COMMUNITY SOCIETY TO END POVERTY IN NOVA SCOTIA
The Community Society to End Poverty is pleased that the Nova Scotia government intends to implement a Standard Household Rate (SHR) for welfare recipients in Nova Scotia as part of its ESIA “transformation” process.
Instead of a separate personal allowance for food, clothes, and personal items and another for shelter for rent, heat and so on, the SHR will combine these two allowances to create a single welfare rate. It is also intended that income assistance clients will receive the full amount to which they are entitled under the regulations. The rationale for the change is to allow for more flexibility in how much clients spend on personal items (food, clothing etc.) and shelter.
“This flexibility may improve the situation of some clients and allow more control over whether they spend more on rent and less on food, but if there is so little money in their budgets to begin with, flexibility does not mean very much” says Stella Lord, coordinator of CSEP’s ESIA Working Group. “The change does not address the bigger problems of how the ESIA system determines ‘need’ or the inadequacy of current welfare rates in relation to the real basic daily needs that clients face every day” she said.
CSEP is disappointed that the government has decided to stick with their proposed 5% welfare rate increase for people with disabilities or those fleeing abuse (S.45 clients) and 2% for everyone else. “We are also very disappointed that the SHR and the increases will not come into effect until January 2020” said Lord.
Louise Smith Macdonald, co-chair of the group and Executive Director of Everywoman’s Centre in Sydney echoed these concerns. “These proposals do little to make up for years of no increase in the shelter allowance, a two year freeze on overall welfare rates between 2013 and 2015, or the large (and in some cases growing) gap between welfare incomes and the Market Basket Measure of Poverty (MBM)”, she said. “A larger increase along with investment in the Nova Scotia Child Benefit could have reversed the increase in the Nova Scotia rate of child and family poverty recently reported by Statistics Canada” she said.
CSEP is also disappointed the government decided to not invest in other refundable tax credits or benefits for the poor, including increasing the income ceiling and the amount of the Poverty Reduction Credit (PRC) for income assistance clients with no dependents whose annual adjustable income for the previous year is below $12,000. The PRC is a small amount of money ($150) delivered quarterly says the group, but additional investment would have gone some way to alleviating dire poverty and make up for the abysmally low welfare rate for this group, many of whom are unattached individuals living on incomes that are more than 50% below the Market Basket Measure (MBM) of poverty.
“The lack of attention to the needs of those in direst need affects the health and wellbeing of many of the clients we see on a daily basis”, said Tara Kinch, an advocate and income assistance support worker at Chebucto Connections in Spryfield. “We hope that the government will rethink their position and invest more in helping the poorest of the poor because unless they do, we are likely to see more people living in on the street or in shelters, as well as increased expenditures on healthcare”, she said.