Changes to Special Needs Funding for Income Assistance Clients

Since 2009, the province has invested more than $100 million to make life better for low-income Nova Scotians.

Helping with Medical- and Employment-Related Special Needs

Individuals and families on income assistance often have medical- and employment-related needs that they simply can't afford without extra help. That’s why we increased our special needs budget by more than $6 million over the past two years.

Thousands of income assistance clients access special needs funding every year. Last year’s budget was $45 million. Through special needs, income assistance clients can access funding to cover things like transportation to medical appointments, eyeglasses, child care, emergency dental work and funeral arrangements. See the amendments (PDF).

Making Special Needs Funding Fair and Accessible to All

On August 8, 2011  we amended the Employment Support and Income Assistance Regulations around Special Needs Funding to make them clear and fair for all income assistance clients. Because the old regulations weren't clear enough, in a few cases, the rules were applied differently in different parts of the province.

In summary:

  • Income assistance recipients can still access funding for the same special needs as they did before. The lists of special needs has not changed.
  • Doctors can still work with the Department of Health and Wellness if they believe their patients need a drug not on the provincially-approved medication list.
  • Income assistance clients can still appeal decisions to the Income Assistance Appeal Board.
  • A few items, which were awarded primarily through appeal, will no longer be approved. These items include medical marijuana, massage and gym memberships. (People receiving these benefits now will continue to do so, as long as their condition requires it.)
  • Staff still have the flexibility they have always had to give clients access to the extensive list of special needs items and services available through the department, as well as through MSI and the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Formulary.
  • The Auditor General also pointed out the need for clear systems and controls to be in place to ensure that special needs funding is being spent properly. That is what we have done.

Clients who have questions about these changes are encouraged
to contact their caseworkers.