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Budget 2015: Assistance freeze and job cuts at Community Services

by Robert Devet

In February people on income assistance gathered in the North End to compare notes. They were definitely not happy then, and today's provincial budget does not offer anything that will change that. Photo Robert Devet
In February people on income assistance gathered in the North End to compare notes. They were definitely not happy then, and today's provincial budget does not offer anything that will change that. Photo Robert Devet

(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - The provincial budget leaves people on income assistance with less purchasing power, and the Department of Community Services with fewer staff.

People who receive social assistance will not see any increase this year.

Personal allowance, shelter allowance, Poverty Reduction Credits, Affordable Living Tax Credits, and Nova Scotia Child Benefits all remain frozen under the current budget.

Once the projected increased cost of living is taken into account people on social assistance will actually see their buying power reduced by 0.7 percent.

“They're taking spending power away from the lowest income Nova Scotians, who have to find savings where there are none to be found,” says long-time anti poverty advocate Wayne McNaughton.

“They made a very bad situation worse,” he tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

A recent report by Statistics Canada placed Nova Scotia at the top of all provinces in terms of food insecurity.

This is not surprising given the level of support the department provides. People on Income Assistance struggle to survive while living between 30 percent and 60 percent below the poverty line.

A single able bodied adult is expected to eke out a living on a monthly total amount of $597.08. That includes a $300 shelter allowance.

Similarly, a couple with two children is expected to make do with all of $1282 per month.

Meanwhile, there will be fewer people working at the Department.

Nine Community Services staff at the management level received layoff notices today, writes Lori Errington, spokesperson for the Department.

This is the result of a restructuring exercise that sees the current four regions consolidated and reduced to three, explains Deputy Minister Lynn Hartwell, addressing staff in a YouTube video.

These management positions include specialists who provide support to departmental case workers, Hartwell explains.

And 42 full time positions that are currently vacant have been eliminated. 

Normally those positions would have been filled, but last year the government put the brakes on that.

That means that altogether the Department will have to deliver the same services with 52 fewer people.

The staff reduction comes on the heels of eleven layoff notices issued to Community Services workers in Guysborough and Liverpool in January of this year, and the closure of its Sheet Harbour office around the same time.


Follow Robert Devet on Twitter  @DevetRobert



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374 words


With Department of Community Services, one thing after another


I have heard yesterday's budget, and yet the goverment took just another step to make life even harder for people who are on income assitance. First - Poeple looseing special needs including special diets and bus passes. Second - the fact that now two years in a row we did not get an increase in the income assitance rates. Third - layoffs at Community Services including the closure of one office in Nova Scotia. - And last but not least - Mystery wellfare reform - . With taking all into consideration, make you wonder what is to come next.

I want to take action! I want to get protest going!.

The question here becomes - Who is out thier to support me in this?

Answer - Others I know in the poverty community do not seem to be to interested in protesting anytime I try to get one going.   I sometimes feel I am expected to do poltitcal action alone.

I did lots of poltitcal action alone already. My personial political action included:

#1 - Wirting letters to the minister of Community Services.

#2 - Writing article for Media COOP, as well as in the past Street Feat Newspaper untill that shut down.

#3 - When I lost my special need, high protien/high calorie diet, back on Febuary 26th, 2013 I written letters and copied them to different parts of the department. I made sure that my voice was heard by the worker. After it got denied through ESIA appeial hearnings twice, I took mine to the Surprime Court and still lost my case.

#4 - I have tried making a human rights complaint about the way ESIA staff of Community Services was doing things. The Human rights Commision threw my complaint out.

Good results never got achived.

I think we need to need to have protest, and get alot of people protesting. Life is going to be miseburial for ESIA clients in the next couple of years, and possiblity longer if somethign is not done.

The question become: How do we get people on Income Assitance out Protesting?

It seems to me that the poverty advoacts have other ideas instead for action. Enough is enough!



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