Province Announces Social Services Pandemic Response
Today, the Government of Saskatchewan announced the Ministry of Social Services Pandemic Response. The response will support vulnerable Saskatchewan citizens and the organizations that serve them by leveraging existing resources within the system, adapting policies and allocating new resources.
“Our government is committed to providing supports to vulnerable citizens in Saskatchewan through this time of uncertainty,” Social Services Minister Paul Merriman said. “The Social Services Pandemic Response provides additional funding to emergency shelters across the province while leveraging existing resources, including vacant social housing units, to ensure each client has the support they require.”
The Social Services Pandemic Response includes measures to provide additional funding to emergency shelters, modifies service delivery models to accommodate capacity pressures due to physical distancing and the need for clients to self-isolate. The response also includes measures to ease the burden on existing clients as they work with the Ministry of Social Services.
Pandemic Emergency Shelter Support
Government is announcing one-time additional funding of $171,000 targeted at meeting extra cost pressure emergency shelters are experiencing as they continue to serve those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. This brings funding for emergency shelters to a total of $3.93 million.
Organizations receiving the increase are: Lloydminster Men’s Shelter; YWCA Regina - My Aunt’s Place; YWCA Prince Albert; YWCA Saskatoon; Lighthouse Saskatoon; Lighthouse North Battleford; Salvation Army Saskatoon; Salvation Army Regina; Soul’s Harbour Regina and Soul’s Harbour Moose Jaw. These organizations currently provide more than 300 beds for individuals who need emergency shelter and supports.
Modified Service Delivery Model
The Emergency Shelter Response also includes a modified delivery model adapting the Cold Weather Strategy to respond to pressures created by COVID-19.
When emergency shelters are unable to meet the needs of an individual or family because of capacity pressures, Social Services will support those in need with funds for emergency hotel stays and will work to transition clients to permanent housing.
If a client is required by Public Health to self-isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, that person will be transitioned to a safe accommodation such as a hotel or an individual housing unit.
There are approximately 1,700 vacant Saskatchewan Housing Corporation units located in 29 larger communities that will be leveraged to ensure those impacted by COVID-19 are able to access housing or an individualized space to self isolate. An additional 1,200 units are available in smaller communities across Saskatchewan.
Social Services will continue to work with Saskatchewan’s network of emergency shelter providers to ensure those who are homeless and lack the means to pay for their basic needs are served. After hours, referrals for emergency hotel stays are also made on behalf of the ministry by Mobile Crisis Services and the Salvation Army.
Individuals who have, or are suspected of having, COVID-19 and lack money to meet their basic needs should apply for any Federal Benefits they would be eligible for. Those needing immediate emergency help, such as food or shelter, can contact the local service centre, their worker or the Client Service Centre at 1-866-221-5200.
Support for Children, Youth and Families
Social Services is acting on the request from the Saskatchewan Youth in Care and Custody Network to delay transitions to independence for young people. This mean that any youth that “ages out of care” during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be transitioned out of their current housing. Case workers are contacting impacted youth and their caregivers to ensure that supports and services continue.
To help families receiving the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), any families who were receiving part-time benefits because their children were attending school will receive full-time benefits, retroactive to March 1, 2020. The CCS helps parents with low to moderate incomes with the costs of licensed child care.
New Saskatchewan Housing Benefit
The Saskatchewan Housing Corporation will begin accepting applications for the new Saskatchewan Housing Benefit (SHB) on April 1, 2020. The SHB is a federal-provincial program delivered through the National Housing Strategy. It aligns with the strategy’s principles of people, communities, and partnerships. It also aligns with the province’s focus on helping people in greatest housing need.
SHB is a monthly benefit available to eligible households, including seniors, families, couples and singles. It will be available to Saskatchewan renters who:
- rent from a community housing provider, such as a non-profit housing provider or co-operative;
- pay more than 50 per cent of household income on rent and utilities;
- have incomes and assets below the program limits; and
- are not receiving another government benefit to help with their housing/shelter costs.
Clients will receive a benefit based on their household composition:
- Eligible households that require one bedroom, such as single individuals or couples, will receive $150 per month.
- Households that require two bedrooms will receive $200 per month.
- Households that require three or more bedrooms will receive $250 per month.
Application forms and additional information will be available on the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation website or by calling toll-free 1-844-787-4177.
Other actions under the Social Services Pandemic Response include the following actions that are being taken to ease the burden on existing clients during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Child and Family Programs (CFP)
Frontline child protection workers will have access to Personal Protective Equipment, safe work guidelines and training to protect themselves and the children and families they work with.
Whenever possible, child and family services and supports will be provided using alternate methods that avoid direct contact. Staff who may need to enter homes to carry out their mandated work related to child safety have been provided with a series of screening questions to determine potential risk.
Income Assistance (IA)
All IA clients continue to receive their benefits. Effective March 19, 2020, the ministry lessened reporting requirements across all of its programs. If a client is late reporting, IA will still process their payment.
Social Services Physical Distancing and Eased Reporting Measures
Social Services offices remain open. The first hour of the day is reserved for more vulnerable individuals, including those with a disability or health problem such as a compromised immune system.
To minimize in-person contact for the safety and well-being of clients and staff, clients are asked not come into the offices unless it is an emergency and they are unable to call their worker, or they are asked to come in.
People who would like to apply for assistance can do so online at www.saskatchewan.ca/income-support or call the Client Service Centre at 1-866-221-5200. More staff have been shifted to the Call Centre to help serve those in need.
To ease the administrative burden on third party service providers and community-based organizations, Social Services will temporarily suspend financial reporting requirements.