Archive for the ‘Article of Interest’ Category

Saskatchewan Party Platform Released

Monday, October 24th, 2011

You can find the platform at:

http://saskparty.com/uploads/Files/2011SaskPartyPlatform.pdf

or HERE

Please take a few momemtns to read it over.

On pages 5, 37 and 38 there are references to the SAID program.

NDP platform released today

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

You can find the platform at:

http://saskndp.ca/pub/document/SaskNDP-Platform.pdf

or HERE

Please take a few momemtns to read it over.

One item of interest is the following note on page 9:

“Increasing the income payments to citizens with disabilities living on their own to achieve a fair standard of living, starting with a $200 a month increase.”

Life hard on social assistance – An Article of Interest

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Life hard on social assistance

By Jordon Cooper, The StarPhoenix September 26, 2011

I came into work a couple of years ago for a midnight shift, and the colleague I was replacing dryly said that among our residents that night was a man who had been eviscerated and just got out of the hospital.The resident – I’ll call him John – casually told me that someone had broken into his apartment and was looking to steal some organs. I asked him, “Do you owe someone money or drugs?”John immediately panicked and said, “How do you know? Who told you?”Mine was a lucky guess. I don’t know what is and what isn’t in his life story (the one about organ theft definitely wasn’t true). According to him, he had been on his own since he was 11 and started using hard drugs when he was 13.

He had significant mental health problems, which could have been a result of the drug abuse. He suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, and schizophrenia. I don’t know if it was the FASD or the drug use that stunted his emotional or cognitive development, but I always felt John was less capable and less mature than my son, who was eight years old at the time.

There is a road to recovery available. John later took rehabilitation for the drug issues. He was on medication for the mental health problems. I am sure he could get counselling for the psychological issues, but he still will remain an eight-year-old inside, unemployable and with serious health concerns.

So what do we do with men and women who are like him? They are left to fend for themselves in some jurisdictions, but in Saskatchewan we have a safety net in terms of health care and the Ministry of Social Services.

Most of us are familiar with health care, but life on social assistance for a single person is tough. It starts with $459 a month for rent and, if you are disabled, you can qualify for the Disability Rental Housing Supplement that provides another $262 toward rent. The total $721 is not that bad – until you try to find a suite for that price.

The accommodation also has to be close to supports, so even if you find a suitable apartment, you may not qualify. Many find themselves paying a portion of their rent from the $255 they get to live on. Very quickly that living allowance becomes $150 to make it through the month.

It’s been 15 years since I lived alone, and even then $100 didn’t get me that much in groceries. Even living on a nutritionally challenged diet of Kraft Dinner, Pizza Pops, Kraft Dinner Spirals, and Three Cheese Kraft Dinner I was spending more than that on food.

The next option is the Saskatoon Food Bank. It just completed its Food Basket Challenge, which invited noted Saskatoon residents to live on a typical basket of food for a week. The participants’ comments were all interesting, but I noted how many struggled with the discipline of having to live on the amount of food that was given out.

Of course, in a oneweek challenge, a lack of discipline means that you just cheated yourself. If they were in that situation permanently, it means that they or their children go without food later in the week. For those on social assistance, it’s week after month of rationing, going hungry, walking down to the Friendship Inn, stopping by the Bridge on 20th, and heading to the Salvation Army looking for enough food to make it.

On top of that, the money you get is supposed to cover laundry, clothes and other essentials. As Sharon Brown, one of the Salvation Army’s budget management workers told me, “You can make it if you make no mistakes.”

That’s easier said than done, even in my own life. Recent studies have shown that most of us have a finite amount of self-discipline.

To use most of that on just obtaining and rationing food changes the rest of one’s life.

I know that it’s hard to set social assistance rates. Too high and it provides a disincentive to work and people flood in from all over. Yet you make it too low, and even providing food and basic needs become a struggle.

Over the years I have listened to politicians talk about indexing social assistance to inflation. Not a bad idea, but here is mine. In the process of reviewing rates, have the minister of Social Services live on the money he or she judges to be appropriate. If the minister can’t do it and function, why expect others to do it?

If it helps, I’ll do it as well. Together we’ll find out how hard it is to live on social assistance rates.

jordon@jordoncooper.com

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

What’s it like to live on food bank fare? – An Article of Interest

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

An article of interest from the Toronto Star
This is an article that may be of interest to some of our members. It is not related to DISC or SAID.

What’s it like to live on food bank fare?

Published On Mon Apr 12 2010
Laurie Monsebraaten Social Policy Reporter

For the past week, 10 prominent Torontonians have been living on food bank rations from the Stop Community Food Centre to experience life on social assistance and to raise awareness about Ontario’s low welfare rates. (A single person on welfare gets a maximum of $585 per month.) The Stop wants Queen’s Park to introduce a $100 healthy food supplement for every adult on welfare. For more visit Stop’s “Do the Math” website .

The challenge ends Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a town hall meeting at the Wychwood Barns where participants will discuss their experiences.

The Star checked in with some of the participants Monday, to see how they were managing.

Michael MacMillan, 53, former head of Alliance Atlantis media, co-founder of Samara Canada

I ran out of food by Saturday morning (after four days). I was so annoyed and feeling so grouchy that I didn’t bother going to a soup kitchen. I just gave up. I had already found the point of the exercise and that is that it isn’t possible to survive on a food bank diet.

