KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Over the past four months I have been hearing on the street about special needs allowances getting suspended.
As well, caseworkers contacting doctors to further question their medical has increased again. Read my earlier story about why this second guessing of doctors is a dangerous thing.
This is what people tell me:
- Clients have once again been called in to get their cases reviewed by their caseworkers in an aggressive and disrespectful way.
- Especially clients who do not bring advocates to their review for support have been treated by their caseworkers with disrespect.
- Through word of mouth I hear about angry doctors no longer responding to caseworkers. This is exactly what happened to me back in 2013 as well.
- I heard one story where someone who qualified for $535.00 shelter allowance for the longest time, her shelter allowance suddenly got reduced to $300.00.
- I even heard in the community that a number of income assistance clients who lost their special needs allowances were not able to go through the appeals process.
Income assistance clients I talked with tell me that they are worried that this is just the beginning. Overall, life has been getting scarier for people on social assistance. Community Services staff seems not to care that when a client with a disability loses a special diet allowance, they are losing a portion of their healthy eating budget.
Meanwhile the Community Services transformation project is supposed to make everything better. But we never get any real information about it.
Ok, so here is something we do know is happening, but not until 2019. At that time personal allowance amounts will increase by 5% for persons with disabilities, and only 2% for others.
It was unclear whether or not this will just be for the personal allowances, or will also include the shelter allowance. It seems that they are moving ahead with the standard household rate.
They are not considering that the money in the new allowances needs to be enough to a person to actually to live on. These figures of 2% and 5% do not bring the allowances up to a decent living point. It’s not even close.
The work incentive is going up to 250.00 before it gets clawed back. What about people who are currently allowed to keep the first $300.00 they earn? It is not clear whether or not that is increasing.
So let’s have a look what needs to be done in order for the system in Nova Scotia to change for the better.
Increasing the allowances to a decent amount is something that absolutely needs to be done.
A great start would also be to do away with the annual review, and here is why. Why do a review if your disability isn’t going to change? According to the department it is looking at the annual review. However advocates are not getting any clear information how it might change.
In Nova Scotia we need a system that better respects persons with disabilities who cannot work, or in some cases can only work part time because of their disabilities. The fact that this whole thing of doctor’s notes is even happening in the first place shows the lack of respect by the department for income assistance clients.
Kendall Worth is the chair of the Benefits Reform Action Group (BRAG)
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