Monday, 20 August 2018
featured Inclusion Poverty

Open letter to Minister Kelly Regan: We need a living allowance for people with disabilities

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 my first letter I gave you lots of suggestions on how to improve the lives of people who live in poverty. In my second letter I talked about people losing their special diet allowances.

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!

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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2 Comments

  1. Have to commend Kendall Worth for his “stick – to – itness” !
    We, fellow advocates have witnessed the frustration of being in meetings with Bureaucrats, who just don’t get it,
    & still, never to be silenced, Kendall speaks his truth ! The biggest transformation of the “System” will be when
    common sense (not so common these days) prevails ! S0 … 1st Voicers, Community Advocates, Allies, don’t give up the “good fight” … Follow the Kendall example, and use the “Power of the Pen” … write your truth with letters to the editor … to politicians … to your church … to your professional associations … to your family … to who
    ever will give you the time of day !!! -Amy Moonshadow, Turtle Island

    Reply
  2. Bless you for posting this. Never heard of FLEX (gee, what a surprise). I will look into this. As a person with a multitude of debilitating health problems and a wheelchair user, I can very easily make a long list of what I would do with an extra $500, starting with buying a new wheelchair. Most of my disabilities are caused by or severely aggravated by poor nutrition and a low calorie intake. I don’t even care if my pursuit of this ends in not getting the money. I will enjoy presenting my long list of unmet needs and more importantly, having the opportunity of explaining how damaging severe poverty is to my health, and how that, in turn, costs the government far more than $500 a month is health care costs. In a nutshell, I am slowing starving to death and if I don’t get a significant increase in my income soon, it will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to deal with my long, drawn-out death from either cancer or heart disease or both. We’ll see if the government wants to spend money on my life or my death. Of course, this process will be complicated by the fact that I don’t’ have a family doctor, therefore, no medical profession to back up my statements.

    Reply

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