What was the most elaborate or adventurous meal you prepared?

I’m a cook and I fancy myself as someone who can whip up a tasty meal with almost nothing. Twice I made hot dog pilaf with brown rice, sautéed onions and chopped up hot dogs. It was okay, edible. But I had to eat a lot of it to fill myself up.

Any surprises?

It was strange how I still felt hungry and yet stuffed with carbohydrates. It was an awful feeling.

Dr. David McKeown, 55, Toronto Medical Officer of Health

I’ve been able to stay on it mostly by not eating very much. As a result, I’ve lost 5 lbs. I went to a drop-in centre for a meal last week and was given a take-out meal when I left which was a bonus.

What do you have left?

I have a handful of cereal (Almond Crunch) but no milk. Two eggs I have been saving. Some left-over stew and a banana from my take-out lunch. I may have to visit a drop-in one more time though.

What was the most difficult part?

I was hungry most of the time and had very low energy.

Just the lack of choice. Food is a very important part of our life and I didn’t get to eat any of the things that I enjoy. In work settings, and family settings with friends, I couldn’t join in with the food that was part of the events. So there is a sense of isolation that you get when you are not able to be a part of what others who have more resources are enjoying. Food is very much a part of our family and cultural life.

Catherine Mihevc, 11, Grade 5 daughter of Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21-St. Paul’s) whose wife and 15-year-old daughter also participated.

My mom and dad went to two or three drop-ins (for meals) so that my sister and I could have more. We didn’t go because we were in school or too busy. I wasn’t really hungry but that’s because my mom and dad let my sister and me eat before they ate.

What was the most elaborate or adventurous meal that you prepared?

We were allowed to use five pantry items in addition to what we got from the food hamper so I mixed flour and water to make flatbread. It’s pretty bland. But we put a lot of peanut butter on it so it tasted okay.

What was the hardest part?

Watching other people eat when you can’t. We went to the farmer’s market on the weekend and it was really hard not to buy anything. When my friends came over, I felt rude not being able to give them anything to eat.

Anand Rajaram, 38, actor with Video Cabaret.

Most days, I only ate one meal. But the four onions I got were rotten. The canned peas were past their due date and were gray, so I couldn’t eat that either. I couldn’t eat the peanut butter or the oatmeal because there was too much sugar in them and I don’t like what that does to my body… So I ran out of food on Sunday and stopped.

What was the hardest part?

The second day was the hardest. After that I hit a hunger stupor… It took me back (to about 10 years ago) when I was on social assistance myself. A couple of (acting) gigs fell through and I had maxed out my credit cards and I couldn’t go to my family because I didn’t want to panic them. I felt trapped and marginalized again.

Any surprises?

I don’t know if it was hunger, but this has never happened to me before. One day last week my foot fell asleep without the tingling feeling you usually get. And when I got up on stage I fell over. It was this awful dizzy feeling.

What did you learn about hunger?

I constantly saw metaphors when I was doing this. When I opened my fridge I saw all this food from just before the challenge – fresh fruit and vegetables – I’ve got everything I need to make a really healthy meal, but I can’t eat it because I have to eat what’s in front of me. It’s a metaphor for how our society is too. You are living like this and yet there is food right in front of you that you can’t access. You walk by shops with baked goods or huge garbage bags full of food they couldn’t use because they were a day old.

Rosina Kazi, 35, lead singer for the band LAL.

We ate breakfast and tried our best to each lunch and dinner, but the lack of vegetables and choice really made it hard. We had lunch twice at the Stop and both times the food was amazing. It shocked me to see so many people in need of food at one place but it was also amazing to see what a good community support system there was at the Stop.

What was the hardest part?

Not having coffee! But really, the hardest part was dealing with … my own guilt around privilege and my emotional attachment to food. It’s much harder when you have little choice and not the best food to eat. I felt unfocussed and sad a lot.

What did you miss the most?

Chicken and cheese.

What did you learn from this experience?

I realized how food affects me. It’s a huge part of me dealing with my issues around self, depression, stress … I realized how so many other societal issues intersect with the lack of having a healthy food choice. If you don’t feel good and have energy and you eat tonnes of processed food then it will affect you, in ways we don’t even realize. Healthy food should not be just for those can afford it but for all.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/794205–what-s-it-like-to-live-on-food-bank-fare

Living Within the System – The story of two women battling to overcome the complexities of social assistance (Dialect Magazine)

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Tony Bassett, SACL’s communication person, wrote this article for SACL’s magazine, Dialect. It was released last week. The story features Gayle Dixon and Jana Friel and discusses the challenges they face living on SAP and their wait for SAID.

Please see the full article with pictures HERE
For a text only version see below:

Living Within the System – The story of two women battling to overcome the complexities of social assistance (Dialect Magazine)
BY A.J. BASSETT
SACL COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR

For many people with disabilities, life is a constant battle for survival to make ends meet. The same things that many Canadians take for granted, a heated home, a vehicle, food in the fridge, a telephone and a computer, are often out of reach for many Canadians with a disability.

