A new round of budget increases will see more money set aside in New Brunswick for low-income families, children and seniors to access improved housing, social assistance and long-term care.
Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch presented the plan for his department at the New Brunswick legislature on Tuesday.
“Our government’s commitment to fulfilling this [important] role has been demonstrated again through these increases to our budget. We now have more resources to dedicate to these important services,” said Fitch.
The plan includes increasing the availability of affordable housing, social assistance reform, investing in nursing homes and services, support for foster families and higher wages for home support workers.
Fitch said after it exceeded a three-year target in building 151 new affordable housing units under the Canada-New Brunswick Bilateral Agreement, the department will proceed with the second phase of the agreement.
It will mean creating another 370 new units over the next three years.
Fitch said his department plans to continue working with the non-profit housing sector and private developers to increase the supply of social housing projects throughout New Brunswick.
“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.
Fitch said his department also aims to accept more low-income families to the housing benefit program. The program, established in 2021, offers a short-term benefit of $392 per month, depending on factors such as household income, composition and location.
Roughly 1,000 families are currently registered for the plan.
Social assistance reform
New Brunswick’s Department of Social Development plans to continue its ongoing social assistance reform to work “more effectively to help people become sustainably employed” and provide better support to those unable 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.”
Fitch said the next phase of the reform focuses on addressing the needs of disabled persons.
Representatives of multiple sectors have joined a task force that will review disability support services and programs, including income support. The goal is to reform programs based on the task force’s recommendations.
Investing In Nursing Homes
According to the province, long-term care homes and their respective services will also benefit from the annual budget increase.
Increased funding will see a second increase in hours of care, which reached 3.3 hours on April 1. The province says in a 30-bed facility, it means an additional six hours of care for 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 developing new nursing homes as part of the final stages of the New Brunswick Nursing Home Plan. The goal is to add 600 beds in the nursing home network.
The province says a call for proposals will be launched in the coming months.
More Foster Care Support
New Brunswick also announced increased funding for services to kids and youth in foster care. Officials say the goal is to “better support foster families, and to assist in recruitment and retention efforts.”
The province says foster families will receive an increase of 11 per cent in their service fees, along with a 50 per cent increase for relief care. About 350 foster homes will also benefit from the gains, totalling about $2.3 million for 2022-23.
Fitch said foster parents provide a loving and supportive environment for at-risk children and youth, noting examples of parents who help youth thrive at school, in community work and in personal development.
“It is encouraging that the number of foster families has increased by almost eight per cent over the last year,” said Fitch. “I am confident that the initiatives I am announcing today will bolster our efforts to retain and recruit foster families in our province.”
Pay Raise For Human Support Workers
The Department of Social Development also plans to invest about $38.6 million over the next year to increase wages for more than 10,000 workers in the human service sector.
It includes those working in home support, community residences, special care homes, family support, group homes, attendant care and employment and support services agencies.
It equals a wage increase of at least 11 per cent.
Fitch said these workers play a “key role” in providing a continuum of care for New Brunswickers in need.
“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,” said Fitch. “Others provide valuable support to children and youth in care by helping improve their outcomes.”