KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Ok, let’s start off by talking a bit about what the Labour Day event is. The Labour Day event is an event held in Halifax every year on Labour Day. It is an event where unions and activist groups come together in solidarity to celebrate their voices in the labour movement, achievements in the labour movement and accomplishments made through the work of their group.
So this year I was there on behalf of the Benefits Reform Action Group, and I made a speech about the Employment Support and Income Assistance program in Nova Scotia and the problems people are having with it.
There were other speakers there from other organizations and unions as well, like the Halifax-Dartmouth District Labour Council, CUPE, the NSGEU, Solidarity Halifax, and so on. Their speeches were great, but my speech was unique because I was the only one there talking about Community Services.
My speech referenced the following:
- The $535.00 shelter allowance and $275.00 personal allowance per month for single people on income assistance, and how that isn’t enough;
- The red tape involved in getting approval for special needs allowances;
- Overall I talked about how hard it is for people on income assistance to have a life and the discouragement it provides for people to move ahead;
- Also referenced how many people on income assistance cannot work because of their disabilities and mental health issues.
Something I learned from attending this event is that there are people outside the poverty community who care about poverty and what is happening in Community Services.
Since the Labour Day event is about celebrating the labour movement, how is what I spoke about related to this?
- When people lose their jobs and unemployment runs out something needs to be in place for the unemployed, and that is social assistance;
- Some persons with disabilities even though they cannot work full time,they can work part-time and social assistance needs to accommodate that;
- Persons with disabilities including physical and mental health should be able to live and work to the best to their abilities.
As well, as I wrote earlier, being on income assistance is hard work.
Most importantly, it is all about the fact that that current system makes clients feel that Community Services is trying to force them to get back to work. However, cutting a client’s allowances is not providing the right kind of encouragement.
Furthermore, Community Services does not care that a lot of people on income assistance cannot work because of disabilities, both physical and mental. Under the current system social assistance creates an unhealthy society and downgrades people to the point where eventually their health will not allow them to work.
So let’s continue to fight the good fight!
Kendall Worth is the chair of the Benefits Reform Action Group (BRAG)
See also: Labour and the very poor in Nova Scotia
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