According to a recent report by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, more than 16% of adults with disabilities lives in poverty. It’s an issue that’s often overlooked for a variety of reasons, mainly due to a lack of knowledge or understanding about the issue.

In late spring, I sat down with two persons with disabilities, Gayle Dixon and Jana Friel, both of whom have struggled to live a quality life within a system that tends to perpetuate poverty. I was also joined by Judy Hannah, SACL Project Coordinator for the Grassroot Alliance, and one of the key individuals behind the Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC):

Gayle’s Story:
Now in her early 50s, Gayle has a warm disposition, her eyes bright and cheerful. From Gayle’s laugh and smile, one would have little idea that in reality, life for Gayle has been a constant battle of making ends meet while struggling with her emotional disability including chronic depression.
It’s a disability that Gayle has endured for most of her life.

Gayle thinks back to the years following her mother’s death, which happened in the mid-90s. “I had a fear of leaving my house by myself, and friends had to take me shopping and to appointments, and my nerves were really bad,” said Gayle. “I was really depressed, and I just wasn’t coping with life very well.”
A salvation of sorts came about for Gayle 11 years ago by happenstance when she watched a television show featuring service dogs. The dogs are highly trained to provide support to persons with disabilities such as visual and hearing. Service dogs also guard diabetic owners, and have known to have saved numerous lives of diabetics who go into diabetic shock.

“After I saw the show, I went to my doctor and asked if maybe a service dog might help me, and she said why not?” said Gayle. After a long search for a suitable dog and a huge community effort where more than $5,000 was raised to pay for service dog training, Gayle got Murphy, a young Black Labrador. Murphy, as it turned out, would be the first service dog in Saskatchewan to provide support for an emotional disability.

Gayle’s situation is slightly more unique than others who are on social assistance. She owns her own small house – an inheritance from her mom. She also owns her own car, albeit very old and used, which helps her make frequent trips to the leash-free park to exercise her service dog. Gayle’s fortune of having a house, however, is offset by the system which has penalized her for having property. It’s an issue that Judy has been working for years to change.

“Because Gayle has her own house, Social Assistance covers the taxes and utilities, but reduces her allowance so that she receives only $473 a month to live on.”

“After her basic housing expenses are paid for, Gayle has $58 a week to use to pay for everything. Her food, clothing, entertainment, car repair … everything” says Judy.

The bond between Judy and Gayle has grown over the years. Gayle’s experience with the system has given Judy a disturbing glimpse into living life on the bare edge of existence.

“I remember one time last winter you had a cold”, said Judy as she turned to Gayle and smiled. “You had a few colds last winter and you called me and said you wanted to buy a box of Kleenex because you had a cold. I told her ‘well, go buy a box of Kleenex then!”

“Do you remember what you said? You said it would cost $1.29 to buy a box of Kleenex and when you’re living on so little money you have to always think twice if you’re going to buy a box of Kleenex, you know?”

Gayle nods her head. “I’m barely surviving. Barely surviving. The price of food has gone up and I mean, you go grocery shopping and it doesn’t go as far as it used to. And you can’t buy really healthy food, and so you buy a lot of Kraft Dinner and macaroni because that’s cheaper.”

As Gayle can testify, being on social assistance means not only a question of living on the edge of existence; it’s also a question of dignity. Every main expenditure must be tracked and explained to a social assistance worker in the Ministry. Failure to account for how money received is spent can mean a reduction of benefits, or loss of the assistance altogether.

Gayle is still haunted by a harrowing experience she had with her furnace, which had unexpectedly broken down.

“I phoned Sask Energy and told them my furnace wasn’t working. I had to explain that I owned my house but was on social assistance.”

Because the furnace breakdown was an unforeseen expense, Gayle required special permission from her social assistance worker to approve a visit from Sask Energy. However, her frantic attempts to contact her worker before the end of the day were unsuccessful.

“I had to spend that night without heat. It was very cold but I didn’t have any choice, I couldn’t get help.”

Judy nods. “You have to ask for everything from your social assitance worker. If you need anything special or extra you have to ask.”

“For those of us who don’t depend on assistance, we never do that. If we need the furnace fixed, we just get it done.”

Gayle’s experience is hardly uncommon for those who have long-term disabilities and have little option other than social assistance to survive. One of the major drawbacks for persons with disabilities who are on social assistance is they are severely restricted by any attempts to plan or save money for the future.

Constantly managing every precious penny, Gayle once decided to set aside her GST tax credit for savings and investment, if only to plan for her future and give herself a cushion for unexpected expenses, like maintaining her old car.
“I was saving my tax credits so I could keep it for things like repairs for my car,” says Gayle. “Went I went to report to my social assistance worker, they saw that I was setting aside money for savings.”

“It wasn’t a lot of money, but when they found out, it was a big problem. I came really close to getting kicked off of social assistance and if that had happened, I’d have no options left to survive.”

Gayle’s harrowing experience from her attempts to save money has played a big role in motivating her to become involved in reforming the system. She was one of the first people involved in the now-established Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC), and she has helped to lobby for Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability, or SAID program.

“I started coming to meetings and getting interested in trying to make a difference,” said Gayle. “I’ve been on Social Assistance for over 10 years, so I know what it’s like and I know how the system can be very difficult for people who depend on support.”

