Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welfare rates, rules keep people down

Take the time to look into welfare rates and policies and you might wonder why the government dislikes some citizens so much.
The National Council on Welfare released a report this week noting how destructive welfare rates and eligibility polices are across Canada.
A young Victoria woman put the reality simply years ago. She said it seemed the government wanted to provide enough income that she and her son could survive. But not enough that they could escape from the welfare trap. (That was, I note, under the NDP government.)
Premier Gordon Campbell said much the same thing last year. He made an unsuccessful pitch for federal money to increase welfare payments during the recession.
"Income assistance is clearly the last social safety net into which any worker wants to fall," he wrote in an op-ed piece in The Globe and Mail. "Not only are the monthly benefits often less than those payable under EI, but those who are forced to go on welfare risk entering a cycle of dependency that is tough on families, communities and our economy."
In other words, they get trapped.
There's a perverse moral judgment involved. People should just try harder, the unspoken - or sometimes spoken - argument goes. If they can't get a job, they're flawed and don't deserve a decent life.
Of course, 58 per cent of the 132,000 people in income assistance in B.C. have disabilities that keep them from working. Another 8,000 have "multiple persistent barriers to employment."
And then are the kids dependent on income assistance and the people who have lost jobs, run out of employment insurance, used their savings and themselves on welfare, a little unsure how this happened.
And trapped.
If you're single parent with two children and the government has deemed you employable, income assistance provides up to $660 for rent (about half the cost of a two-bedroom place in Victoria).
Between welfare and the family bonus, there's another $623 a month to cover everything else for a family of three - food, clothes, bus passes, a phone, maybe cable, school fees. That's about $20 a day to cover all those things.
All in, the family is supposed to live on less than $300 a week - less than minimum wage. (A single person gets up to $375 for rent and less than $8 a day to live on. Try launching a job hunt while living on $8 a day.)
People get by. But their lives are crappy. And children raised in this kind of poverty face a lifetime of health, educational and work problems.
It's not just a question of income assistance rates, although they have only been increased once since 1994.
The rules grind people into perpetual poverty. In B.C., for example, people on disability assistance or with persistent barriers to employment can earn up to $500 a month without penalty.
But for 48,000 people on income assistance, the government claws back any part-time employment income. Hustle up some work cutting lawns and make $40, and it's deducted from your welfare cheque.
It's a cruel disincentive for people trying to get back into the workforce.
In Alberta, recipients get to keep the first $230 they can earn and one-quarter of any earnings above that. The government says people are "encouraged and supported to work" while on welfare. "Employment can increase their total income and provide valuable work experience."
The National Council on Welfare noted the requirement that applicants exhaust their savings before being eligible was also destructive.
Don Drummond, former chief economist of the TD Bank, supported that observation. "Those in need must essentially first become destitute before they qualify for temporary assistance," he said. "But the record shows once you become destitute you tend to stay in that state. You can't afford to move to where jobs might be or upgrade your skills."
The current policies are cruel and ineffectual. Leadership candidates, for both parties, should be asked what they would do differently.
Footnote: The council report found B.C. support for two-parent families with two children was the third lowest in the country, exceeding only New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Benefits are, in constant dollars, well below 1990 levels.


Anonymous said...

how are people on welfare punished for receiving extra money to help them ahead or a change in their financial circumstance? how is a cabinet minister treated for failing to declare a change in finances on time?

Anonymous said...

disabled mom of 2.minimum income cant get ahead,no car.very little food much less clothes things normal peple have.if i could id much rather work.we are looked down on .flat point blank.we struggle everyday to eat.i read on one post that this one woman belived welfare kids shoulnt get to go to even mcdonalds.<thry didnt deserve it.if i could have id wrung her neck.My kids live hard,and hopefully society better be looking at it like this.i made good money,worked my whole life very hard and in the blink of an eye and a spine injury i lost my home my car and my stability.it can happen to anyone.i also have cancer.TIME is a joke,because my kids are suffering and will continue to do so.not alot i can do.ID love to have a home for my kids.instead of living in rat holes.have shoes.time limit how fast a 9 yr old will outgrow his shoes?

Anonymous said...

and if i even let my daughter have a yard sale they deduct that from my big 198.00 amonth to feed my kids..Theres no way for us WELFARE folks to better ourselves,espeially disabled,single moms

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

This article speaks volumes. Sharing this for the second time in 2 years. Corporate welfare is worse but welfare across the board is a disgusting idea. I like the idea that all citizens that are in need would be funded to better themselves in a way of dignity and respect and not expected to wear rags to the point of destitute dire circumstances.