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NDP says “No” to essential services for disabled

by Jim Guild (Article) and Melissa Albiani (Audio)

The government cuts, which affect fewer than 25 persons, were made without notice, public consultation, or input from health or disability rights groups, said McNeil.
The government cuts, which affect fewer than 25 persons, were made without notice, public consultation, or input from health or disability rights groups, said McNeil.
“I need this therapy—it’s not a luxury. Without it I’m afraid I would end up in the hospital long-term,” April Keddy told the news conference.
“I need this therapy—it’s not a luxury. Without it I’m afraid I would end up in the hospital long-term,” April Keddy told the news conference.
From L to R:  Dorothy Kitchen (Disability rights advocate), Doctor Margaret Casey (Chair of the Board of the North End Community Health Centre), April Keddy (current recipient of program), Claire McNeil (Lawyer at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service)
From L to R: Dorothy Kitchen (Disability rights advocate), Doctor Margaret Casey (Chair of the Board of the North End Community Health Centre), April Keddy (current recipient of program), Claire McNeil (Lawyer at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service)
Shirley O'Neill, a recipient of the special needs program after winning an appeal process.
Shirley O'Neill, a recipient of the special needs program after winning an appeal process.

Siphoning thousands of dollars from a special needs program for the disabled while pumping tens of millions into a convention centre is an NDP “betrayal” said many in attendance at a Halifax news conference on Aug. 16. 

People with disabilities and their advocates urged the government to cancel changes made on Aug. 8 to the Employment Support and Income Assistance regulations that cut essential health benefits to people living with disabilities. 

“I rely on income assistance and have received special needs assistance for massage therapy to treat chronic pain and migraine headaches, ”said April Keddy of Port Williams. She lives with a progressive genetic disorder.

“I need this therapy—it’s not a luxury. Without it I’m afraid I would end up in the hospital long-term,” she told the news conference.

The change in regulations eliminates special needs assistance for drugs and treatments not covered by MSI, such as massage therapy, psychological counseling and a range of alternative medications, said Dalhousie Legal aid lawyer Claire McNeil.

A quick check of the Health Plan that covers MLAs and all employees of the provincial government, reveals that all such treatments are recognized and covered for up to a total of $1,500 a year.

The government has said the changes are meant to clarify what is covered by law.

“They haven’t clarified the law, they’ve stripped people with disabilities of their rights by repealing laws that made it possible for those living in poverty to request services essential to maintain their health, McNeil said.

“This change undermines a human right that has been in place since national standards were put in place 45 years ago under the Canada Assistance Plan.”

The government cutback prevents Community Service caseworkers from using their discretion to accommodate special needs, and replaces it with a "cookie-cutter” approach with a narrow list of approved items.

“And the cuts won’t even save money,” said Dr. Margaret Casey, Chair of the Board of the North End Community Clinic.

“These cuts will create a gap in services which will increase demands on family physicians, pharmacare programs and emergency rooms, adding to the burden on the healthcare systems,” Casey said.

“For individual patients living in poverty, it will mean no access to measures designed to alleviate pain and suffering.”

Many attending the news conference expressed disgust that an NDP government that they helped elect would take such a discriminatory and ill-advised approach.

Pamela Harrison said that had these cuts been made three years ago, the audience of people protesting the cuts could have included many NDP MLAs and party officials.  None were in attendance.

Another person wondered why the NDP government had millions of dollars for developers and business, but were trying to save a pittance by hurting the disabled. “Are developers’ needs more special”.

The government cuts, which affect fewer than 25 persons, were made without notice, public consultation, or input from health or disability rights groups, said McNeil.

 

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Comments

NDP Poor Bashing

Once again we see how the NDP, once in power, is little different than other political parties. 

Taking away the social supports of one of the most marginalized segments of society is despicable, to say the least, but hardly surprising.  NDP governments have a history of this kind of poor bashing and attacks on the vulnerable. 

While the government in British Columbia, NDP social service ministers made comments like "It's not the 1960's anymore" and "Sometimes people just need to get hit over the head" in response to concerns about their anti-poor policies.

If we want to see what a future federal NDP government might be like, we need only look at countries like Australia where the Gillard Labor government has just brought in "reforms" that will disallow about 30 per cent of all new claimants for Disability Benefits, while existing claimants will be subject to re-assessments of their existing benefits.  They have also implemented a racist "welfare quarantine" program that largely targets Aboriginal communities.

While the federal NDP supports war in Afghanistan and Libya while genuflecting towards Israeli Apartheid, their local counterparts attack the poor and marginalized.

 

My comments never ap

My comments never appear here, which is too bad, as I feel they add balance to this editorial.
I'll try again in the hopes some errors in the editorial are corrected, or at least you'll let the comment stand.
In her Herald letter, the Minister of Community Services wrote:
 
These amendments do not represent substantial changes in the types of special needs that will be covered. We continue to cover everything that the program was designed to cover — including things like transportation to medical appointments, eyeglasses, prescription drugs, child care, dental work and funeral arrangements.
And, contrary to what has been suggested, physiotherapy and psychiatric counselling continue to be insured services.
At the very least, activists who want marijuana to be covered should say so, instead of claiming that services were cut that weren't cut.  If you want massage therapy to be covered, then fight for that. But these things were only covered for one out of thousands of people on assistance - they were the exception to a lack of a rule. 
The story is good enough without claiming dental care, mental health etc were cut. Adding things that aren't true to the article makes it seem like you're not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.
 
