featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: Raise the income assistance rates, for the sake of our dignity!

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The income assistance rates in Nova Scotia offered through the Department of Community Services need to increase.

And I mean by a serious amount!

Anti-poverty activist Kendall Worth. Photo Robert Devet

The current income assistance rates in Nova Scotia are $535 at best for a single person to pay for shelter, then $275 for everything-else = $810.  Living on these allowances alone is difficult.

Also, it is getting harder and harder for income assistance recipients in Nova Scotia to get approved for special needs allowances (telephone, transportation, and special diet allowances). There is more and more red tape for getting approved for these special needs allowances.

As part of researching this article, I did  some math to figure out how much money people who had special diets taken away since 2013 have lost. That figure I came to is $609.80 per year on average.That’s  $3049 since 2013. Clients who lost those special diet allowances need to be compensated for their loss. After all, they lost money toward their healthy eating budget.

The problem is that rents, power bills, the cost of groceries etc. keep increasing.  When income assistance clients lose their special diet allowances on top of that they lose money that was used towards healthy eating.

Raising the allowance to $2500 would be ideal. This amount is ideal because most people who are on income assistance cannot work full time because of disabilities and mental health issues.

Just imagine what a $2500 living allowance could do to improve the lives on income assistance clients.  

  • After rent, power, and phone bills are paid, it will give them better ability to afford to eat a healthy diet.
  • This amount would lift people who have no choice in life but to depend on income assistance out of social isolation.
  • It would allow income assistance clients to afford registration fees for places such as fitness centres, indoor swimming pools, etc.  A lot of people on income assistance I personally talk to say affordability to these places is needed to help them stay sane in their day to lives.   

Keeping the fridge stocked is a weekly chore for everyone regardless of income level. Keeping everyday basics such as bread and milk in the fridge is an essential part of day to day life. It seems these days that food prices change as often as month to month.  I have personally had recent conversations with income assistance recipients who tell me that these days when they go to the grocery store they will not go down the meat isle because of how expensive meat  is.

From my personal experience it seems these days filling your fridge could cost between $50.00 and $100.00 a week. This is one factor that contributes to the reasons why we have too many people using the local food banks and soup kitchens.

In addition to eating healthy, more money would also help lift people out of social isolation. This can happen when income assistance recipients simply have enough money to do the things in life such as meeting friends for coffee, and paying registration fees for social groups/social programs, fitness centres, etc.

Then there is the right to live a healthy life in general. The current income assistance rates and the red tape clients experience in getting approved for Special Needs allowances violates this right.

Raising the income assistance rates is all about improving the quality life. So let’s get rid of that current low rate and make it an allowance that provides positive features of life.  

Improvement in this area would mean everything from improvement in physical health, family relationships, education, and the environment.  Also, for those on income assistance who are able to gain employment, an increase in income assistance rates can improve their level of employability as well.

For those clients who cannot work because of their disabilities, an increase in the income assistance rates will improve their general health and day to day mental health.

Developing a, healthy standard of living is related income. People having a healthy level of income to live on can help improve lives in many different aspects, when I say this I mean it can help with everything from eating healthy through to improving their relationship, what to do during recreation and leisure time, through to taking steps to eventually returning to employment.

It is all about the fact that as much as any other human being people on income assistance have the right to a sense of social belonging.

So let’s get those rates increased!

If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to give voice to people like Kendall and cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A pay wall is not an option since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of kindhearted monthly sustainers.



    1. I here ya. I’m on CPP disabilty. I get 934 a month. When I worked Iade $3500 a month. Huge life change

  1. I’m sorry but I work full time & make a lot less than that a month. I totally understand disabilities as I have plenty myself, but I still manage to hold a full-time job. Nobody is paying my bills. It takes people working to pay taxes that support income assisted living. Unfortunately, Nova Scotia has an increase in aging population alone therefor many people are not working to help pay for these programs. I am not sure what the solution might be, but I don’t feel $2500 a month fair to those like seniors or working class considering we live on less than that amount per month. I do agree the amount is not enough, but like I mentioned where is the money to come from? Just my opinion.

    1. Severe poverty costs working taxpayers a fortune, far more than giving us a living wage. If I were to receive enough money to eat a healthy diet and pay for many other things that would improve my emotional well-being as well, the government would save hundreds of thousands of dollars in treating my chronic conditions, 99% of which would disappear in a few months with a dramatic increase in nutrition and a dramatic decrease in stress. It is common knowledge nowadays that poverty is a major cause of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. As well as a burden on the healthcare system, those in poverty cost society in other ways such as the police and courts, foster care, etc. Did you know that it costs $80,000/year to deal with a homeless person because of their frequent contact with police and emergency services? Yet, taxpayers would protest giving a person too sick to work an extra $1500 a month to take better care of their health. If you are well enough to have a job, you have the option of getting a better paying job, asking for a raise, furthering your education/training to get a higher wage, etc. If you’re completely unable to work, you have NO options whatsoever. You are punished severely by government and taxpayers who are happy to pay tens of thousands for your cancer treatment but object to paying mere hundreds for a diet that would prevent cancer.

    2. Ok. So you work full time and make less. Do you thousands in medical prescriptions? Do you have to constantly travel to dr appt? Then pay for the parking? We have to pay all that on top of the usual monthly bills. Try that on less than 1000 a month!

  2. I agree with you 100%, I can’t even afford a decent apartment, now I’m going homeless this month..

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