FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government will increase the annual budget of nursing homes services by $15 million to increase the hours of care in nursing homes to 3.2 hours of care per resident in October 2021 and to 3.3 hours of care per resident in April 2022.

The announcement was made today by Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch while presenting details of the main estimates for his department at the legislative assembly. Overall, the departmental budget is increasing by over 6 per cent and includes increases for housing and measures to help reduce childhood poverty.

“This is the first increase of hours of care in nursing homes since 2008,” said Fitch. “Nursing home residents have greater needs today than in the past. Our network of nursing homes is now providing services to residents with more severe cognitive and physical needs.”

The last increases were from 2.8 to 3 hours of care in 2006, and to 3.1 hours of care in 2008, for an annual budget of $12 million. The current 70 licensed nursing homes across the province provide 4,925 nursing home beds and have over 7,300 workers.

“Thanks to this progressive budget, we are able to invest more in services for the most vulnerable members of our population,” said Fitch. “Staff in nursing homes, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and resident assistants will have more time to assist in the care of the residents. This is an important step to ensure high-quality care and service for our seniors.”

The department will also pursue the implementation of Phase 2 of the 2018-2023 Nursing Home Plan which has the objective to address two primary issues: aging infrastructure and the need for additional beds. The plan included ten 60-bed procurements for nursing homes. Three homes are currently in the request for proposals process in Saint John, Moncton and the Acadian Peninsula for a total of 180 new beds. An additional procurement is also in process to replace an existing home in Shediac. The department will also work with various associations, partners, and other government departments to promote the long-term care sector as a rewarding career opportunity.

The 2021-22 budget also includes $12.4 million to fund wage increases for workers in the human service sector, including home support workers, community residence workers, special care home workers, and family support workers.

17 per cent increase for housing

“Thanks to the new provincial budget, more work will be accomplished in the housing sector as the funding allocated to the department’s Housing Branch will increase by about 17 per cent, from $97 million last year, to over $114 million this year,” said Fitch.

The department plans to invest in more affordable housing units as part of the provincial housing strategy which aims at reducing the rental housing waitlist by 25 per cent during the 10 years it covers.

“There will be investments made in repairs to public housing units and non-profit housing units,” said Fitch. “Assistance will be provided to landlords in the private sector to repair or renew units to help with the creation and maintenance of safe and affordable housing options. Eligible homeowners will be provided with assistance for repairs to their homes, and funding will be provided to repair or renew transition houses and second stage housing for women and children fleeing domestic or intimate partner violence.”

The budget will also allow for initiatives such as the Canada – New Brunswick Housing Benefit which aims to help low-income working parents and their children access adequate and affordable rental accommodations that meet their needs. Funding of $3.8 million will be dedicated to this program in 2021-22.

New investment to help reduce childhood poverty

Fitch also announced a new initiative to support efforts aiming at reducing childhood poverty in New Brunswick. Following amendments to the Family Income Security Act, child support payments will no longer be considered as household income. This will represent and investment of $2.8 million.

“This change will specifically target one of the highest represented groups of children afflicted by childhood poverty,” said Fitch. “Child support, paid to single parents by non-custodial parents, will remain in the household to support the child.”

The budget also includes $1 million for the indexation of all social assistance rates to the inflation. This means that on April 1, each year, social assistance rates will be increased by the percentage change in the New Brunswick Consumer Price Index.

“This new budget will allow the Department of Social Development to fulfil its important mandate in assisting the most vulnerable of the population, from seniors to children, and low-income families,” said Fitch. “The provincial government, and departmental staff, are extremely proud to play this role and to make a difference in the lives of thousands of New Brunswickers every day.”