KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – People in my community who depend on income assistance are saying, OK, we are now into 2019, so let’s see some change for people on social assistance, after hearing about it over the past five years or so.
In a letter dated August 2018 the Benefit Reform Action Group informed the Standing Committee of Community Services that we as a group decided to no longer meet with senior bureaucrat Brandon Grant, as he seems unable to deal with our issues.
Instead we asked to meet as a group with the minister of Community Services and the Premier, but this never happens.
Here are some of the issues we would raise if we were to meet with the minister:
As we all know, the $535.00 shelter allowance and the $275.00 personal allowance are not enough money for people to live on. The proposed 2% or 5% increase is still not going to add up to enough for people to live on.
We want income assistance rates to go up by 15% retroactively for 2018, and a longer term we want to have the rates meet market basket measures by 2020, which is more or less how much it takes to live a very modest but dignified life.
At this time social assistance clients need a note from their doctor to say they need a phone for medical reasons in order to get the $35.00 for the telephone allowance. There are a lot of people out there who want to work at least part time. People need a telephone when it comes to searching for employment.
We have a system in Nova Scotia where a caseworker is required to know too much of a client’s business. The clients experience this when they attend their mandatory annual reviews. At annual reviews the clients are put in positions where they feel uncomfortable and stigmatized by their caseworkers. The question here is, why do we need a system where there is so much bureaucratic nonsense in order for a client to qualify for income assistance allowances and special needs?
This bureaucratic nonsense also includes what a client has to go through in order to qualify for a special diet allowance. The policy manual reinforces that bureaucratic nonsense. It also puts unfair expectations onto a client’s family doctor.
When we talked, Minister Kelly Regan mentioned that she reads my stuff in the Nova Scotia Advocate. That means she must have read about the drop-ins and soup kitchens I talked about in some of my articles. For some people going to these places is their only reason they leave their apartments to go outside. We hear social inclusion is part of the transformation, but we don’t see how.
Finally, we’re glad the Child Support clawbacks stopped as of the 1st of August 2018. Why not look at clawbacks from other sources of income, including Employment Insurance payments and Canada Pension Plan, etc.
We understand things don’t happen overnight. However, right now we are five years into the transformation and very few problems for people who depend on this system have been resolved. Why is this transformation process taking so long for people to see positive results?
Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.