Members of a group advocating for higher disability payments rallied outside Victoria’s legislature building today.
“We’re demanding that the government of B.C., the B.C. NDP, raise the disability income support rate to equal the official poverty level of Canada,” says Jeff Leggat of Disability Action of Canada.
Advocates like Leggat say the current funding for those living with disabilities is far below what is needed to survive.
“If you’re disabled and living in B.C., you’re expected to live and survive off of a disability income support of $1410 a month and as we all know with market value and rents and all that kind of stuff, $1400 does not go a long way to help you live or survive,” says Leggat.
The push for more funding has received support from some in government, such as Green Party MLA and House Leader Adam Olsen.
“Basically what we’re seeing is this great disparity between the amount that people have to live on and the amount that they need and it’s unfortunate, it’s inappropriate and this government definitely needs to do much much better than they are right now for people living with disabilities,” says Olsen.
Others say that even with more funding, the application process also needs an overhaul.
“My constituency office as do many others and I would reckon probably other constituency offices, has people that come in and they just can’t get through the paperwork,” says Shadow Minister for Social Development and Poverty Reduction Dan Davies.
Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Sheila Malcolmson was at the rally and spoke with disability advocates, in a later statement she said that her government has increased assistance rates four times since 2017.
“We have also increased earning exemptions, doubled the seniors supplement, and restored the minimum shelter allowance,” she added. “Even with all these important investments that help people receiving income and disability assistance, there is more work ahead, because global inflation has hit people so hard.”
While the provincial government has committed to a $125 increase for its monthly shelter rate as part of the disability income support program, there’s concern it’s not enough.
“Over 74 per cent of people with disabilities do not have access to subsidized housing, so they’re expected to pay market rent,” says Leggat.
“So a lot of people who are disabled in B.C. depend on food banks, depend on begging, borrowing, just to survive month to month.”
Until that changes, Leggat and others will continue the fight.
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