Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

My life on welfare in Nova Scotia

by Aron Spidle

Aron Spidle, featured in the documentary My Week on Welfare, on budgeting for stamps, surviving on $54 for groceries per month(!), and somehow managing to not become despondent.  Photo Facebook
Aron Spidle, featured in the documentary My Week on Welfare, on budgeting for stamps, surviving on $54 for groceries per month(!), and somehow managing to not become despondent. Photo Facebook

I've been asked to explain what life as a client of the Department of Community Services has meant for me. For me, a life involved with "the System" so far has meant shame, embarrassment and fielding awkward questions and stereotypes. It still means poverty, being afraid to be ill for one cannot afford prescriptions that are not covered by the Nova Scotia Formulary, and pain and, at times, depression.

I cannot afford to visit my family, who live in the Valley, though friends do what they can in that regard about once a year, and it means writing to my mother (who lives in a nursing home in the Valley) once a month, instead of every week as was my custom, because I cannot afford to do otherwise.

It means rationing my food in order for it to last the month, and when I do purchase food with the $54 a month that Community Services now allows me since the beginning of this year's Annual Review, buying a small amount of the cheapest available.

Life on social assistance means being afraid to contact one’s case worker for fear of being cut off, or labeled for “asking for too much,” as so many are now. My current case worker is empathetic, but some are not, and even at that, with the continued existence of the Special Needs Committee, they do not have much room to maneuver. It means living in fear of the Annual Review, and often having to be content with bureaucratic, non-answer answers.

Life on social assistance means that Christmas, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries, and other such occasions no longer exist in the material sense; one simply concentrates on the religious aspect. It means having to withdraw from all of my charitable endeavors, some of which my family was active in supporting for three generations. It has meant allowing all of the prudent measures that I took in what seems like another lifetime, to fall by the wayside for lack of funds. It means holding on tightly to my hope in the Lord, but essentially losing hope in everything else. It means doing all that I can to try to help myself, but wondering if it really matters after all.

Life as a welfare recipient also means great gratitude for what I do have: for loved ones, for "good days," a good landlord, a snug home, and attempts and opportunities to better my small corner of the world by volunteering through my church, Veith House, and in other ways, on days that I am feeling relatively well. 

It means learning how others in society live who have even less than one does, to have sympathy for their plight, and to share what one has with them. It means a less materialistic way of living as I try to contribute to the social capital of this city and Province, and so serve God and my Queen. Finally, a life in receipt of welfare means looking forward to that day when I meet Jesus Christ face to face, and hear Him say to me: “Well done, My good and faithful servant. Come in and rest.”

Aron Spidle was recently featured in the documentary My Week on Welfare.  The documentary will be screened at the North End Public Library on Thursday October 1st, with Aron and others associated with the doc in attendance.  Don't miss this excellent film! 


Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
Topics: Poverty
562 words


Something to say in reguards to this article!


I just wanted to make a comment saying that I happen to know this person personially. I know him through certian volenteer things I do in my community myself. I personially have alot of respect for this person. He is interested in wanting to better himself, and ive back to his community. Howevrever faces challlenges doing so because of this disabillities. He is an example of one person who is on income assitance who society should not be looking down on. I say this because he is active in his community. I which nothing but he best for him in life.


The site for the Halifax local of The Media Co-op has been archived and will no longer be updated. Please visit the main Media Co-op website to learn more about the organization.