You can read the whole editorial here:http://thechronicleherald.ca/Letters/1258730.html

_________
Pseudo: daltonmccleary
Website: vacances en tunisie

Corrections

This editorial from the Community Services Minister should clear things up:

 

Over the past two years, the province has made great progress in improving benefits for low-income individuals and families. More than $100 million has been invested, the most significant investment in a decade.

At the same time, I understand that people on income assistance can have special health- and employment-related needs that they could not afford without additional help. That is why we increased our special-needs budget by 15 per cent, or $6 million, over the last two years.

We are also working to improve transparency, equity and fairness in our income-assistance program — principles that I know advocates support, and in fact have asked for. On Aug. 8, the regulations around special-needs funding in the Employment Support and Income Assistance program were amended to achieve these goals. Since the amendments were announced, some questions have come up.

First and foremost, the amendments have no effect on our existing clients. All clients will continue to receive special-needs funding for anything they are receiving now, as long as they continue to need it.

Second, income-assistance clients deserve to know what special-needs funding they are, and are not, eligible to receive. This supports the principle of transparency.

Third, regulations will be clearer for caseworkers and appeal boards. The more than 400 caseworkers in Nova Scotia deserve to have clear regulations to work with to ensure decisions on funding are fair and consistent across the province. The same goes for appeal boards. Without clear rules to go by, different decisions can be made that reduce fairness for all clients.

Finally, these amendments do not represent substantial changes in the types of special needs that will be covered. We continue to cover everything that the program was designed to cover — including things like transportation to medical appointments, eyeglasses, prescription drugs, child care, dental work and funeral arrangements.

And, contrary to what has been suggested, physiotherapy and psychiatric counselling continue to be insured services.

We are making it clear that non-insured services, such as massage, gym memberships or medical marijuana, will not be covered in the future. Even through appeal or caseworker decisions, only 20 to 25 of our current clients were approved for such funding over the past 10 years (again, their funding is protected).

I understand how difficult it is for individuals and families on income assistance, and that any change can bring about questions. I encourage anyone who is concerned to call their caseworker for help. It is important for us to continue to share information so we have common understanding of the facts and ensure that individuals and families with special needs continue to get the help they deserve.

 

Corrections

My comments never appear here, which is too bad, as I feel they add balance to this editorial.

I'll try again in the hopes some errors in the editorial are corrected, or at least you'll let the comment stand.

In her Herald letter, the Minister of Community Services wrote:

 

These amendments do not represent substantial changes in the types of special needs that will be covered. We continue to cover everything that the program was designed to cover — including things like transportation to medical appointments, eyeglasses, prescription drugs, child care, dental work and funeral arrangements.

And, contrary to what has been suggested, physiotherapy and psychiatric counselling continue to be insured services.

At the very least, activists who want marijuana to be covered should say so, instead of claiming that services were cut that weren't cut.  If you want massage therapy to be covered, then fight for that. But these things were only covered for one out of thousands of people on assistance - they were the exception to a lack of a rule. 

The story is good enough without claiming dental care, mental health etc were cut. Adding things that aren't true to the article makes it seem like you're not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

 
You can read the whole editorial here:
http://thechronicleherald.ca/Letters/1258730.html
 

Comment moderation

Comments to the site are moderated by editors, which may sometimes take time due to a lack of person-power. This is to keep the large amounts of computer-generated spam off the site. In general any comment which does not incite hatred will be published -HMC editorial collective

the worse of the evils

My response to DAL pointing fingers to DCS:

This fight would have more credit if Dalhousie Legal Aid was not a perpetrator of the Poor as well. The fact the DLA has the audacity to point fingers at the Minister for DCS for being insensitive ( unconstitutional, etc) is akin to one Catholic priest claiming another molested more children..

DAL created serious medical issues for me and my family while living in Mulgrave Park 2001 -2004 and every day since then is a direct repercussion of that corruption including my current tenancy situation and overpayment that were created because of the the nefarious actions of certain parties still working there which I am hoping to have the Auditor General investigate. What happened to me because of Dalhousie Legal Aid starting in 2001 to present is noting short of depravity and more will be posted at RESPONSE: A THOUSAND VOICES blog...

Until self proclaimed advocates can sit at the table with clean hands...they best go sit someplace else. Recently they were asked to assist with my housing situation since they made the mess and they fabricated reasons not to take it, it incriminates their ED who set into motion immeasurable harm, injury and suffering, as a person with disabilities they have caused me immeasurable agony.

They cherry -pick the Poor most deserving of their time and efforts
and they discriminate along marginalized lines- they are shamefully unprofessional, immature,toxic and lack accountability for the damages they do to others.

They have more in common with the Dept of Community Services than they would like the tax payers to know.

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