“The biggest challenge is that money doesn’t grow on trees.” That’s what the Minister of SocialDevelopment told the Parents and Grandparents in Poverty group after hearing their stories about how hard it is to live on welfare and disability. The meeting took place on July 12 at the Minister’s office in Downtown Vancouver. Brenn Kapitan, a single mother on disability, told Cadieux she lived with her teenage son on $500 a month after rent is paid. “Someone on disability is not your government’s bottom line,” she said.
Colleen Boudreau told Cadieux that she wished Christy Clark would meet with the group as she is the one with the Families First policy. Boudreau said, “I guess our children aren’tworth enough to have treats like the PNE and the Aquarium.” Boudreau said welfare rates had to be increased so people would have enough money to eat nutritious food.
“My little guy wants to play soccer and baseball. But he can’t cause if I put him into these I have to go into my food budget,” Paul Comeau said to the Minister.
Stacey Bonenfant told the Minister about degrading treatment in welfare offices and said that the Ministry should provide empathy training for workers and have advocates for people on welfare in the offices. The cost of transportation was a big issue for Victoria Bull who had to take $30 out of her food budget when she took her grandchild to hospital in a taxi. “We need bus passes,” Bull told the Ministry.
Everyone in the group emphasized the need to increase welfare rates, end the clawback of child support and the 3, soon to be, 5 week wait for social assistance. They said parents who have children in care should be given extra money to help support the children when they are visiting.
They also called for the government to build at least 2000 units a year of social housing that people on welfare can afford. They said people who need welfare should get it and not be put in the Hardship category where they have to pay back the money they receive.
Cadieux said it was “useful” to her to hear what people said and that they are “always looking at the system.” Jean Swanson pointed out to her that the government would have plenty of money to raise welfare rates if it hadn’t reduced taxes in the early 2000s and that it costs more to maintain poverty than to end it.
But Cadieux defended the low rates, saying, “Business makes decisions about where they can make money.” She expressed interest in the ideas of “self advocates in the office and children in sports.”
Parents and Grandparents in Poverty plans to meet once more in the summer and then
continue the struggle in September. ~JS