“I like coming to the DISC meetings, because we’re all of one mind. We’re all working for the same thing which is to get people onto the SAID program.”
The SAID program, which following years of planning, meetings and lobbying, was established in 2008. The program is unique in that it provides assistance for people with significant and enduring disabilities, and gives individuals who receive the assistance greater control over how the money is spent.

“SAID’s reporting structure will be much less restrictive,” says Judy. “It gives recipients greater control over their lives, and it won’t force them to report every single expenditure for approval.”

Also unlike social assistance, SAID doesn’t punish its recipients for saving money says Judy.

“Here Gayle was, being responsible by trying to put her tax credit money aside and the system wouldn’t let her do that.”

“When it’s fully developed, SAID would allow for money to be set aside and nobody would question her about it.”

“If you’re on welfare you’re not allowed to save for the future. On SAID, Gale can set money aside for home maintenance, and if she does, nobody will threaten to cut her off. “

“SAID is gonna be great because there’s so many people with disabilities that are just barely surviving,” says Gayle. “We need the government to really listen to us and to be able to meet with DISC to understand why we need the SAID program.”

Judy quickly interjects. “What Gayle is asking for is just to be able to live, really. And social assistance doesn’t allow that, plus the lack of dignity from being on welfare, and she has to go every year for intake where people with disabilities are asked ‘do you still have a disability?’”

“That’s something that will change when they go on to SAID. They will have to report in every three years. But these disabilities never disappear – if anything your condition often deteriorates over time, so it will give more dignity to their lives, and even the people who are on it already have said it feels different.”

Judy remains very positive that the SAID program will soon be expanded to include more persons with disabilities. “Kudos to the government,” says Judy. “They launched SAID and they got people in residential care on the program.”
Ironically, even with her long-term debilitating disability, Gayle has yet to be approved for the SAID program, due largely to backlogs and red tape. Still, she holds out hope that within a year or two, she’ll finally be approved.

“They got people in residential housing on SAID 18 months ago,” says Judy. “Since that time, nobody else has gotten on. Right now the government is testing an assessment tool, and the hope is that they’ll finish testing by the end of this summer and start getting more people like Gayle on SAID this fall and winter.”

Gayle is adamant that not being on social assistance will provide her with a precious feeling of dignity and control.

“If I get on SAID I’ll feel like I have respect for myself. I’ll feel like I’m not just existing and that I’m actually able to live.”

“I’ll feel like I’m worth something.”

Jana’s Story:
Jana Friel is a 29 year old woman with an intellectual disability. Born and currently residing in Regina, Jenna has lived independently for the past 8 years at an independent living apartment in the city.

I met Jana recently at an SACL Self-Advocacy forum. Warm and engaging, Jana immediately directs us to a meeting place. She does not lack independence and assertiveness. Indeed, Jana has lived a great portion of her life independently, extending all the way back to when she entered the work force at a tender 16 years of age.

“I started working while I was still going to school. I was at home and I like to go out but I was also bored. So I asked my mom if I could work and she took me in to talk to the manager, and they hired me on the spot.”

Because of Jana’s disability, she depends on social assistance to help cover her basic living expenses. The system, however, has very strict rules for the amount of money people can earn while working. Up until February of this year, the Ministry penalized individuals who earned more than $150 a month. 75% of any monthly earnings over the $150 amount were deducted off of her assistance check.

Jana wasn’t generally affected by the penalty – working reduced part-time hours, Jana’s earnings were under the cap. However, with her employer issuing paychecks every other week, there are two months out of every calendar year where three pay stubs are issued.

The combined total of the stubs exceeded the earnings cap, and as a result, Jana’s social assistance benefits were penalized.

“I felt sad when they took money away,” says Jana. “I worked hard for my money but I had no more in my bank account. I have to have enough money for rent, the phone bill, groceries and other things to live on. I didn’t have any money to do other things like go to a movie or go out with friends.”
Jana wasn’t only sad. She was angry.

With the help of Judy and the DISC, Jana managed to meet Social Services Minister June Draude face-to-face about the penalty.

“I met with Minister Draude last summer and I talked to her about how I once got three pay stubs in a month, and asked her what do I have to do to keep my money?”

“She said that wasn’t right.”

Indeed, following that meeting, Minister Draude enacted an adjustment a few months later which raised the earnings cap by $125 to $275 a month.

For Jana, her big wish right now is to work more hours, perhaps even getting a second job. “I would like to work on the days I don’t have anything to do, like three or four days a week and work 16 or 20 hours a week.”

“The problem is,” says Judy “if she were to work more hours, she would still lose money, because the earnings exemption isn’t very high.”

“We’re working on raising that further. Jana deserves to keep the money she’s earning.”

For Jana’s parents, Shirley and Mark Friel, the concerns they share for Jana go beyond making ends meet month-to-month (which often, she can’t). They think about Jana’s long-term future, and what supports will be there to ensure she will be taken care of after they’re gone.

“Every month we have to subsidize Jana for things like clothes, and some groceries and cleaning supplies,” says Shirley. “It really doesn’t take very long for her money to be used up.”

