Before Parliament recessed to allow MPs to go back to work in their ridings, I had a meeting with Tammy Moore the Interim Chief Executive Officer for ALS Canada, which supports research and advocacy on behalf of individuals and their families who suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a terminal disease characterized by progressive paralysis of muscles throughout the body.
At home caregiving is an essential part of caring for ALS patients, ninety percent of whom die within five years of diagnosis, but puts a tremendous emotional and financial burden on ALS families.
I know and have met several constituents who take on the role of caregiver for family members, friends and others in the community who need help due to chronic or long-term illness, disability or aging.
We are grateful to the commitment and compassion of the caregivers who offer support through their work in various care facilities in our community, but for those who make the decision to keep those of frail health at home for as long as possible, the choice creates increased levels of stress and responsibility on caregivers who must also hold down a job.
Our community is not unique. It is estimated that there were 6.1 million employed Canadians who provided care to a family member or friend in 2012, representing over a third of Canada’s entire workforce (35 percent). Most caregivers devote considerable time, energy and money to provide care, and many struggle to balance their responsibilities at home and at work.
The economic and social costs associated with caregiving are significant. In 2012, over half a million (about 600,000) caregivers had to cut back their regular working hours and 390,000 had to leave their jobs entirely to care for a loved one. Another 160,000 had to turn down paid employment because of their caregiving responsibilities.
Beyond the costs to caregivers in terms of lost wages or benefits, the negative employment consequences of caregiving affect employers through lost productivity and the cost of replacing employees. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the cost to employers in lost production as a result of caregivers missing work, quitting or losing their jobs is $1.28 billion annually.
It is with this in mind that the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), launched the Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan (CECP) on June 23. More information can be found at http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/seniors/cecp/index.shtml.
The plan will explore cost-effective ways employers can help employees continue to be productive in the workplace while carrying out their caregiving responsibilities.
A key component of the Plan is the establishment of the Employer Panel for Caregivers that will consult with employers from across Canada to identify cost-effective workplace practices for informal caregivers helping them achieve a better balance of work and caring responsibilities. The Panel is comprised of industry leaders from small, medium and large-sized businesses, as well as expert advisors on caregiving. The panel will report back to the Honourable Alice Wong on its initial findings later this year.
In addition, our government has an “Information for Caregivers” section on the seniors.gc.ca website, which serves as a focal point for federal, provincial and some municipal information on financial information, care options, powers of attorney, and health matters, including mental health and dementia.
Other supports through the Government of Canada include the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, a 15 percent non-refundable credit to help provide financial relief for caregivers; additional tax measures and targeted programs for caregivers under federal jurisdiction (i.e. veterans).
Under our Employment Insurance (EI) program two types of benefits are available to caregivers:
Compassionate Care benefits provide up to six weeks of income replacement for people who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill and has a significant risk of death; and Employment Insurance Special Benefits provide benefits for parents caring for their critically ill child.
I look forward to the initial findings of the CECP panel so that we may find ways in which our government and employers can continue to support caregivers, truly some of the unsung heroes in our community.
Calls for Proposals - Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF)
Do you have a project that will help improve accessibility in community facilities for Canadians with disabilities? If so organizations are encouraged to apply for funding through the EAF 2014 call for proposals. The deadline for submitting proposals is Friday, August 1, 2014. Over $8 million in funding is available through this year’s call for proposals.
Application information is available on Employment and Social Development Canada’s website at www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/disability/eaf/ .
The Honourable Ron Cannan is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country and welcomes your feedback at [email protected]. Information on local announcements and federal government programs can be found at www.cannan.ca