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Cut off welfare in small town Nova Scotia

Accused unable to see informer’s allegations

by Robert Devet

Parrsboro resident John Tyler feels he did nothing wrong, but when somebody called Community Services and accused him of being in a relationship his social assistance application was denied. Photo Robert Devet
Parrsboro resident John Tyler feels he did nothing wrong, but when somebody called Community Services and accused him of being in a relationship his social assistance application was denied. Photo Robert Devet
This is the humble duplex shared by John Tyler and Shannon Kieler. Neighbours have submitted sworn affidavits stating that the two are not a couple, but to no avail. Photo Robert Devet
This is the humble duplex shared by John Tyler and Shannon Kieler. Neighbours have submitted sworn affidavits stating that the two are not a couple, but to no avail. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Parrsboro residents Shannon Kieler and John Tyler are facing a bleak Christmas. There is no wood for their woodstoves, and their pantries are empty. They worry that soon the duplex they share will be gone as well, and that not too far into 2016 they will both be homeless.

After an informant called the Amherst Community Services office, Kieler was cut off social assistance in October of 2014 for hiding her supposed cohabitation with Tyler. Tyler’s application for assistance was denied just a month after that.  

Both Kieler and Tyler vehemently deny the allegations. They believe the accusation came from somebody who holds a long-time grudge against Tyler.

Their misery is real enough.

“Once a week I visit the food bank,” says Tyler. “And neighbours give me food. I can’t run the propane stove anymore it costs too much. I might be allowed one tank of oil this winter through the Salvation Army. That’s a month of heat.”

Tyler has been able to hang on to the duplex he bought, but believes that some time early in the new year missed payments will catch up with him, and he will lose the house.

Shannon Kieler’s situation is equally dire.

“I worked all summer painting,” Kieler, who shouldn’t work at all because of a back injury, tells the Halifax Media Co-op.   “Now I have carpal tunnel right up into my shoulders. It’s very painful, but I have to eat. This is all I can do to survive.”

Tyler and Kieler are adamant that their relationship is one of landlord and tenant. They say that at one time they were romantically involved for a brief period, but that was well over ten years ago. Now they are just friends.

For privacy reasons, Community Services will not say who the accuser is. But Tyler is confident that he knows who that informant was anyways. Parrsboro is a small town of about 1,300 people. Everybody knows everybody else’s business.

Tyler doesn’t believe that the informer contacted Community Services out of a sense of civic duty. Long-time grudges against Tyler are what triggered that phone call.   

It seems that Community Services did not treat the tip with the scepticism Tyler feels it deserved.  It’s as if only evidence that appears to support the informant’s accusation was considered, he charges. Any evidence to the contrary was ignored.

Some of the evidence Community Services unearthed is rather flimsy.

Community Services, in its case against Kieler, mentions an Eastlink cable service and phone that are shared between the two.  They also share a post office box. Tyler received one water bill for both units. At one time Tyler added Kieler to his car insurance as a secondary driver.

And exhibit no 1, there is a door that connects both apartments.

But such things don’t make you a couple, both Kieler and Tyler argue. A genuine couple’s financial interdependence goes way beyond that. We’re talking shared credit cards, shared everything.

“Living in a relationship of interdependence functioning as an economic and domestic unit,” is how the regulations describe it.  

They’re not a couple, say both Kieler and Tyler. It’s just that people who live in poverty look out for each other, especially if they happen to be friends. Take the shared Eastlink account. ““It was a deal where you get that many hookups for the same price,” says Kieler.  “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of it?”

Also, that Eastlink business happened six years ago, Tyler says. That arrangement simply doesn’t apply to the current living situation.

The shared car insurance was so Kieler could drive to a distant job she had at the time. The car died a long time ago. The water bill was a remnant of an arrangement made with the town by a prior owner.

Most importantly, real couples live together. They don’t live in separate halves of one duplex. Affidavits of neighbours and friends all say that Keeler and Tyler are not a couple.

