Dear Premier Stephen MacNeil and Ministers Kelly Regan and Randy Delorey
I was talking to people in my community who suggested I should write this letter with suggestions and solutions to the upcoming problems that people living in poverty are going to be facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is a great concern in my community of people living in poverty that anxiety and depression are going to get outright out of control while all these public health warnings are being issued. This is especially the case for those of us who depend on mental health services.
I would ask you to read the two following articles I wrote.
- Kendall Worth on mental health and isolation. For people living in poverty there is next to nothing
- Kendall Worth: We really need a 24/7 drop in centre to tackle problems of social isolation
As I am sure you all know, I am a writer for the Nova Scotia Advocate and I advocate for people who are living in poverty in Nova Scotia. In this recent story, Kendall Worth: How COVID-19 is affecting people on social assistance, I wrote about the difficulties that people living in poverty are going to have during this time of self isolation.
Since my story got posted yesterday, I have learned that some income assistance recipients in my community who have part time jobs to supplement their income, have been told to stay home from work at least over these next three weeks, maybe much longer.
This is sad news, because going to their part-time jobs is part of what they do in the run of their days that keeps them feeling less socially isolated.
Also they are losing the money that they are allowed to keep, in some cases the first $250 and in other cases the first $350, before the department of Community Services starts clawing back their wages.
But there are other concerns as well, and here are some solutions.
1 – As I talked about in this story, Kendall Worth: You should not have to rely on charity just to buy some cleaning supplies, whereas the public health warnings are saying “People need to really look after their personal hygiene during this time, you should give an extra one time allowance to income assistance recipients for them to be able to stock up on extra cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products.
2 – Whereas libraries are closed, allow a one time allowance for income assistance recipients to be able to have a telephone for those clients who are currently not approved for the special needs telephone allowance. This way, during this time of self isolation, they can keep in contact with anyone they have in their lives for support.
3 – Also, provide a one time allowance for them to have internet at home during this time, especially since the libraries are closed.
4 – People are saying that soup kitchens and food banks should be considered an essential service during this time, which means they should not be closed. If seating at soup kitchens is considered a health risk, soup kitchens should at least have delivery of hot meals to people’s homes and homeless shelters available during this time.
5 – I have also heard in my community that some people have been told by their doctors that appointments with mental health professionals may end up getting canceled. Mental health services should be considered a priority to stay open during this time. It is never a good idea to close mental health services when people need their visit with the Mental Health professionals badly, and in some cases also for refills on medications.
6 – We need the immediate creation of a program like the social prescription program I talked about in this story, Kendall Worth on friendship, poverty, and feeling discourag. This way income assistance recipients who also live the life of social isolation can find a volunteer friend who understands their situation to keep in touch with during the time of self isolation. This will also help the mental health situation of these people during this time. Also, people I talk to suggested to me that creation of this program will potentially eliminate going to the QE2 emerge just because they need human contact.
Now the thing I am not arguing in this letter is that income assistance recipients should somehow be excused from following those public health warnings. I am saying that the extra difficulty which this is going to cause to people in income assistance during this time needs to be addressed.
Many of them have mental health issues dealing with depression and anxiety already.
If they could get just a one time allowance as I describe in this letter, and have a guarantee that mental health services are not going to be disrupted at this time, both will be a great help.
Thank you in advance for giving this letter your attention,
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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