featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: All I want from minister Joanne Bernard for Christmas is $2 million

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Christmas is the time of year for giving, forgiveness and joy. It is also the time of year for special consideration for poor people.

We can’t know what politicians such as Community Services minister Joanne Bernard think of Christmas and the Christmas spirit.  But we do know that Community Services gives it clients no extra on December’s Income Assistance checks  to help out with Christmas expenses.

However I have an idea what minister Joanne Bernard could give the Benefits Reform Action Group (BRAG), the group that stands up for the rights of people on social assistance.

Two million dollars!

BRAG chair Kendall Worth at a rally sometime in late 2015. Photo Robert Devet

The same $2 million that got paid to a consulting company to come into the Department of Community Services and revamp the Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) system.

Members of BRAG are a mixture of people with lived experience as well as advocacy people who know the system. Wouldn’t that $2 million be better paid to BRAG for them to revamp the ESIA system?

The sad reality is that the government does not even pay attention to groups like BRAG.

Politicians like Joanne Bernard need to understand that BRAG does very important advocacy work to improve educational opportunities, housing, income support, and healthcare for those who depend on the system.

So who better to hire to revamp the ESIA system in Nova Scotia than those of us who actually know the system? After all, we live it.

BRAG members know the reality of everything from who is eligible for welfare, to who is being affected. BRAG members know what needs to change regarding the way the system is being run.

BRAG members have personal knowledge of how people are being affected by the ESIA system in all sorts of ways. The countless articles I have written for the Halifax Media Co-op as well as for the Nova Scotia Advocate give evidences of this.

This company Joanne Bernard hired I suspect are a bunch of bigwigs who have never been on welfare even one day in their lives. Before getting hired, they probably did not know the ESIA system from Adam.

For just that reason alone they are not qualified to do what they are doing.

Two types of expertise are necessary if you want to revamp the ESIA system and do it right. You have to understand budgets and you have to understand bureaucracy.

BRAG understands both. I say this because:

#1 – BRAG members know the budget that its low income members have to live on;

#2 – BRAG members have been involved in many activities where its members have met with bureaucrats within the government and  the department of Community Services.

We understand budgets. In fact, the government needs to increase the budget in order to increase the ESIA allowances. Keep in mind – $535.00 is the shelter allowance and not all income assistance clients receive this amount to cover rent.  The personal allowances are $275.00.  

And we understand bureaucrats.  BRAG member have shown the ability to be very clear to bureaucrats when it comes to talking to them about what is needed for changing the ESIA system.

When it comes to the ESIA program as a whole, the government needs to be way more alert to the needs and aspirations of people living in poverty, and how poverty impacts entire communities.

BRAG could really help with that.

Like BRAG on Facebook, and find out about their meetings and other news. Kendall Worth is the chair of BRAG.

If you happen to have $2 million (or less) just lying around, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia.