Dear Minister Kelly Regan,
You may remember the last two open letters I wrote you over the last year or so. In both letters I brought to your attention different issues around poverty in Nova Scotia.
In this letter that I am writing today I want to remind you that in Nova Scotia there is really no extra living allowance for persons with disabilities.
Here in Nova Scotia there is supposed to be up to $500 funding available as an allowance through the FLEX program, to help persons with disabilities who are on income assistance maintain their independence in the community.
However there is a lot of red tape and bureaucratic nonsense involved with getting approved for those allowances. I personally know some ten social assistance recipients who tried to access that extra $500 to use as extra money to live on.
One of these people is the person I wrote about in this story here. This person lives with social anxiety and she tried to get approved for that allowance so she can better maintain her mental health.
I know of another social assistance recipient who looked at the FLEX program together with his North End Community Health Centre caseworker, and between the two they decided not to even bother applying.
Others as well talked to me about giving up trying to get approved for that allowance. They said what ended up happening was they went to their caseworker and their caseworker referred them to another Community Services worker, who then interviewed them.
These Social Assistance recipients all mentioned to me that they felt like they went to a bank and applied for a bank loan. They felt that way because one of the specific questions they were asked was “So if we did approve you for that $500 what will you spend it on?”
Telling the Department Staff person they will use it to top up their rent and help them live a better life ended up not working.
If that $500 through FLEX really is available as an extra living allowance for people on assistance who have disabilities to help them maintain their independence than they should automatically get approved.
In some other provinces, such as Ontario and Alberta, extra living allowance for those with disabilities is automatic. In Nova Scotia it does not seem to be that way. This is why the FLEX program and funding available through that program need to be addressed through the transformation.
Something all of the people I talked to mentioned they did not even get an opportunity to appeal the denial of this $500 through an appeal hearing.
Anyway, Minister Regan, the last comment I want to make in this letter is the fact that I had asked all the people I talked to what would they spend the extra $500 on?
The answers they gave me was top up their rent, buy healthy food, and join a fitness centre, as policy does not permit their caseworker to pay for the cost of one.
I hope this get addressed through the transformation.
Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
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