FREDERICTON (GNB) – Budget increases in program areas of the Department of Social Development will allow low income families, children and seniors to receive more and improved services for housing, social assistance, and long-term care.

“Our department plays an important role in the lives of many New Brunswickers,” said Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch while presenting the main estimates for his department at the legislative assembly. “Our government’s commitment to fulfilling this role has been demonstrated again through these increases to our budget. We now have more resources to dedicate to these important services.”

370 more affordable housing units to be built

After exceeding its three-year target of 151 new affordable housing units under the Canada-New Brunswick Bilateral Agreement, the department will proceed with the second phase of the agreement and create 370 new affordable housing units within the next three years.

“The annual amount allocated to housing and homelessness has increased by 23 per cent for the last two provincial budgets and now exceeds $120 million,” said Fitch. “The department will continue working with both the non-profit housing sector and private developers to increase the supply of social housing across the province.”

In the coming year, the department will also accept more low-income working families under the housing benefit program. Established last year, this program provides a short-term benefit averaging $392 per month depending upon household income, composition and location. About 1,000 low-income working families, which includes more than 3,000 people, have been registered so far under the program.

Social assistance reform

The department will continue its ongoing social assistance reform aimed at working more effectively to help people become sustainably employed and providing better support to those who are not able to work.

“The provincial budget is providing the resources to offer more support to people in need,” said Fitch. “The measures put in place so far as part of the reform are expected to affect 28,772 people, including children.”

The next phase of the reform aims at addressing the needs of people with disabilities. A task force composed of representatives of various sectors received the mandate to review disability support services and programs offered by the department, including income support. The intention is to reform the programs based upon their recommendations.

Investment in nursing home facilities and services

The long-term care sector is also benefiting from an increase in its annual budget. Increased funding will allow the second increase to the hours of care which reached 3.3 hours on April 1. In a 30-bed facility, this initiative represents an additional six hours of care for the residents.

“This is an important step to help ensure high-quality care and service for our seniors,” said Fitch. “This increase means staff in nursing homes, such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and resident assistants, will have more time to care for the residents.”

The department will also invest in the development of new nursing homes as part of the final stages of the New Brunswick Nursing Home Plan. The objective is the addition of 600 beds in the nursing home network. A call for proposals will be launched in the coming months.

More support for foster families

To better support foster families, and to assist in recruitment and retention efforts, the department will increase funding to services for children and youth in care. Foster families across the province will receive an increase of 11 per cent in their service fee, along with a 50 per cent increase for relief care. About 350 New Brunswick foster homes will benefit from these increases, which total about $2.3 million for 2022-23.

“The department values and recognizes the invaluable contributions of our foster parents,” said Fitch. “Foster parents provide a loving, supportive family environment for some of the most at-risk children and youth in New Brunswick. We have many examples of foster parents helping children and youth thrive at school, in their communities and in their own personal development. It is encouraging that the number of foster families has increased by almost eight per cent over the last year, and I am confident that the initiatives I am announcing today will bolster our efforts to retain and recruit foster families in our province.”

Wage increases for human services workers

The department will provide about $38.6 million in 2022-23 to increase wages for more than 10,000 workers in the human service sector, including those employed in home support, community residences, special care homes, family support, group homes, attendant care, and employment and support services agencies. This equates to a wage increase of at least 11 per cent for these workers.

“Workers in the human service sector play a key role in providing a continuum of care for so many New Brunswickers in need,” said Fitch. “Many of these workers contribute to ensuring that our long-term care systems provide people with the right kind of care at the right time. Others provide valuable support to children and youth in care by helping improve their outcomes.”