KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As we all know, since the Liberals came to power Community Services has embarked on the so called Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) transformation.
The reality is that a lot that happens in the current ESIA system causes oppression, and encourages social isolation. So, generally speaking, my message for the community has been not to expect anything much different to come out of the transformation.
Yesterday I attended yet another information session on the transformation organized by Community Services. In this session we basically learned nothing we don’t already know about what is happening with the transformation. The community feels that there are still lots of unanswered questions.
So on January 1st the standard household rate begins, meaning no more separate shelter and living allowances, just one amount.
The Department of Community Services believes that this is going to solve problems for clients. But the community feels that this is nothing much to look forward to. When you look at all problems income assistance recipients have, this standard household rate is going to solve next to nothing.
This being the holiday season, recipients consider this not a real Christmas present from Community Services.
The community believes that this standard household rate is going to do nothing to help them better themselves. After all, when an increase in our allowances does happen, living costs also tend to go up. The price of food keeps going up. Lately rents have been known to go up sky high. So the standard household rate is not going to stop income assistance recipients from worrying about someday becoming homeless.
According to DCS staff with whom I have been in contact, case workers will no longer require that their clients bring copies of their power bills and rent receipts to their annual reviews with them. But will this really happen?
Answer – Wait and see I guess!
At the information session the Department of Community Services said that they are looking at improving social inclusion.
People I talk with in my community feel that unless Community Services starts paying for things like gym passes and other programs which have expensive registration fees, then they do not understand where Community Services is even going to begin to address it.
Something else that needs to change to improve social inclusion are the cohabitation policies.
Moving forward, let’s continue to hope that things get better for people who have no choice but to depend on this system.
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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