CARP’s Caring for Caregivers Campaign united Canadians in sending a message to the federal and provincial governments to do the right thing:
Increase financial benefits for family caregivers in Canada.
Over 8 million Canadians provide unpaid care to family members and friends with health issues, including chronic conditions and disabilities. They save the Canadian healthcare system over $26 billion dollars a year. That’s a lot of caregiving!
Caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be personally challenging and draining physically, emotionally and financially.
In its campaign, CARP and its supporters asked for specific measures to help millions of caregivers on the verge of burnout.
CARP is pleased to see some of its ‘asks’ answered in the New 2017 Federal Budget (released in March).
WIN – Expanding Employment Insurance Benefits
To better support caregivers, Budget 2017 proposes to provide $691.3 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, and $168.1 million per year thereafter, to create a new EI caregiving benefit.
The EI Compassionate Care benefit will now be offered to people caring for ‘critically ill’ family members for up to 15 weeks.
Previously, this benefit was only provided to people caring for a ‘terminally ill’ family member with an imminent chance of dying (within 26 weeks).
The new benefit provides up to 15 weeks of EI coverage to care for a critically ill family member, which can be added to the 26 weeks if the patient’s condition becomes terminally ill. Parents of critically ill or injured children will continue to have access to up to 35 weeks of benefits, with additional flexibility to share these benefits with more family members.
- Most caregivers are forced to take ‘unpaid leave’ to assist loved ones with chronic illnesses who are not imminently dying.
- Many also lose promotions and higher earning potential, and even risk losing their job because of time spent caregiving.
Partial Win, More Needed – A Caregiver Rebate not a Tax Credit
The good news:
The 2017 federal budget included three changes that will help caregivers now:
- The Canada Caregiver Credit now increases the allowable income for caregivers who are not living with the individual for whom they provide care (from $$13,785 to $23,045).
- The Canada Caregiver Credit increases allowable income for eligible caregivers. Those with an income up to $23,045 are now eligible; increased from $20,895.
- The new credit simplifies caregiver relief by consolidating three previous caregiver-related credits (Infirm Dependent Credit, Caregiver Credit, & Family Caregiver Tax Credit) into one.
The new Canada Caregiver Credit will provide tax relief in the amount of:
- $6,883 (in 2017) for care of dependent relatives with chronic illness (including persons with disabilities) – parents, siblings, adult children, and other specific relatives. A caregiver with an income of $16,163 and below will get the maximum tax credit benefit of $6,883.
- $2,150 (in 2017) for care of a dependent spouse/common-law partner or minor child with a chronic illness (including those with a disability)
The bad news:
Caregiver tax credits remain non-refundable. This means only those who are paying tax will benefit, so the poorest caregivers, and those who’ve given up work completely to care for a loved one, get no relief.
Fact: Changing this Federal tax credit to a rebate would ensure all caregivers can obtain this financial relief.
Still Fighting – Direct compensation for extraordinary care
CARP proposes a means-tested caregiving allowance to be paid directly to caregivers providing extensive care. This will provide relief to caregivers and allow care recipients to stay in their home rather than in a hospital or long-term care facility. Nova Scotia, as well as countries like Sweden, Australia, the UK and have such programs. All Canadian caregivers deserve the same.
Fact: Many family members want to provide care and keep their family members out of long-term care facilities, but lack of financial resources stops them.
Did You Know?
You could be eligible to receive compassionate care benefits to care for someone else.You can also receive compassionate care benefits to care for a gravely ill person who considers you a family member, such as a close friend or neighbour. A signed Form INS5223, Compassionate Care Benefits Attestation, is required from the gravely ill person or their legal representative. Click to read more about EI Compassionate Care Benefits.
Please click here to read CARP’s Caregiver Policy. Updated: April, 10, 2017.