There was a time Community Services agreed with that. The department conducted what Tyler describes as an extensive investigation in 2010, and found Keeler to be an independent single person. Three similar determinations were made on a yearly basis after Keeler moved into her half of the duplex in March 2012.   

But none of this swayed Community Services. An Income Assistance worker paid Keeler a visit in October 2014 to investigate the informant’s tip.

“That case worker was not  happy person,” says Keeler. “She is very stern. She starts questions. She asks me about water bills, I had no idea what she was talking about. She caught me off guard, She didn’t want to look upstairs in my bedroom, bathroom, anywhere, except the laundry room where the door is that connects the the two apartments. That door was locked, as it always is.”

“The next thing I know I am cut off and accused of cohabitation,” says Kieler.

At the time Kieler was on Paxil, an anti-depressive, and when her assistance was terminated she no longer could afford the medication. “They forced me to go cold turkey.I went into a rage that scared the bejeezus out of me. I was out of control. It was horrendous,” says Kieler.

Next, community Services went after Tyler.

A back injury prevents Tyler from working in his old job. He wanted to take a course in property management, start his own business and remain independent. He applied for social assistance around the same time Kieler was cut off, and was denied.

Because, Community Services insisted, Kieler and Tyler were a couple.

Over the last year both Kieler and Tyler have been fighting the decisions, but to no avail.

One thing that complicates the appeals is that Kieler had no legal support when she fought the initial charges, and had no insight in the water bill arrangements between Tyler as landlord and the Town of Parrsboro. Kieler’s case is pivotal to both her own and Tyler’s predicament, but no new evidence can be introduced during the appeals.

Community Services receives information on a regular basis from members of the public, writes departmental spokesperson Andrew Preeper, although not all information provided leads to an investigation.  

“It is not uncommon for members of the public to report inaccurate information to our staff.  As an example, they may report someone who is working believing they have failed to report the income to the Department – when in fact they are reporting the income on a regular basis,” Preeper writes.

“Because not all information is reliable, staff review the matter to determine if a more thorough review is required.  I can assure you that the Department does not make any decisions based only on the information provided by informants,” says Preeper.

But you should be able to see the accusation, argues Tyler.  However, a Freedom of Information request by Kieler resulted in a document with all the informant’s accusations carefully withheld.

“They use informants that lie. And it doesn’t matter that they lie because you never get to see it, says Tyler.

“It’s one thing to use informants but I should be allowed to answer to their accusations. I don’t care who the informant is, I want to see the information he gave.”

Homelessness, for both Kieler and Tyler is a very real possibility in the not too distant future. To have the power cut off (again) is just around the corner.

Kieler has been told to make arrangements to repay the department the money she received since October 2012. That’s $18,000.  

And Tyler also is in very bad shape.

“I lost my credit rating. I lost my credit cards. I had to get rid of my car. I am not able to take my courses,” says Tyler.  “I am so far in the hole now, I don’t know if I will get ever out of it.”

 

Corrections: Income Assistance workers are not typically social workers. Social workers require a social sciences degree and are registered with the Association of Social Workers. We incorrectly used the two terms interchangeably.

Shannon Kieler did not at Oxford Frozen Food this summer. Rather, she worked as a painter. 

Kieler and Tyler were never accused of being in a common law relationship. The proper term we should have use is cohabitation.  

 

See also; I never lied. I always did what the department told me to do.

Click here for additional articles on Nova Scotia's Income Assistance system.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter

 


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Topics: Poverty
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Commentaires

Sad and upsetting!

Hi,

Thier is already so much that goes on in Community Services ESIA program that makes clients have trust issues with the system. This is all caused by the caseworkers fallowing the current polcies and regualtions. Reading this article brought me to tears. This article shows another complete example of why the polcies and reguations of the ESIA system in Nova Scotia has to change.

