featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: A phone, just like a bus pass, is a basic necessity

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nova Scotia Advocate readers may have heard through word of mouth that free bus passes for people in income assistance are finally happening. I wrote about this, and the problems it causes for some of us, a month ago.

So anyway, some income assistance recipients who I recently talked with told me that when they got their pictures taken they were told by Community Services that “the purpose of the free bus pass is to help you to achieve better outcomes in your life.” That includes “if you are able to work, using the buss pass to find meaningful employment.”

Of course searching for work is not the only reason. We will use the bus pass to attend doctors appointments, do volunteer work, attend the various drop-ins and soup kitchens where the poor gather, and go grocery shopping. But yes, looking for work is also on that list.

Okay, I and others I talk to about this do agree that the free transportation will make it easier to go around and apply for work.

“But what about having a phone number you can list on employment applications and put on your resumes,” they say. You need a phone so that potential employers can get a hold of you. And to call in sick when you are not feeling well.

Well the sad truth is that they are still going to have to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense of getting a doctor’s note to get the $35.00 special needs telephone allowance.

Searching for employment is not going to be accepted by your caseworkers as a valid reasons for needing a phone.     

However, how can you look for work when you do not have a phone? Not having a phone means you cannot provide potential employers a phone number where you can be contacted for work.

Telephone communication when looking for work is also important because as one of your work search activities, you may want to call employers that interest you to ask questions and inquire into whether or not their company is hiring.

 The amount of $35.00 is what Community Services allows when the phone is approved as a special need. That $35.00 almost covers the cost of a basic phone landline. In this story I wrote in the past, I talk about how income assistance recipients prefer to have an unlisted number as well as reasons for that.

So an income assistance recipient has to take $41.00 out of their own pocket because community services will not cover the phone as a special need in their case.

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  1. You have to be really fortunate and be unable to walk (YAY!) to a payphone to get that covered. Oh, lucky me, that I’m in a wheelchair! You can be sure that if given the choice of a free bus pass or money for the phone bill, anyone on ESIA without a phone would want the phone covered. I wonder if anyone on ESIA has died or has had their health destroyed because they couldn’t call 911 in an emergency? Most apartment buildings require a phone for the intercom so how do you accept deliveries or buzz in guests? The list of reasons you need a phone is endless. This is Canada. This is 2018. Hard to believe.

  2. A few comments:
    1.I know someone who had a disability and was on assistance who did not have a phone and died because she could not call 911

    2.Red Bear Connects is still available by calling 211 and ask to be connected to 902 448-4744. It is a free confidential answering service and can be used without long distance charges in Nova Scotia. It is not a phone however people can only leave messages for people. It can be used by people without phones to be contacted and for those on limited income it can be used in unison with a phone to reduce expenses so that messages can be received.
    3. Payphones are becoming few and far between.

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