KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Benefits Reform Action Group (BRAG), of which I am a member, is getting a bit tired of talking to Community Services bureaucrats and politicians. We’re glad that CASAR, a coalition of over 30 anti-poverty groups province-wide, now speaks on our behalf.
Here is an example of why that is.
In September last year we wrote a letter to the Community Services Standing Committee to talk about the often useless and stressful annual reviews that people on social assistance need to endure time and time again. The Standing Committee is made up of politicians of all three parties.
We wrote how people are humiliated and asked how much money they have in their pockets, doctors’ opinions are being questioned by caseworkers even when disabilities are chronic, and altogether it is very stressful.
By the way, I have written about this myself quite a bit. Here is one such article: All that’s wrong with the much-feared Annual Review, and how to begin to fix it.
The committee passed our letter on to Kelly Regan, who is the minister of Community Services, and in November she responded. She basically told us we were wrong, and that the department was working hard to make things even better.
So we wrote another letter, patiently explaining how no, we were right, and how even Kelly Regan’s own Deputy Minister agreed with many of the facts that we presented.
After that, the Standing Committee in yet another letter said we should talk with Brandon Grant, an executive director at the department, who would then report back to the committee.
In a letter we sent earlier this week we said no thanks. This back and forth has been going on long enough, and we have told Brandon Grant about these problems multiple times already.
From now on we want to funnel these discussions through CASAR, the coalition of some 30 anti-poverty groups. CASAR’s message to the department is simple: start real consultations and really listen to what people on social assistance are saying.
Anyway, here is the letter we wrote to the secretary of the Standing Committee.
Dear Ms Thompson,
We had our monthly BRAG meeting today as per my last emails. We had a discussion about the dates that Brandon offered. The BRAG membership has decided that, as signatories to the Community Agenda for Social Assistance Adequacy and Reform (as per the document released December 12, 2017) that our concerns are being voiced through that coalition. We believe that the ESIA transformation needs to have a more robust consultation and collaboration.
Regarding the letter that was sent to Mr. Grant through the Standing Committee, we believe that the issues that we raised in this letter are extremely important and that we have raised them multiple times with Mr. Grant to no avail. This is one of the main reasons that we have joined with over 30 other groups to form the Community Agenda for Social Assistance Adequacy and Reform. We believe that through a real consultation process, Mr. Grant and the transformation team will be able to better understand the issues around Special Needs and Annual Reviews. There are multiple members of BRAG who act as spokespeople of the Community Agenda for Social Assistance Adequacy and Reform.
If Mr. Grant has specific questions about the letter from BRAG we encourage him to send them to the group through me and they will be discussed and responded to as needed. BRAG understands that the Standing Committee is expecting a report from Mr. Grant about his meeting with BRAG. BRAG will inform the Standing Committee of our position and refer them to the Community Agenda for Social Assistance Adequacy and Reform.
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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