“Exactly,” says Mark. “I’ve talked face to face with people from Social Assistance who issues these checks and they know that all the parents are providing some help to their children. The big question is how would Jana survive if Shirley and I weren’t here?”

Right now the Friel’s are putting money away through the Registered Disability Savings Program (RDSP), where money can be put away until the recipient reaches the age of 59.

Still, Shirley and Mark don’t stop worrying about Jana’s future.

“Prior to the RDSP, which I think is phenomenal, the long-term is helped a little, but Jana needs to look at the pure long-term,” says Mark. “If I last until I’m 80 years old, and I can keep putting money in yearly into a RDSP, and look after any shortfall, then that’s okay.”

“But what if I don’t live until I’m 80? It’s on my mind every day.”

“We know that while we’re alive we make sure that she’s got things she needs in her apartment,” says Shirley. “But we know if we were to be gone suddenly from the picture that the system would probably take over, and Jana might
not be able to retain that independence and live on her own.”

While advances like the RDSP have been made in helping to provide greater security for the future of individuals with disabilities, Shirley and Mark are still haunted by pessimism.

“Are things moving fast enough? No. Hell no,” admits Shirley.

“But are they moving forward? Yes. And hopefully for those who come after as we look back on the days of integration and mainstream integration that we fought so hard for with Jana to stay and remain in her neighborhood schools.”

“What has happened in the years to follow has been to benefit parents bringing very young children into schools, and finding programs in place, and supports in place that weren’t there when we enrolled Jana.”

Shirley’s voice dims. “Things are moving forward, but there are still a lot of  issues. Right now Jana can’t earn much more than a couple hundred dollars of her own money before they start clawing back on what is already a very low income.”

“Will we live long enough to see persons with disabilities have enough money to live a quality life? I’m not sure.”

“I don’t think we’ll see it in our lifetime.”
………………………………………………………………
A few weeks later, I happened to meet Gayle again, this time she’s beaming with her new service dog, Angel. We sit down and talk about how things are coming along – matters are up and down. Her car is acting up, and she fears that she might have to get expensive repairs done. With Angel at her side though, I sense that Gayle feels like things will turn out alright.

We talk about her future. I ask Gayle what her life dreams are. Gayle pondered my question for a bit.

“I’d like to be able to buy treats for my dog. She works so hard for me that I wish I could buy something for her in return.”

“I’d love to be able to buy Christmas presents for my friends. I try every year to make things for my friends just to say thanks for all they do to help me.”

“I’d like to go to a movie if I saw one that I thought was good. I have a friend that lives on the other side of the river and we don’t see each other very often because it costs so much for transportation.”

“I’d love to phone her up and say ‘hey, can we meet for coffee or something?’”

Research Profile – Life in a Town Without Poverty – Research Article of Interest

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

A research article of interest from the Canadian Institute of Health Research
This is an article that may be of interest to some of our members. It is not related to DISC or SAID.

Research Profile – Life in a Town Without Poverty

Dr. Evelyn Forget
Dr. Evelyn Forget

At a Glance

Who – Dr. Evelyn Forget, a professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

Issue – What is the impact of poverty on health?

Approach – Dr. Forget studied the health care use of the citizens of Dauphin, Manitoba who, from 1974 to 1978 were guaranteed freedom from poverty through an annual income supplement.

Impact – Dauphins hospitalization rates fell relative to the control group particularly for mental illness and accidents and injuries.

A new look at a radical experiment in Manitoba 35 years ago shows that guaranteeing people an annual income leads to better health

[ Back to main article ]

Once upon a time in Canada, there was a town where no one was poor.

That might seem like a fairy tale, but it’s an historic fact. From 1974 through 1978, as part of a labour market experiment called MINCOME, all of the almost 13,000 citizens in and around Dauphin, Manitoba were guaranteed annual income support to keep them above the poverty line.

The $17-million experiment was expected to “make an important contribution to the review of Canada’s social security system” according to the press release that preceded its launch. Unfortunately, MINCOME ran into challenges when interest rates soared in the mid-1970s, taking the inflation-adjusted payments along with them. As well, political interest in the concept of guaranteed income waned. As a result, the data collected was never analyzed. Instead, it was warehoused and the radical social experiment was largely forgotten.

Until now.

“I knew about the existence of this old project for a number of years,” says Dr. Evelyn Forget of the University of Manitoba. “I wondered whether it would be possible to find out what the effects were on health.”

With support from CIHR, Dr. Forget has spent three years comparing the administrative health care records of Dauphin’s citizens between 1974 and 1978 with those of a control group of people living in similar Manitoba communities at that time. She found that people appear to live healthier lives when they don’t have to worry about poverty.

“We found that, overall, hospitalizations in Dauphin declined relative to the control group. We also looked at accidents and injuries and they also declined. You can argue that accident and injury hospitalizations are strongly related to poverty. We have found consistently in other studies that accidents and injuries are strongly related to income level.”

The people of Dauphin also seemed to fare better in terms of mental health.

“During the 1970s we still hospitalized people with mental health issues. If you believe that poverty is related to stress, you should see an effect there. Hospitalizations for mental health issues were down significantly.”

In similar experiments in the United States, researchers claimed to have found that birth rates ballooned. That didn’t happen in Dauphin.

