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Why people on Income Assistance fear the annual review

by Kendall Worth

Author Kendall Worth at the Spring Garden Road Community Services reception area. Photo Robert Devet
Author Kendall Worth at the Spring Garden Road Community Services reception area. Photo Robert Devet

What is the annual review?

KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – When you receive income assistance, you have to attend your annual review. If you do not attend, your assistance will likely get cut off as a result.

For some who are on income assistance - it just means getting a letter in the mail saying that they need to certain documentation to update the clients file. This means an updated medical report from your doctor regarding your special needs requirements.

For others who are on assistance - it means having to show up at your local Community Services office and appearing in front of your case worker.

If Community Services is going to make any cuts to a client’s allowance, this is when the cuts happen.

The annual review is often a frustrating time of year for people on income assistance. For instance, the review can result in people on income assistance having trust issues with their caseworkers.

Also for many if not most, it causes cuts in their allowance. It is after the annual review when cuts happen.

For example, as regular readers of the Halifax Media Co-op may remember, in some of my earlier articles I wrote about losing my $66.00 high protein/high-calorie diet allowance.

Not only did I lose that special diet, my caseworker did not even properly notify me of this cut to my allowance and tried to deny me my right to appeal this decision through the ESIA appeal process.

Also, my doctor got called by Community Services and further questioned about why he is even recommending this diet to me in the first place. This also resulted in my doctor getting annoyed and frustrated to the point where he no longer wanted to be supportive of my caseworker’s expectations.

What needs to change?

When a doctor has said that a medical condition is chronic (meaning that it will not change), that doctor is often offended by the caseworker requiring him or her to write the same medical documentation year after year, and in some cases multiple notes in the same year.

Therefore, when a client is registered as having a chronic medical condition, the caseworker needs to stop asking the client to submit updated information, stating the same medical information over and over, year after year.

Also, in order for Community Services to pay for a phone, medical documentation is required stating the need for a phone. Phone should be automatically covered as a basic need as part of your entitlement.

Finally, when people on income assistance get those letters in the mail regarding updated required documentation, those letters needs to clarify a time frame. The fact that those letters do not give this time frame makes people on income assistance scared.

My review this year

Anyway, I have had my annual review recently, and this time around it turned out to be positive. I did not experience any cuts, which is good.

One thing I found helpful during this latest annual review was having the North End Community Health Clinic advocating on my behalf. In 2013, I was not a patient at the clinic, so having them help me at that time was not an option.

 

See also:

No special diet for Income Assistance recipient - HMC contributor Kendall Worth fights decision all the way to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court

 

Hoping for a miracle - Poverty activist Kendall Worth on his long search for justice

 

 


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Comments

I'm happy to hear this year

I'm happy to hear this year was positive.

I imagine, from some of the Co-Op articles about Community Centres being shut down, that access to a centre would make this reapplying stage even more difficult?

one annual review was enough

I just got a letter from my caseworker requesting a bunch of documents and my presence at the office on Gottingen Street at the end of November, only eight months after my annual review in March. I nearly threw up when I read the letter. I was just starting to recover from the ordeal in March, which saw the loss of $186 from my monthly amount, and now I'm a basket case. I was in the process of composing a letter to my caseworker's supervisor concerning her conduct at my appeal hearing so I added a complaint about having to have a second review in less than a year. If I have to have two, one in March and one in November from now on, I will kick up one heck of a fuss and ask that it be just in March. They will probably argue that the one in March was for medical info and the one in November is for financial info. It's outrageous. In 25 years, I have never had a review done more than once a year. When I hear back whether they are going to force me to do this twice a year or not or have the common sense to do everything once a year, I'll post about it properly as this warrants an article in HMC.

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