GUEST COLUMN: Means test needed to ensure senior funding spent wisely

Dave Brown

There has been a lot of discussion of late regarding the United Way, and our seniors’ funding.

I am proud to say that our funding for seniors’ services has increased over the past nine years; however, it isn’t the increase that has received ongoing discussion, but a cut to one agency.

Dave Brown

Let me assure you the United Way does not make any funding cuts lightly. In fact, the funding process takes over 10 months, and involves three different sets of volunteers from our community.

One of the values of the United Way is that those people who are most in need for service get it, regardless of ability to pay.  A means test is an effective way of determining that.

A means test is a process that identifies income levels and can determine if an individual would qualify for a subsidy or not, based on their ability to pay – not their total assets.

Meals on Wheels, Footcare, Transportation, even Counselling services all use means tests to help identify which individuals can’t afford the true cost of the services.

There is no doubt the Lambton Seniors Association staff and volunteers do a good job in our community. What is in doubt is whether those people who need the services most and cannot afford it, are getting the service.

Lambton Elderly Outreach and Habitat for Humanity both do similar home handyman services in our community, and both use a means test to establish costs to the client.

The United Way’s annual Day of Caring, thanks to 25-plus sponsoring companies and 250 volunteers, is now doing 50% of its work at the homes of seniors and of those with disabilities — all of whom have completed a means test.

There is a limited amount of money for services, and that money is becoming increasingly limited each year.  We must ensure those dollars are best used, where they are needed the most.

The United Way has chosen to increase its funding to Meals on Wheels in Sarnia, and for the first time offer subsidized meals in Rural Lambton. In fact, the need for Meals on Wheels in Rural Lambton is up 36% so far this year.

United Way also increased funding to both the Red Cross, (in Sarnia) and LEO (in rural Lambton) for transportation services, enabling seniors who are unable to drive to get to medical appointments, grocery stores and even food banks.

Over 90% of those who get LEO Transportation services say they couldn’t live in their own homes if it wasn’t for the Transportation services.

Currently, LEO and Red Cross each receive $58,000 for transportation services alone.

Additional seniors services funded by the United Way include Friendly Visiting, Charitable Nursing, Homeward Bound, Stroke Recovery, CNIB, and Telcheck.

Dave Brown is the executive director of the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton