Anti-poverty activist Kendall Worth on five income assistance recipients who all lost their special diets in the last little while, even though their medical doctors told Community Services that the diet was medically necessary. What to do?

Another episode in our series Lives on Welfare where people living in poverty tell their stories: Things went relatively well for Emma, a mother who lives with her daughter in a town an hour or so away from Halifax. Then she got sick, lost her job, and ended up on social assistance. Then her daughter also got sick.

Our roving reporter Kendall Worth was walking down Spring Garden when some people who knew of his poverty activism and writing asked if he would tell their story. Here it is. No money for groceries, but many mental health and health problems, and lots of people looking down on them as if it is all their fault somehow.

Video reporter Jodi Brown visits the mother of a terminally ill six-year old son, who was kicked of social assistance and told to repay over $30,000 in payments Community Services claims she should not have received. The mother is denying the allegations and fighting her case in court. Meanwhile the family can’t make ends meet and is facing eviction.

This is Kendall’s second open letter to Community Services minister Kelly Regan. Turns out there were a couple of issues he forgot to raise. “Something I want to bring to your attention in this letter is something I wrote about how caseworkers get away with behaving like they are medical professionals when it comes to approving special diets. It is also this part of the ESIA policy that sets the stage for caseworkers further questioning doctors about the medical documentation that clients provide.”

Why do you have to pay a fee month after month for an unlisted number, Kendall Worth asks. For many people privacy is not a luxury, it is a necessity and a safety issue. Yet unlisted numbers are expensive. Adding to the problems is that Community Services seldom picks up the bill, meaning that for people on welfare it has to come out of their tiny food budget.