“Politically, there was a concern that if you began a guaranteed annual income, people would stop working and start having large families,” says Dr. Forget, who presented her findings this year at the Institut national d’études démographiques in Paris. “But we found that, if anything, birth rates among the youngest women declined.”

Mr. Ron Hikel, the Executive Director of the MINCOME, is delighted Dr. Forget is taking a fresh look at the project’s impact.

“As somebody who devoted three or four years of his life to making this happen, I was disappointed that the data were warehoused,” says Mr. Hikel. “There was basically no product that could be used in the national policy debate.”

Mr. Hikel, now legislative director for U.S. Congressman Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), says Dr. Forget’s research is immensely relevant in Canada and the United States, where he intends to use her analysis as part of the ongoing health care debate.

“It has to do with the impact that larger social conditions have on one’s health condition and the need for health care.”

The Study

The original MINCOME study took place in Winnipeg and Dauphin, in southeast Manitoba. It received 75% of its funding from the Government of Canada and the balance from the Province of Manitoba.

Participants were guaranteed an annual income. In Winnipeg, participant families were chosen randomly and were compared against other randomly selected “control” residents who did not receive income support. Dauphin, however, was a “saturation site” where all residents and members of the surrounding municipal area were guaranteed income support if their incomes fell below various support rates.

Universal health care arrived in Manitoba in 1970. Using administrative records, Dr. Forget was able to compare health care statistics of the citizens of Dauphin versus residents of similar communities in Manitoba.

Dr. Forget hasn’t yet dipped into the 2,000 boxes of data collected by the original MINCOME researchers, which contain copies of questionnaires participants filled out and, she believes, transcripts of interviews with the families who took part.

“I haven’t yet received approval to look in those boxes, which are held by Archives Canada here in Winnipeg.”

Along with the positive health results, Dr. Forget found that teenagers stayed in school longer, likely because their families were assured of a minimum income.

“Finishing high school in rural Manitoba during that period was not the cultural norm. There were decent jobs around, so a guaranteed income helped some families make the decision to let a potentially employable adolescent stay in school a little longer. The long-term health and social effects would be dramatically different for somebody who went to Grade 12 compared with someone who did not finish high school.”

“I think people living with poverty are living with a great deal of stress. In fact, stress is almost too mild a word for the kind of terror that people live in while trying to care for their children and make good decisions for their children when they don’t have the capacity to enact those decisions.”
— Dr. Evelyn Forget

http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/40308.html

The Cost of Poverty in BC – A Report of Interest

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

This is a report that may be of interest to some of our members. It is not related to DISC or SAID.

The entire report can be found here.

If you find it too long a summary can be found here.

The original website is as follows:
http://www.policyalternatives.ca/costofpovertybc

How paying people’s way out of poverty can help us all – An Article of Interest

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

An article of interest from the Globe & Mail
This is an article that may be of interest to some of our members. It is not related to DISC or SAID.

How paying people’s way out of poverty can help us all

anna mehler paperny AND tavia grant
Globe and Mail Update
Published
Last updated

Behind corridors lined with contemporary Canadian art, sitting at a dark wooden table in his downtown Toronto office, Ed Clark offers some economic advice that might not typically come from Bay Street.

Give the poor a tax break.

“I say, ‘Why don’t you cut the taxes of the most overtaxed people?’ It isn’t Ed Clark,” the Toronto-Dominion Bank CEO said in an interview earlier this year. “It’s the people at the low end, because they face the highest marginal tax rates.”

It may seem an uncommon prescription in his neck of the woods. But there’s an increasing awareness, among even the country’s most wealthy, that poverty reaches beyond the tables of the hungry and digs into their own pocketbooks.

When people are poor, out of work or homeless, it hurts the bottom line of all Canadians. And as the country struggles to maintain a shaky recovery amid growing global economic uncertainty, that’s not a hit they can afford to take.

If Ottawa and the provinces fail to make this a priority, Tory Senator Hugh Segal predicts, “over time, we will begin to run out of the money that we need to deal with the demographic bulge because it will be consumed in the health care requirements of the poor, which will increase. It will be consumed in the costs of the illiteracy and unemployment which relate to poverty. … And it’ll be unsustainable.”

It’s not just Canada’s problem: Income inequality is sparking social unrest in the Middle East, North Africa and China.

It rang alarm bells at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s conference in Paris this week, where the think tank warned that if a slew of countries – from Sweden to Canada to the United Kingdom – don’t take drastic action by raising taxes for the richest, they risk runaway increases in inequality.

That growing polarization hasn’t been lost on Canada’s neighbour to the south: In unveiling his deficit-cutting plan last month, U.S. President Barack Obama included significant tax increases for America’s richest.

Canada’s polarized 41st Parliament reflects the country’s growing income gap. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s success in this election hinged in large part on his ability to play off fears of unstable prosperity.

Now, these 308 denizens of a redrawn House of Commons have their work cut out for them: Mind the income gap, or pay the economic penalty.

It’s already on the radar of some provinces: One of Christy Clark’s first actions as B.C. Premier was to raise the province’s minimum wage for the first time in a decade and offer a tax cut for low-income families. Ontario has launched a sweeping review of social assistance programs that Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur has admitted are failing the province’s neediest.

