featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: Julie’s story

Photo by Brooks Leibee on Unsplash

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Meet Julie, an income assistance recipient who I interviewed after she contacted me. By the way, Julie is not her real name.

Julie is only 34 years old and she has been receiving income assistance since 2018. 

After she got laid off from her job of managing a store she received Employment Insurance for a while. Julie told me how she had to spend every penny of her savings before Community Services would allow her to apply for income assistance. 

Julie was even told to keep the receipts of everything she spent so at her income assistance intake interview the intake worker can determine the money she had saved in her bank account was spent reasonably. 

That Community Services directed her to do this was so wrong and uncalled for.

Between losing her last job of managing a jewellery store and now Julie has applied for many jobs.  “I lost count of how many jobs I applied for, and I did not even get a call for an interview ever,” she told me.

Julie looks forward to the day that she will be going back to work and stays positive that someday someone will hire her. When we met in person she showed me her resume and it showed how she has been working since she was 16 years old. 

She worked at Tim Hortons for two years, then moved on to working at a jewellery store for 10 years. Then the store went out of business. While she was working there she even got promoted to manager. 

She also showed me a reference letter written by the employer she was working for. 

“Julie always showed up to work on time and was a great asset. She was well liked by the customers she dealt with as well as the other store staff,” the letter stated.

“She was employed with my company from age 18 to 29 years old. In addition to having shown that she takes her job seriously, she has also behaved in a very grown-up and mature way.”

I want to say that to me, if I were an employer seeing her resume and that type of written job reference, I would give her a chance to come work for me immediately.

I asked Julie if she would ever go back to working for Tim Hortons.

“No Kendall, not because I wouldn’t want to but because I found that when I have to serve crowds of people standing in line my anxiety would always go up. Even though I also had to deal with customers while working at the jewelry store it was always at a much more quiet level and that worked better with my anxiety,” she explained.

She asked her caseworker for a referral to an employment support worker. She wanted to get into the Career Seek program. This way she could go back to school and study for a better job down the road. 

That employment support worker found she could not accept Julie for the Career Seek program for two reasons:

#1, “Julie, when you wrote the test you scored under 70%, which is the minimum in order to be considered for Career Seek,” the employment support Worker told her.

#2 – Also, the employment support worker saw that Julie almost failed a science course in high school when she looked at Julie’s high school transcripts. 

The employment support worker told her she would be better off getting another type of sales job, rather than going to university.

I wish Julie well and I encourage her to continue to live life with confidence.

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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One Comment

  1. I worked at an Income Assistance Office in BC many years ago. At the time we had what was called a “Crisis Grant”. This was available to clients on IA as well as the general public who met the criteria. It was a flexible program that provided for things like a broken water heater, a car repair that’s needed for work etc . I thought it was a great program that helped in emergencies when most needed. To force someone to spend their safety net (to a certain amount) to prove need is shortsighted and sends the wrong message to Recipients. Basically telling them saving is bad!! Everyone on IA should be allowed to maintain a small safety net within certain perameters.

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