Their is a few things I want to say reguarding the whole picture here:

First - For you regular readers of Halifax Media COOP as you may have already read I have written articles on how the ESIA system has abused me by current policy being fallowed. This article shows a second example of people having problems with the system. This artilce repersents a problem let alone people loosing thier special needs.

Second - While reading this article, I asked myself the question "was John Tyler told about the ESIA appeials process?" If he hasen't my advice is for him to look into it. This gives him the oppertuinity to appeial the reasent decision of ESIA which he appears to not be happy with. If his caseworker is not telling him about this process themself, then he can contact a casework supervisor in the local office of his area.

Thrid - Even if John Tyler and Shannon Kieler were a couple in a realtionship they should be each be entittled to be recieving thier income assitance allowences. Unforunially the ESIA program is not set up that way. If the program was set up that way and what happened with this article is talking about whould not have happened.

Fourth - The article however did say they were not living together so that right thier is all the more reason why they not be having problems with the ESIA system. As far as helping each other out as friends gose, this should be allowed by the system.

Groge Cartwright who lives in Sydney Nova Scotia is another example of someone who lost income through ESIA because of him being in a common law realtionship. Media COOP in the past has done an article in the past talking about him as well.

John Tyler and Shannon Kieler both talk about having disabilities in this article. Looking at this from the disability prespective is even more reason why the system should never have abused them and cut John off cold turkey. Shannon application should have been approved. 

I do hope the Department of Community Services is looking at this article, plus past articles as evendients to prove that certain rules of ESIA need to change.

 

My reaction to comments

My comment following a posting on Facebook, December 18, 2015

It is heartwarming to see the emotions that this situation has brought out in people, both now and over the last year. This shouldn't have happened, but it is happening to too many people. The DCS has a mandate to deny everyone they can through whatever means. Shannon and I were, and are, innocent and this has negatively affected the community as well. The case was made by a worker ignoring the situation and using a decades old water bill file that was an exception made by the Town Council for the previous owner that was on a fixed income and did not want to rent the other unit. The fact that I put Shannon's car on my insurance so she could work, was the only other thing even though she paid for it. Shannon was not told what they were denying her for so that she had no evidence at the appeal hearing. After that she was not allowed to submit new evidence. After delaying my case until Shannon's verdict was in, they denied me based on her denial with no evidence of truth ever being considered. This is not meant in a negative way to anyone, but please tell me the 2nd side to this story so I can tell the people who have already lost their homes or had their kids taken away because of this DCS mandate and the “Rats” who benefit by not having their own situation investigated and by being given the power to hurt or bully people.

Following another posting on Facebook:

I have one last chance to submit this to someone, outside of the Department of Community Services appeal process workers who have rubber stamped the false claims made by DCS workers no matter how absurd they are.

On January 7th of 2016, I appear before a Provincial Court Judge at the Amherst Courthouse, 16 Church Street, 3rd floor, next to Sharon's closet and across from Tim Horton's in the old end of town.

This will be to establish the need for a Review, and to make a date for it. I will be arguing that I was never allowed to present evidence to disprove the false accusations, and they will be arguing that their perception of an appearance is enough. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get a DCS decision reversed.

Following another posting on Facebook:

Please don't turn my situation into an argument concerning the refugees and others who absolutely need our help and consideration. My case involves fighting a flawed system that enables bad citizens and bad civil servants to hurt good people and can only be changed by making other good people aware of it. I welcome anyone to come and see my situation so that they can see the damage that slander and ignorance can do when our government is not held accountable.

Offering some advice!

Hello John,

 

I was just reading your comment reguarding you article and I will say the whole picture of your case is sad. I would like to suggest that when January 7th of 2016 comes, get people who personially know you and Shannon, and (who more specially knows that you guys are not a romatic couple) to writes letters and afdavids for you to present them in court. Furthermore - I also suggest that if anyone went to the appeial hearing with you get that person to make a witness statement say they saw the adjucator not allow you to summit any evendients.

Further to that - Get in contact with you MLA and write to the minister of Community Services.

 

Good luck!

Kendall Worth

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