KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As I talked about in some of my past stories, it is safe to say that 80% of income assistance recipients live a life of loneliness and social isolation. Many do not have good relationships with their families, and many of them do not even talk to their families. Others have a difficult time keeping healthy friendships. Often this is because of the welfare stigma.
Due to the limited allowance of what is now the $850 standard household rate, they cannot afford to be part of social programs that have expensive registration fees. Many of them do not have someone in their lives they call their spouse, or a partner who they are seeing. They cannot meet someone who has that type of romantic interest in them.
During COVID-19 anxiety grew among people on income assistance as many of them did not have people in their lives such as family members, friends, etc., checking in on them during the days of self isolation. Souls Harbour and other soup kitchens were not operating the same way as before and offering take out only, see this article here: Kendall Worth: The new normal and income assistance recipients.
That extra one time $50 payment for income assistance recipients did not help. Also, we have to remember that income assistance recipients during this time were living extra isolated.
In one of my past stories I have written about social prescriptions, which is a program that exists in Ontario:Kendall Worth on friendship, poverty, and feeling discouraged. The way the CBC describes it it is a program where doctors and social workers can prescribe activities that promote social connections and strengthen community bonds. You then get to use these programs free of charge.
Several Income assistance recipients told me how they feel this program would have benefited them over the last months, from just having somebody to keep in touch with or to drive them to the grocery store and/or pick up medications for them. Altogether, over the past months I talked to many income assistance recipients in my community who told me that the one thing they wished they had in their lives was at least one friend in their personal circle who can drive and owns a vehicle.
Some of them have also told me that they got really bored while they could not be out in their community, lacking structure.
What is scary is that we may have at some point a second wave of this virus coming. We just do not know. If a social prescriptions program could get started before everything goes on lockdown again, that will give those income assistance recipients an extra lifeline during COVID-19.
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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