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Parliamentary Committee Report Recommends Amending EI for Parents of Children with Cancer

A November 2011 report by the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, entitled Not to be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians, recommends amending Employment Insurance (EI) for parents of kids with cancer.

Of interest in the lengthy report are the following excerpts:

Page 16, Recommendation #9 (under Caregiver Support Recommendations): "We recommend that the federal government expand the provisions of the E.I. based compassionate care benefit to a minimum of 26 weeks coverage. We further recommend that the benefit be given flexibility to allow partial weeks to be covered, allowing caregiver leave for episodic care giving needs i.e. 5 or 6 days a month to allow a parent to stay in hospital with a child as they undergo chemotherapy. We recommend that the qualifying criteria be changed from “significant risk of death” to “gravely ill” so as to allow the hope of caregivers to be kept alive when applying for the caregiver benefit. Finally the government should look at raising the maximum payment cap to a higher amount, more in line with the costs of living and care giving."

Then, on pages 63-64, under the heading Support for Caregivers, it states: "Serious financial stress can be experienced by families facing long term care-giving for a seriously ill child. Families, for example, who face the sudden crisis of childhood cancer, are often impacted by ruinous financial pressures. These financial burdens render the stress from the life threatening illness of a beloved child, even more overwhelming. Childhood cancer can involve many months of intensive treatment, sometimes extending into several years. Children facing the regimen of chemotherapy have depleted immune systems, which necessitates long term care at home. In families with mortgages and fixed costs, making their monthly payments based on dual incomes, the withdrawal from the labour force of one or the other parent, for the sake of care-giving can result in the loss of the family home, automobile, etc. The costs of driving back and forth to the cancer hospital over months and years, the costs of home schooling, the countless invisible costs of care, can be overwhelming in themselves. At any given time in Quebec for example LEUCAN (Association for Children with Cancer) is helping more than 2100 families with cancer stricken children. With more than 10,000 children living with cancer across the country, the pressures faced by families are not insignificant, but a major issue for the consideration of social policy makers."

Also of interest in that same section is The Guinea Kid: The Story of a Childhood Cancer Survivor.

The entire report can be read here

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