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Kendall Worth: Community Services transformation is getting back up

Kendall Worth prior to his annual review. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – According to recent conversations I have had with people at the department of Community Services, the Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) transformation is slowly getting back up! 

These senior bureaucrats are telling me that the department is now beginning to look at case management next.

People in my community have questions around what that will mean for them.

It seems as if the ESIA transformation has been happening forever. I question whether this next phase is good news. Within this past week I have had conversations with community members about this update, and they have questions and concerns as well.

One question from the community is whether this means that in the future annual reviews will be done away with.

When you get notified it is time for your annual review, it is the law that you have to attend in order to continue to receive income assistance. Many people are terrified, as the case workers have no respect for your privacy and dignity, and often the reviews result in cuts to their checks.

We have written about annual reviews a lot on these pages. One good one is Consider bringing an advocate to your annual review

Everyone I had talked to referenced all the above stories, and all 100% agreed that my above stories show that Community Services needs to do away with annual reviews.

I answer this question by saying “hopefully it does mean a change of heart, however I am not counting on it,”

The second question people in my community raise is about the work-readiness assessments that were announced at one time.

Earlier articles in the Nova Scotia Advocate by me and others have reported on Community Services transformation plans to assess and group people on social assistance by their ability to work.

The results of these assessments will result in grouping you into the three categories these assessments find that you fit in. Either you will never work, you are ready to go back to work right now, or you are between the two.  

All we can hope for is for these assessments to be accurate instead of just something made up by some bureaucrats, I wrote earlier.

See also: Pigeonholed by Community Services? Kendall Worth on work-readiness assessments

I am told that “Kendall, what we hope to get out of a new case management system is some type of specialist we can be hooked up with who can help us make better attachments to the labour market so we can start living the financially better off life we deserve to live.”

“A higher allowance to pay our rent and to live on is needed, and we are tired of spending day to day life sitting around and depending on places like drop-ins and soup kitchens to get out and have a life,” they say.

The final two questions I get is around people who live with disabilities. 

“Under a new case management system will the department of Community Services staff better respect the rights and needs of persons with mental and physical disabilities,” they ask,meaning less bureaucratic nonsense and systemic problems. 

And most Importantly, under the new system will the current standard household rate increase so that clients who depend on the system can meet their living needs? 

Those people tell me that the transformation team needs to get out and talk to landlords about what they charge for rents these days. Also keep in mind that rents are expected to go up by large amounts once the temporary rent control is lifted. I have heard some recent stories where people are getting heads-up from their landlords that their rent will be increasing by $200 a month once the temporary rent control is lifted.

Many in the community are hoping that once the transformation is complete there is something better on the horizon. However, do not hold your breath is what I will say

The truth is, it is all a wait and see thing!

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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  1. “plans to assess and group people on social assistance by their ability to work” So after 30 years of doctors filling out that blue medical form stating that I am permanently unemployable for reasons of disability, I will have to, once again, be assessed? If this is true, this shows how hopeless it is to expect any change, in particular, with reviews, not to mention how utterly wasteful of time and resources it is to assess someone who has been unable to work for the last 30 years and has over two dozen forms on their file to prove it. This is a review! And would be far worse, far more involved, and far more terrifying that the annual review already is. Assessing someone who has been on “disability” for three decades is beyond bureaucratic nonsense. I almost wish I had not read this article. I feel physically sick right now.

  2. I agree with this as for decades I could only work part time due to physical and mental disabilities. This is never going to change and every year my doctor has to fill out that blue form and he does not want to do it. In my opinion once was enough as he said right from the first one that it was never going to be different. I came to terms with this and work to the extent that I can which for me is 3 days a week. It is unfortunately not enough to get me off of income assistance as I was never able to access further education and I am now a year away from transitioning to an old age pension. Why put me through this review again!

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