Raise the Rates

Image of coins in change purse.At our recent Strategic Planning Session, we spent the day discussing which issues the NSDRC should focus on in the coming years. Housing was definitely on the list. In our discussion about housing, the fact that people with disabilities on government assistance receive only $375/month for shelter costs was raised. Some new board members had not heard this figure before, and were dismayed that people had to find housing with a budget less than half of the average rent for a bachelor suite (and the figures we use for average rents are almost three years old). While accessible housing is also a factor, affordability is usually the key issue we face when assisting people to find housing in the community.

When looking at the many different approaches to dealing with the housing crisis for people with disabilities, we kept returning to the affordability, especially for those people unable to work due to their disability. As a result of these discussions, the NSDRC has decided to make raising the income assistance rates a top priority.

We are not experts on the matter; we’re not yet sure of all the answers. But we invite you to learn with us, to discuss, and to help create solutions that will help build a community for all on the North Shore, and beyond.

Check out the information and links below to learn more, and follow us on Facebook to join the discussion.

The Problem:

People who are unable to work, or unable to work consistently due to a disability must rely on Persons with Disability Income Assistance (PWD). A PWD monthly cheque is divided into two basic categories: shelter and support. Here are the basic amounts:

Family Size Support Portion Shelter Total:
1 (single person with a disability) $531.32 $375 $906.42
2 (a couple where both have disabilities) $949.06 $570 $1,519.06
2 (a single parent with disabilities and one child) $672.08 $570.00 $1,242.08

Income assistance rates in British Columbia have not increased since 2007, and even then it was only by $50 and only applied to the shelter portion of assistance. Meanwhile, the cost of living, especially rental housing costs, has risen dramatically. People are not able to meet their basic needs.

There have been some recent changes to the amount of employment income a person is allowed to keep – up to $800/month, which is an excellent step in the right direction. But many people with disabilities are unable to find work, and some people are unable to work at all.

There is subsidized housing in BC, offered by BC Housing and non-profit housing providers however demand far outstrips supply, with people waiting on average from 2-5 years, though longer waits are frequently encountered.

So people on PWD frequently have to take money from their support portion of the check and apply to their rent, often leaving them without enough money to eat a balanced and nutritious diet – often extremely important for people with disabilities. In fact, it is not unusual for us to hear about people who eat only minimally so that they can afford a safe place to live.

Here are some links to more information about income assistance, poverty, and its effect on people and on communities:

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