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Kendall Worth: Consider bringing an advocate to your annual review

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It looks like annual reviews are here to stay, despite the famous changes to social assistance that Community Services keeps talking about.

The annual review is when each year everyone on social assistance gets called in to meet with their caseworker, to see if you still qualify for assistance and receive the right benefits. If Community Services is going to make any cuts to a client’s allowance, this is when the cuts often happen.

This story, All that’s wrong with the much-feared annual review, and how to begin to fix it, shows how annoying and intrusive the annual review is. Case workers often overstep clients’ boundaries and are disrespectful, the meeting itself is very stressful, and no wonder, the client may well walk out of the meeting with less money than they received before.

Also, here is another story I once wrote in the Advocate, My caseworker questioning my doctor is a human rights violation. This story illustrates what else could happen to an income assistance recipient as a result of attending their annual review.    

Many people I recently talked to are going into their annual reviews angry and upset.  However we all know when we go to our annual reviews, just like going to any appointment or any meeting, we have to remain calm, cool and collected.

One thing that is strange is that over the last while all these annual reviews seem to be happening all at once for different clients.

Income assistance recipients I have recently spoken with are worried that the department is looking to make cuts to clients’ Income Assistance cheques, because of all the talk about the new standard household rate. Whatever is happening, we can all agree that it is strange.

One of the income assistance recipients I know personally mentioned to me that he was talking to at least three others who also received their letters about their annual reviews the exact same week as he received his.

This person mentioned that for the first time ever he is taking legal counsel with him to his upcoming annual review when he goes this year.

As we all know there are too many systematic problems and too much bureaucratic nonsense when dealing with the department of Community Services.  

This is why some people go to their annual reviews accompanied by a friend or an advocate.  I do it too.

When you are accompanied by somebody there is better chance of being treated with respect by the caseworker.  

Also, going to the review accompanied by an advocate makes for a lesser chance of something negative such as a cut happening to the clients’ allowance as a result of attending the review.     

Meanwhile, all we can do is hope for a better system to come down the road.

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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