KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Do you readers of the Nova Scotia Advocate remember my story about William? William is a man who is on welfare and lives a lonely life with bipolar disorder.
William (not his real name) got on the system back in 2004. Before he got sick, he had a real good job where he was making enough money to not even have to dream about going on the system. He had a great job he held down for 10 years. This all changed when he had a major mental health breakdown.
Recently I got to meet his sister. She wanted to sit down and talk with me because she saw some of my stuff in the Nova Scotia Advocate. She told me that some of what she saw in the Nova Scotia advocate about welfare and people who are on that system has her worried about William’s future.
Some of William’s family back home in Labrador recently read the Nova Scotia Advocate, and they are expressing concern about this very thing as well, she said.
As I wrote in a second story, William will soon start a work readiness program which is supposed to help him better himself mentally and socially.
But the question of mystery is whether this program will really help him better himself mentally as well as socially. He is starting the program in the next few weeks, and only time will tell.
At least some welfare recipients out there (a safe guess would be 10% of them) do have family who love them like family should, and William is one example of this.
William’s sister is concerned about the fact that she is not going to be around forever to help William out. She wants to see William live a better quality of life.
She hopes that he will someday (and she wishes it could happen sooner rather than later) see him live a normal life.
Outside of family, support for William is limited to his family doctor, his mental health professionals he sees for treatment and counselling, and a therapist. As we all know these people cannot be friends or social contacts to William because of their professional boundaries.
I explained to William’s sister that very sadly this is the sad truth for many income assistance recipients. However, William hopes this will change as he makes some new friends at the work-readiness program he will be starting within the next couple of weeks. This program is set up as a way to help him make new friends as well as getting back into productive days.
She told me that during weekly conversations with William on the phone or in person, he always expresses wanting to live like ordinary people. He feels it is never going to happen to him. The reason he feels that way is because of the way the mental health system and the Department of Community Services are treating him.
William’s sister also asked me questions about different things she read in the Advocate.
William tells his sister that he would like to have a girlfriend if he could ever meet someone who has that type of interest in him. He dreams of someday getting married and having kids. While asking this question she referred this specially this story here: Love works miracles but your relationship is none of Community Services’ business.
“Kendall, exactly what knowledge do you have if William down the road was to meet someone who has that type of interest in him, why would he have to disclose that to Community Services and what knowledge do you have of how it would affect his income assistance,” she asked.
I said to her, ”yes, employment support and income assistance program policies in Nova Scotia do discourage clients from setting that type of goal in life. If William was to meet someone who does have that type of interest in him, the system in Nova Scotia will require him to honestly disclose this to his caseworker during his next annual review after the relationship has started.
If William and his girlfriend decided to live together they get $570 as the shelter allowance for the couple together. If they were not living together then his assistance would not be affected in that case.”
“If he did meet someone, even it they are not living together at the time of his annual review his income assistance caseworkers might express suspicion after he discloses this. This has been known to happen to different clients during their annual reviews,” I said.
William’s sister said, ”William himself calls me the night before his annual review every year, scared to death of what is going to happen on that day while in front of his caseworker.”
“I do know from what William tells me that they even want to know the colour of your underwear during the review,” she said.
The one thing that is very touching about this particular story is that this goes to show that there are at least some income assistance recipients who do have loved ones in their lives, like family members and friends who want to love them, like family should.
Sadly not many income assistance recipients are that lucky.
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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