Income support clients denied human rights, says writer
Newfoundland and Labrador income support clients are being denied basic human rights on so many levels as compared to the level of care offered to income support clients in other provinces.
The monetary amounts which they receive is less than half the poverty level. For two adults with no children they receive less than $10,000 per year to maintain their home, with adequate heat, warm clothing, pay bills, and buy nutritious foods. This amount is far from adequate.
This, in turn, is resulting in higher doctor visits (when they can get there) due to increased rates of illnesses including hypertension, vitamin deficiencies, malnourishment, heart attacks and stroke from the worry of not having their basic needs met. Schools are finding more and more children are going to school hungry, resulting in poor attention, difficulty concentrating in class, lower grades and poor health.
Many are going without adequate heat in their homes during the fall, winter and spring or having to choose between heat or food, but not both. They receive a $50 fuel allowance. This is causing them to be sleeping in dampness, causing bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and hospitalization as well as mold on clothing and walls and ceilings in their homes. (The average heating bill for a three bedroom home in winter is between $300-$400 per month).
Others are being denied reimbursement for transportation to medical appointments until their ninth trip per month after which they will be reimbursed for that ninth trip and only if the appointment is NOT within their region and pre-approved. (Trips cost between $20 for travel of up to 15 kilometres, and $60 or more for travel over 100 km). How is someone who only gets roughly $800 per month supposed to pay upfront for eight trips before getting reimbursed, and then only for one trip?
Some patients have to travel outside the province for dental oral surgery after oral surgeons resign and 33 dentists withdraw their oncall status providing after hours emergency care.
There is currently a cap on dental care of $150 per person per year in the province after the dental care plan was deemed too successful. A current extraction and X-ray will cost $150, if you’re lucky, perhaps more depending on the condition of the teeth. To suggest to someone who has multiple tooth problems that they wait till next year surely does not meet with dignified treatment.
Families in general have to fight every single step of the way every time they ask the Depart- ment of Advanced Education and Skills for anything. A young pregnant mother with autistic children does not need to be told she cannot have the things she needs for her children.
A disabled woman in a wheelchair should not have to fight tooth and nail to see her doctor about her medical condition twice a month (if ) she needs it. This is not treating these individuals with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
Clients of AES report they are often scared to come forward and complain for fear they will lose what little they do get. So they suffer in silence. They are afraid to go public because more often than not the response is disdain and disgust from the public. “They get more than enough,” or “they got it made on welfare, just sit back and watch the cheques roll in.”
No one who is on income support chose to live like this. They are victims of circumstance and their environment. Help them to regain their dignity and self-worth by starting an inquiry into the payment policies and practices of the Department of Advanced Education and Skills immediately.