing units across the province and will provide an additional $1.9 million to support affordable housing rent supplements.

“Helping people obtain affordable housing is important to our government,” Dubé said. “I am pleased to work with our federal partners, developers and non-profit organizations to see more New Brunswickers benefit from these investments.”

As part of the provincial government's commitment to seniors, almost $9 million is allotted to the 2011-16 nursing home renovation and replacement plan, which includes infrastructure, operations and wages.

An additional $3.8 million will be provided to increase per diem rates in special-care homes, specialized-care homes and community residences. This will allow for an increase in wages for workers in these facilities.

“These workers are instrumental in supporting and caring for seniors and adults with disabilities,” said Dubé. “Improving wages and benefits for senior care workers reinforces our commitment to enhance the long-term care system and meet the challenges that will arise with an increase in the aging population and in the demand for services.”

The department estimates also provide for a five-per-cent increase of $305,000 for the disability supplement, which assists disabled persons with health- and disability-related expenses.   

“Helping people with disabilities gain access to the supports and services they need continues to be a top priority,” said Dubé. “We pledged to increase the individual disability supplement benefit and have increased funding in this program area for the past three years by 15 per cent.”

The department’s budget estimates also include:

●    $28.1 million for the ongoing support of poverty reduction;
●    $18.7 million to support affordable housing rent supplements;
●    $1.1 million for the Healthy Smiles, Clear Vision program;
●    $2.6 million for school supplies for low-income families; and
●    $750,000 for shelters for the homeless.

“Our programs and services must be sustainable and focused on the needs of New Brunswickers,” said Dubé. “The budget measures we have introduced demonstrate our government's commitment to achieving this goal and to helping improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable in our society.”