A slew of programs are being rolled out by the provincial government to help Nova Scotians on income assistance, but many say the added funds dedicated to the most vulnerable are far from enough to adequately address the challenge.
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Advising of recently-implemented and some soon-to-come programs, Community Services Minister Kelly Regan made the announcement in Halifax Thursday.
Among them is the Personal Items Allowance which gives those living in homeless shelters and transition houses $101 per month.
An amount provided to ensure essential items can be purchased, not funding meant to alleviate the difficulties of those currently in the system.
“The fact of the matter is we’re making improvements, we’ll continue to make improvements,” said Regan. “We’re not done yet but these are a good step along the way.”
NS Community Services Minister Kelly Regan announces Personal Items Allowance which will provide people in homeless shelters and transition homes with $101 per month. Takes effect in October. pic.twitter上海龙凤419/16BHW3dOEv
— Jeremy Keefe (@Jeremy_Keefe) July 19, 2018
Moving toward better support for the most vulnerable population is being received warmly, although advocates stop short of indicating it’s going to completely fix the challenges many are facing.
“Is it adequate? Absolutely not,” said Miia Suokonautio, executive director for the YWCA.
“It’s to take that hard edge off your situation of poverty,” she said. “No Nova Scotian can be fooled to think that $100 a month is what’s going to make the difference between being poor and not being poor, But it is exactly that, a comfort allowance.”
Additionally, deducting child support payment amounts from income assistance cheques will no longer take place. It’s a move the YWCA says will go a long way in helping single-parent families upgrade their living situation.
“The average benefit to a family is $275 to those who receive child support benefits,” explained Suokonautio. “92.4 per cent of income assistance families that are single parents are mother led. It will make an enormous impact on those families.”
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Despite the numerous changes geared toward helping income assistance recipients, Fergus Dearden says the province is missing a key element to solving the problem.
“I’m a little disappointed to be honest,” said Dearden.
He said that providing a small amount of money to a population of people doesn’t help address the underlying issues of why someone is in the situation they’re in, nor does it make significant progress toward getting them back on their feet.
“We have the belief that everyone should understand financial value and that’s part of the problem,” he explained. “This kind of thing isn’t taught in schools or families and you’re just expected to know how it works and this kind of ideology needs to stop.”
“DCS (Department of Community Services) isn’t making it any easier for somebody like me,” he said. “Just because you throw more money at me and I can get my basic needs met doesn’t mean it’s actually what I need.”
As an entrepreneur, Dearden was hoping to discuss with Minister Regan how the government could help people like him prosper in the business world.
His attempt to begin those talks wasn’t fruitful at the funding announcement, nor was it in the recent past either, he says.
“I wanted to ask Mrs. Regan to basically look at those policies and help make changes,” Dearden explained. “I tried to get her attention, I even wrote her last year.”
“It’s kind of disappointing to see that she wouldn’t talk to me.”