Poverty activist and welfare recipient Tim Blades speaks at the recent screening of My Week on Welfare in Lower Sackville. His message is not the one that Community Services would like you to hear, but it’s rooted in lived experience.
Recently Community Services organized a series of info sessions to provide an update to stakeholders on the ESIA transformation. I couldn’t go of course, since I am merely a grouchy old journalist and not a stakeholder. But I talked to a few anti-poverty advocates, and this is what I found out.
Our correspondent Kendall Worth attended one of the welfare transformation meetings organized by Community Services, and he came back disappointed.
In September several MLAs from all three parties attended a screening of My Week on Welfare at the auditorium of the Nova Scotia Art Gallery in downtown Halifax. This is what Aron Spidle, who is featured in the documentary, told the MLAs. “When a friend asks me to do something with them, the first thing that occurs to me is to ‘how can I get out of this gracefully?’ because most of the time I cannot afford it.”
On Wednesday evening several MLAs from all three parties attended a screening of My Week on Welfare at the auditorium of the Nova Scotia Art Gallery in downtown Halifax. My Week on Welfare is a wonderful documentary, produced by Jackie Torrens, that offers glimpses into the lives of income assistance recipients, families and individuals both, trying to make ends meet on a scandalously low food and shelter budget. The screening was organized by BRAG and CASAR members. What follows is what poverty advocate and Nova Scotia Advocate contributor Tim Blades told the MLAs.
The Benefits Reform Action Group sent a letter to the Community Services Standing Committee, explaining why it is no longer interested in meetings with bureaucrats that go nowhere.
Alec Startford: “The recent changes to the Income Assistance Program are embedded in a traditional worldview that poverty is largely the result of an individual deficit, that people need to work harder to join the workforce, and for those who can’t work, we feel sympathy for their suffering and we want to relieve the pain. The grounding principle in this worldview is that the free market is the best and most efficient way to alleviate poverty. Where it can’t the social welfare system will provide remedial services to relieve suffering.”
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has ruled that Community Services cannot refuse to pay a welfare recipient for suitable housing just because the rent exceeds the shelter allowance. We talk to Dalhousie Legal Aid lawyer lawyer Claire McNeil, who argued the case, and community legal aid worker Fiona Traynor, about the scope of this milestone decision.
Community Services spent $3.5 million less on social assistance payments than budgeted. Social assistance recipients continue to live well below the poverty line.
The notion that as a reporter you should talk to all parties affected by a story is often held up as what distinguishes real journalists from bloggers and spreaders of fake news. Except, apparently, when the story is about social assistance.