KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – We continue our Lives on Welfare conversation with Bernice (not her real name). Last week she told us how she managed to save $85 per month on electricity, only to see Community Services reduce her allowance by that same amount.
All this while she makes end meet on $140 a month after rent and power bills are paid. Actually, it looks like there will be further cuts.
This week Bernice talks about how hopeless being on welfare makes you feel, and how it takes away your dignity.
Last year I was looking for a job, and then my mother was in her last days, in September she passed away. I wanted to spend my last days with my mother. Then I had to deal with missing her and grieving and all that. I think I went on assistance in July.
I told my caseworker at least I’d like to go to work part time. I said I don’t want to be on the system, I want to work. I want to be self sufficient. I want my dignity back.
She said, “oh you can work?” I said, I told you this on the day I applied, I said at that time, hopefully this is only temporary. I just need a little bit of help and pay this and that, and then mom got worse, and you have no control over things like that. I am ready now, I am going crazy sitting here and depending on this little bit of money that you give me, and then you keep cutting it, and excuse after excuse after excuse.
I have never felt as degraded as I do now. It’s painful, it’s humiliating.
I said, I ask for a bus pass. But you won’t even allow me transportation expenses to look for work. Yet you complain about all these people on the system. Wouldn’t you want one less person on the system?
She said, “oh you can work?” I said, I can’t look for work because you won’t give me money for transportation to look for a job.
It doesn’t give me faith in voting anymore, nothing ever happens, it gets worse. I said, do you guys get a commission every time you save the government a little bit of money? You guys get a raise on your pay cheque? I am sorry. I am just so upset. Something is wrong.
They made me take my CPP early. I worked for that. It may not be much. But I worked for that. I had eight children. But I worked in between.
I said I just want a job. I am not looking for a career, I am sixty. But I am not dead yet.
It’s not only me, it’s everyone. How do we change this? How do we get through to them?
Half my family doesn’t even know I am on assistance. That’s a reason why I don’t go public. I have never felt as degraded as I do now. It’s painful, it’s humiliating.
I raised eight children. I worked most of my life. And then to come to this.