Financial hope for parents of disabled children: congratulations to PLAN

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Congratulations to the folks at PLAN, the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network. Since we started working with them earlier this year, we've been impressed by their unique alloy of compassion, entrepreneurial drive and faith in the potential of people working together.

They've been putting a lot of work into creating a Disability Savings Plan, modelled on the educational savings plans that offer tax incentives to parents saving for their children's higher education. PLAN's idea is geared to helping families cope with the fact that people with severe disabilities are now often outliving their parents; it would help them set aside some money to ensure their children's financial security.

Some intense lobbying by PLAN is now paying off. On Tuesday, a panel established by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to examine the PLAN proposal gave it their backing, recommending a $200,000 limit as well as cash grants of at least $1,000 annually over 20 years for parents of children with severe disabilities – doubled in the case of low-income families.

Then, on Wednesday, Flaherty himself weighed in, saying he "would be surprised" if the plan doesn't appear in the budget.

That's no guarantee, of course; spending priorities often shift dramatically before a finance minister tables a budget, and this one has to clear the added hurdle of a minority government. But even if the Conservative budget goes down to defeat, there's now enough support among Canada's political parties to give parents real hope that PLAN's idea will become a reality sometime in the first half of 2007.

If you want to add your voice to a petition supporting the Disability Savings Plan, click here. And to learn more about PLAN, click here.

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