Towards Adequate Income Assistance – New Report Recommends Increases
Michael J. Prince is the Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria, a Broadbent Institute Policy Fellow and a member of the Board of Directors of Inclusion BC. He has written a report on Disability and Income Assistance Benefits that looks at the cost of living in BC and the gap between the assistance provided and the real costs of living in BC. As well, he provides a comparison of assistance provided in different provinces across the country. In Alberta, for example, the monthly disability benefit amount is $1,600 compared to $985 in BC.
The BC government has committed to making BC the most progressive province for those with disabilities by 2024. This short report analyzes the inadequacy of current income assistance rates, a fundamental building block for achieving the government’s commitment.
The report demonstrates that BC has a long way to go towards providing an adequate and dignified standard of living to persons with disabilities. Despite a modest increase in the income support rate in 2016, persons with disabilities have seen a stealthy decline in assistance rates since 2007, and rates remain inadequate.
The evidence is clear: income assistance rates are poverty level rates. People with disabilities on social assistance are poor by any conventional measure of low income and endure straitened circumstances of living. Unlike basic income assistance, people on disability assistance are generally there for many years – so they are being forced to live at these poverty level incomes for a long time. As the degree of severity of disability increases, so does the risk of poverty.
The public policy goal should be to eliminate, by 2024/25, the gap between disability income assistance and the actual cost of basic living in the province. This is one solution to reduce, progressively, the number of British Columbians living in poverty. Disability income assistance should be adequate to cover, as determined by a Market Basket Measure (MBM), the tangible costs of shelter, food, clothing and footwear, transportation, and household supplies in the local community.
You can read the full report here.
You can follow Michael J. Prince on twitter at: https://twitter.com/princepolity