Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday March 9, 2010
Disabled again on BC Liberals' Hit List
The poor and people with HIV and chronic illnesses whacked with more cuts to income and health support.
By Bill Tieleman
"There are a number of initiatives that are undertaken in the budget to make sure that we continue to put low-income people on the top of the list."
- Premier Gordon Campbell, March 5, 2010
The poor and the disabled are definitely at the top of the B.C. Liberal government's list -- the hit list for more suffering, that is.
Last week -- with tens of thousands of British Columbians having lost their jobs and thousands more dependent on meagre disability benefits to survive -- the government slashed social assistance to save $25 million over two years.
At the very top of the Campbell hit list -- people with disabilities who have no home or with chronic serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS or diabetes.
And yet the government's Orwellian headline for its news release actually reads: "Province protects services for low-income clients."
God help the poor from more B.C. Liberal "protection" -- they can't take it!
In fact, they are "protecting" people with disabilities and those on income assistance between the age of 60 and 64 who don't pay rent by taking away their minimum $75 monthly shelter allowance.
That will leave those who might be staying with a friend or family member without paying rent -- or are simply homeless -- just $531 a month to live on.
More 'protective' moves
The B.C. Liberals are also "protecting" persons with AIDS and other serious illnesses by making it harder to obtain the Monthly Nutritional Supplement intended to provide vitamins and healthy foods like fruit, vegetables and special meals.
Previously anyone with disabilities on assistance who was suffering from any one of the following conditions was eligible for the supplement:
Significant weight loss
Significant muscle mass loss
Significant neurological degeneration
Significant deterioration of a vital organ
Moderate to severe immune suppression
Now the government will require having at least two of those conditions to qualify -- apparently just "malnutrition" or deterioration of a vital organ alone wouldn't be enough!
And the government shamelessly used a $20-a-month "bottled water supplement" that it will now eliminate as cover for the cuts.
The reality is that only those with compromised immune systems, when their doctors advise it, could get bottled water to avoid possible health problems.
But this government wants you to think those on income assistance sit around drinking Perrier at your expense. It's a disgustingly unfair attack on the sick.
Cuts 'will cost the health system more'
The B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities is stunned by the government cuts, and knows they won't save any money.
"Already inadequate support for people with disabilities is being cut further," the Coalition's Robin Loxton said in an interview Friday. "In the long term it will cost the health system more and will not save money."
Why? Because poor people and those with disabilities who are deprived of healthy food and shelter get sick -- so sick they end up in hospital for expensive treatment.
Coalition executive director Jane Dyson says things are already bad enough for those on disability benefits.
"People are using part of their food money to pay for housing, so they are already unhealthy," Dyson said, adding that many people receiving disability support have diabetes, which is further aggravated by eating low cost food.
1,400 people shoved further to margins
The $75 shelter cut will affect about 1,400 people, according to the government, and Loxton says that will particularly hurt the homeless.
"Homeless people have shelter-related costs," he said. "I don't know how people do it -- the cost of everything is going up and they can barely afford to live."
But the cuts don't stop there. Also being slashed are glucometers for diabetics, and pre-made foot orthotics, while dental services and x-rays will be reduced and chiropractic and physiotherapy services eliminated unless required for a "life threatening health need."
Presumably for this government not being able to walk isn't life threatening.
But these cuts most certainly are, not to mention utterly rotten.