Income testing and abilities screening discriminate against disabled children
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 | 2:02 PM AT CBC News
Four families who took the cases of their children to the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission had mixed results in a decision released Tuesday.
The families were successful on two issues brought to the human rights panel: challenges to income testing for the families of children with disabilities, and the province’s use of an abilities test to assess the needs of the mentally disabled.
* Disability Alert Breaking News: PEI Human Rights rules in favour of parents with autistic children, Tuesday June 26 2007 9:06 PM
* Guardian: Panel gives partial win to parents of disabled kids, Wednesday June 27 2007 12:19 AM
On a third issue, a challenge to maximums in place for support to individuals, the province was found not to be discriminating.
The first issue addressed in the panel’s decision dealt with the use by the province of a test called the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) to determine the level of need of disabled individuals.
The families of Benjamin Wonnacott and Jewel Douse argued FIM was better suited for measuring the needs of the physically disabled, and therefore discriminated against the mentally disabled. The human rights panel agreed.
“The FIM screening tool used to assess their level of functioning placed the mentally disabled Complainants at a higher level of functioning than warranted by all of the needs and circumstances of their disabilities and lives,” the panel wrote in its ruling.
“Discrimination resulted from the differential treatment.”
On the question of income testing, the families of Wonnacott, Douse and Michael Murphy argued they were being discriminated against because income testing was not applied to disabled adults. The province argued that under law children were the responsibility of their parents, and therefore income testing was warranted.
Again the panel found for the complainants.
“The Complainants are being denied the same level of benefits accorded to others in the same situation, save for age,” the ruling reads.
“It would be inconceivable to consider that Provincial subordinate services or policies be interpreted so as to allow differential treatment of disabled children.”
The panel noted that it did not believe the discrimination was intentional, but intent was not a factor in determining discrimination.
Caps to benefits allowed
On the question of the capping of benefits the families were not so successful.
Michael Murphy’s family was joined by the family of 25-year-old Adam Bateman. Both families argued the $3,000 a month provided by the Disability Support Program was insufficient and discriminatory.
The panel found while the families clearly had expenses in excess of the available support, the government was not discriminating in putting a cap on benefits. It said the intention of the Disability Support Program was not to meet all costs, and the government had the right to assign finite resources as it saw fit.
It found similarly for lifetime caps on modifications to homes and vehicles in a challenge brought by the families of Jewel Douse and Michael Murphy.
A time for a hearing to determine damages where discrimination was found has not been set.