featured Poverty

Lives on Welfare. Emma’s story, a tragedy of errors

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In this installment of Lives on Welfare we meet Emma (not her real name), a 45-years old woman on social assistance.

Emma left a homeless shelter and moved into a basement apartment in October of last year. She lives with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue.

Emma also has been diagnosed with arthritis in both her ankles, rotator cuff injuries in her shoulders, and a degenerative disease in several vertebrae.

Fair to say Emma lives with a lot of intense pain. Emma’s doctor believes she would benefit from a chiropractic mattress, box spring and frame. Community Services told her doctor to write a note on Emma’s behalf.

That’s where Emma’s story starts.


I have been waiting for that bed since October 28, when I moved into my own place. I am sleeping in a little kid’s bed, it’s really a bunk bed that’s meant for a 60-pound kid, not for an adult. Here it is almost three months later.

The ordeal began when my social worker faxed my doctor what she had had to write in order for me to get a chiropractic bed. My doctor did that, faxed them the note. Then they told her that they wanted a more in depth letter, which my doctor also provided.

She wrote this lovely letter, a two page letter. The letter Community Services asked her to provide. But they’re not approving it because now they’re saying I need an occupational therapist to write that letter!

Even my doctor is pissed off now. Not at me, she’s pissed off at them. She says I took your file home on the long Remembrance Day weekend, and I worked on it at home, because I had to go back 19 years.

By the way, apparently the charge for writing this letter is $20, and Community Services will not pay for it.

The week before Christmas the MLA office sent the documentation to Community Services to appeal their decision. But my caseworker just filed it, and didn’t put it through the appeal process.

So after 30 days we go what’s happened?  The worker said, oops, sorry. Now the appeal will be extended because they made a mistake.

That happens a lot.

For instance,  I lost a lot of weight in the summer when I was in a homeless shelter and I didn’t eat well because of my gluten allergy.  My doctor prescribed Boost nutritional drinks. At the end of December I didn’t hear from my drugstore, and when I checked they said we don’t have your purchase order.  

My caseworker said that it was not sent through because she was on vacation. Now I still don’t have my Boost. The little bit if weight I gained, I pretty well lost it again.

What I can’t believe is the time that’s being wasted. Lately, as soon as I need to deal with them I start having anxiety attacks. I can’t deal with them because my anxiety goes through the roof. So now I deal with my MLA.

I like to stand up for myself, and I can’t let this go. It’s eating me up.

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  1. I to am s victim of this system,,,they are just awfull. I’m do sorry you have to deal with this

  2. I.am as well a victim of this trap ,,they suck what little bit of self respect you have left right out of you … I’m really so sorry your dealing with this.

  3. Fact is the system is designed in such a way to avoid paying out costs of anything over and above, in order to get what you want they will make you jump through more hoops than a trained lion at a circus. Of course we don’t make lions do this any longer because it is now considered inhumane. Guess what you have now taken the place of the lion meanwhile your lords and masters sit back and have a drink while they relish in the fact of these events that go on daily. Saving them money to ensure they still have their budgets. This will continue until they are faced with a decision, their budget or the budget of community services, guess what’s going to take a back seat? You will find its happend in other countries and it will happen here in due time. Fact is they are only required to provide basic and in some cases special basic which includes burial costs. That’s all anyone will ever get, and they should in the opinion of the majority consider themselves lucky to get that. Push for change, but remember the ones who make the ultimate decisions are not the politicians, its the voting population of the province they are the ones who need to see your plight as long as communty services keeps you in basic mode your off the streets and out of the public eye. Out of sight out of mind!

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