“It’s not in our interest to have a mortgage-holder foreclose,” said Tamara Vrooman, CEO of Vancouver-based VanCity credit union.

“The way we do business affects the economy not only in terms of profitability,” she said, “but … how able the people who use our services are to continue to do that in the future.”

The problem: True North, polarized

Despite Canada’s reputation for a strong social safety net, the country is becoming economically polarized. And the decades-old dominant economic dogma that growing wealth among society’s highest earners would trickle down to those less fortunate is being challenged by an alternative approach: Eliminate crushing poverty among the lowest earners, and wealth will trickle up.

As the incomes of the country’s top earners have risen, the incomes of Canada’s lower- and middle-income earners have stagnated.

The recession widened the chasm, and a subsequent recovery hasn’t closed it.

While economic slumps tend to hurt those already vulnerable, this one has been especially deep and especially unequal in who recovers: On paper, almost as many jobs have been added as were lost during the financial crisis. But they offer fewer hours and less pay – and some of the hardest-hit sectors aren’t coming back.

Food bank use hit a record high in 2010. Tellingly, more of the people using those food banks have jobs – they just don’t make enough to pay the bills or feed their families.

The ranks of the working poor have swelled as minimum wages fail to keep pace with rising costs and social assistance levels drop.

“The economy took a hit and then is coming back up,” TD’s Mr. Clark said. “But what Canada’s economy will look like coming out of this is different than when we were coming in to it. The result of the shift in world economic conditions … all means that the skill sets you need are shifting. Globalization is good for the world as a whole, but its benefits are not equally distributed.”

Shifting economy, beleaguered workforce

Tony Masciotra is diversifying himself.

The Argentine-Canadian father of two went back to school immediately after being laid off from his tool and die job at Ford Motor Co. in Windsor three years ago.

No luck.

“I have records of over 100 jobs I have applied for,” he said. “I have looked really hard. … But I haven’t been able to get a job yet.

“Windsor,” he noted, “has been a really tough market for trying to secure a job.”

Thanks to his wife’s part-time income as a cashier at Shoppers Drug Mart, they’re doing okay. At 11 and nine, he said, children Julia and Dante – “yeah, like Alighieri” – are old enough to know not to ask for extras. But “the hardest part, for me, is telling the kids ‘No’ sometimes.

“We haven’t missed a day. The bills are paid, we have food and shelter. But we haven’t made any gains. We haven’t improved in any way,” he said.

“This is not sustainable, the way we’re living. … We definitely need to secure a job. Now.”

Mr. Masciotra is part of a growing group of skilled labourers on the brink. The métiers in which they’ve worked for years are no longer economically viable: Many well-paying blue-collar jobs are being replaced by minimum-wage, service-sector ones. And that’s causing significant shifts on both sides of the border, notes MIT economist David Autor.

It gets more complicated, and more economically detrimental, if the people who’ve lost jobs aren’t the ones being hired to new ones.

They enter what Robin Somerville of the Centre for Spatial Economics calls “structural unemployment.” And if they leave the workforce entirely, they fall off the radar of unemployment stats: The numbers look better precisely because they’re worse.

That’s what’s happening now. While unemployment is dropping, the proportion of the population with jobs hasn’t risen.

The drop is even more significant because more Canadians are putting off retirement. That should mean more people in the workforce. But it doesn’t: So many younger workers are dropping out entirely that they outweigh the older ones sticking around longer.

Mr. Somerville predicts it will take a decade, “or perhaps much, much longer,” to regain that 2 per cent. In the meantime, factor in hits to productivity, GDP and consumer spending.

“If you’re losing opportunities in some areas, and you’re not replacing them with opportunities of equal or greater value, then the overall level of income in the economy is reduced. And the ability of people to go out and buy goods and services is reduced.”

The ripple effects: How homelessness hurts your bottom line

From TransAlta CEO Stephen Snyder’s office in a gentrifying downtown Calgary neighbourhood, you can look out and see the trendy Hotel Arts and Saint Germain restaurant – and, kitty-corner, a cluster of under-resourced and overflowing emergency shelters and drop-in programs.

Boomtown Calgary, which for years led Canadian cities in economic growth, also had the dubious distinction of having the country’s fastest-growing homeless population – a 30-per-cent increase in two years.

Homelessness costs taxpayers money – in both foregone wealth and social service spending. As evidence of the social and financial costs of inequality mounts, a growing body of research indicates paying to get people out of poverty can be an economic boon.

Calgary’s business community crunched the numbers: It costs four times more to pay for a year’s worth of emergency shelter, emergency-room medical care and law-enforcement for one homeless person than it costs to fund that person’s supportive housing for a year.

More recent figures have backed them up when it comes to the costs of poverty: A study earlier this year from Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital found homeless patients cost hospitals an average of $2,559 more than their housed counterparts.

At the same time, research into projects that guaranteed people a minimum annual income indicated savings in everything from social services and health care to law enforcement.

Some see a solution in a 40-year-old experiment: In the 1970s, Manitoba wanted to see what would happen if it guaranteed poor people in a few communities a set annual income.

The results are striking, said University of Manitoba professor Evelyn Forget, who’s now studying the program’s effects.

