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Kendall Worth: Open letter to Minister Karen Casey on the need for people on income assistance to live a full life in their communities

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax), January 2, 2020

Dear Minister Casey,

I am writing this letter to you today because it is my understanding that you are looking for input on the 2020 budget. 

As you may already know, through my journalism in the Nova Scotia Advocate I draw attention to Nova Scotia citizens who are living in poverty and who are looking to come out of poverty. Here is the link to my journalism. I am also a member of several advocacy groups who are advocating changes to the Employment Support and Income Assistance program offered by Community Services.

See also: Kendall Worth: Raise the income assistance rates, for the sake of our dignity!

I am writing this letter today to introduce to you two ideas to look at for the 2020 budget.

The first idea is called a social inclusion tax credit.

Now I just want to provide you with a bit of background of where my idea  is coming from. 

As you know there is a transformation happening with the Employment Support and Income Assistance program in the department of Community Services. I have written a few open letters to your colleague Kelly Regan. I also have been in many meetings with the bureaucrats who work under Kelly Regan. According to them in this new year the department may look at the issue of social inclusion.

People in my community worry that social inclusion is going to be much bigger than what the department of Community Services realizes.  

One thing that happened recently is the implementation of the standard household rate. However, the reality is that $850 a month (or less, in many cases) is still not enough for people to live on. Considering that cost of rent, food prices, and incidentals keep increasing, this new standard household rate is not going to help income assistance recipients live better. 

Also, if you were to look at the whole picture of things I write about in the Nova Scotia Advocate, there are other types of problems income assistance recipients experience in their daily lives that this standard household rate is not going to solve. 

In various stories I illustrate the need for income assistance recipients to have to find a way to make new friends. The rates are not enough for income assistance recipients to get out and meet people. Their ability to be involved in their community is limited due to having so very little money to live on. Often this lack of money is causing feelings of social anxiety!

See also: Kendall Worth: No one to share taco shells with, a Christmas story

My stories also point out that these people are dependent on the soup kitchens, not only to eat, but also to get out in their community and try to have a life. As well, my stories illustrate how people on income assistance cannot afford things like fitness centre memberships and to be part of social groups.

How much the allowances did increase to in 2019 is not enough for people to live on. This is why I propose that a Social Inclusion Tax Credit can solve some of these problems.

Secondly, I also suggest a strong investment in mental health spending in this budget. 

Sincerely, Kendall Worth

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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