Monday, 24 September 2018

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. 

Kendall Worth meets up with a couple on income assistance, all set to do a serious job search now that they have a free bus pass and a phone. Just goes to show what a difference access to public transportation makes. “Now that we have both the bus pass and the phone, we are planning to get down to business with looking for meaningful employment,” Peter and Peggy tell Kendall. “Kendall, we are tired of living with the bureaucratic nonsense. We are tired of it, and we hope that now that we got our free bus pass we can get off this system.”

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?

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.