The philosophy behind this is simple: People are more likely to stay in school, out of emergency rooms and out of jail; they contribute to the economy through their purchases; they’re more likely to move eventually above the poverty line and pay taxes.

For years, Senator Segal has been campaigning for the country to implement something similar – replacing welfare programs by giving a top-up to bring low-income families above the poverty line.

The issue came to the fore in last month’s election campaign, kind of: The parties squared off on a guaranteed income program for low-income seniors.

The irony is that Canada already scores high compared to other OECD countries when it comes to helping the elderly. Where it falls short is where it matters: The working-age poor – the ones who should be contributing to the economy.

“With respect to working-age poverty, our numbers are really bad,” Mr. Segal said. “And that’s where we need to do more.”

“I don’t think we should underestimate the uneven effect of this recession,” said Anne Golden, CEO of the Conference Board of Canada. “The gap is growing. If the gap gets too big, that affects the quality of life for all of us.”

By the numbers

$134,000

Estimated amount for emergency shelter, emergency hospital care, law enforcement and other social services for one homeless person in Calgary, for one year

$34,000

Estimated cost to proide supportive housing for one person in Calgary, for one year

$12,555

Average cost of hospital stay for non-homeless patient at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto

$15,114

Average cost of hospital stay for homeless patient at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-paying-peoples-way-out-of-poverty-can-help-us-all/article2011940/

Program Boosts Support (The Leader-Post)

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Program boosts support
By Janet French, StarPhoenix; Postmedia News May 14, 2011

The provincial program that provides income to people with disabilities took a step towards expansion on Friday.

Social Services Minister June Draude announced as of Jan. 1, 2012, people who receive a living allowance through the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program will receive an additional $50 a month.

The ministry will also spend $1.1 million this year to research and develop a tool to decide which people with disabilities should also be registered in the program. Currently, only people with disabilities who live in care homes are eligible for the program.

“The work we’re doing is very, very important,” Draude said. “The Saskatchewan Advantage means everybody in this province has to be proud to live here. And that’s our job, is to make sure those who don’t have the same abilities as we do are also very proud.”

There are 2,750 Saskatchewan people currently enrolled in SAID, which costs $33 million a year. The government wants to expand that to benefit more than 8,000 people with disabilities, including some people who live independently. SAID began in October 2009 and pays recipients the same amounts as people who receive social assistance -about $834 a month for a single person -but will be administered through separate offices. The first SAID office in the province opened Friday in Saskatoon.

Draude also said Friday the program will receive another $500,000 annually to fund a policy change made earlier this year that allows SAID recipients to work and earn up to $200 a month without the money being clawed back.

Another $150,000 in annual funding will allow people who receive SAID to inherit up to $100,000 without having benefits clawed back. That change, too, took effect in February.

Draude said she hopes work on the assessment tool to decide who should be receiving SAID is done by fall so the ministry can begin enrolling more people in 2012.

People with disabilities who live independently “have been waiting very, very anxiously for the day when they can take part in SAID,” says Judy Hannah, chairwoman of the Disability Income Support Coalition.

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

Read more: http://www.leaderpost.com/health/Program+boosts+support/4784100/story.html#ixzz1MkPk8gBC

Share Prosperity to Help Disabled (The Star Phoenix)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Share prosperity to help disabled
By Judy Hannah, The StarPhoenix February 4, 2011

Following is the viewpoint of Hannah, chair of the Disability Income Support Coalition in Saskatoon.

Imagine relying on a food bank to be able to eat. Imagine being unable to afford a bus ride across the city. Imagine having to choose between paying the rent and buying your medication.

For many people living with disabilities in Saskatchewan, these are not imaginary scenarios. These are very real situations they face daily.

Saskatchewan is experiencing economic growth, but many people continue to live in poverty. Currently, a single person with a disability receives, on average, $784 per month from social assistance, while a childless couple receives $1,161. A single disabled parent of one or two children receives just $950 monthly.

Not surprisingly, the majority of this money is put toward life’s necessities, with shelter coming first, and food and transportation taking what’s left. Having a disability can create additional costs as well, with medication often a major expense.

People with disabilities who cannot work must be supported to live a life with dignity. The Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC), composed of individuals with disabilities and 38 disability advocacy organizations, is seeking greater enrolment in a respectful income program for people with disabilities in Saskatchewan.

DISC believes it is time for the provincial government to increase the benefit levels for individuals with disabilities, and that it’s time for individuals with disabilities to share in Saskatchewan’s prosperity.

We are pleased that some progress has been made. In 2009, the province announced a new income support program for people with disabilities, called Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID). We are pleased to work with the government on the development of SAID, but the program was launched with a limited number of people enrolled and no increase in benefit rates.

While SAID is a step in the right direction, it must be expanded to improve the lives of more people.

In December, the Social Services Ministry announced an increase to earnings exemptions for people with disabilities who receive benefits through SAID or through the Saskatchewan Assistance Plan. Minister June Draude deserves credit for this step forward, which will benefit about 540 people.

Still, there is much left to do. The sooner the benefit levels are substantially increased for all individuals with disabilities, the better.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/health/Share+prosperity+help+disabled/4222912/story.html#ixzz1Moui8j2a

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