If You Don't Support Poverty, Increase PWD!
Provincial disability assistance rates (PWD) are thousands of dollars below the poverty line
By Spencer van Vloten
Deep In Poverty
A year’s income at the current provincial disability rate for single persons is roughly $16,300. The poverty rate for Canada is approximately $26,000 for a single person.
Persons on disability assistance receive $375 a month for shelter. The average monthly rent in BC is over $2000.
The monthly Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), based on a minimum standard of living, was $2000, much more than the $1358 monthly provincial disability rate for a single person.
Despite these minuscule disability rates, disabled persons actually have higher living costs than non-disabled persons
As a result, disabled persons disproportionately face
Poverty and ongoing debt
Homelessness and tenuous shelter
Starvation and malnutrition
Inability to pay for much needed medications
Depression and mental health issues
BC's Human Rights Commissioner stated that disabled persons are falling through the cracks in BC and aren't having their economic rights sufficiently protected
How An Increase Helps
In April 2020, the provincial government introduced a $300 COVID-19 supplement for income assistance and disability assistance recipients, which was set for a 3-month period and extended through December 2020, before being lowered to $150 and scheduled to end early in 2021.
By making the $300 supplement permanent and adding it to the normal PWD payments, persons on disability assistance would be be able to meet basic needs instead of choosing between essentials like food, medication, rent, and utilities. For example, they would better be able to:
Contribute to local businesses and economic rebuilding
Avoid homelessness and access safe shelter and housing
Prevent starvation and malnutrition
Afford life-saving medication and therapy
Buy suitable clothes for themselves and their children
Avoid being forced to choose between which bills to pay
Break out of poverty and debt cycles
Improve their mental health
In an interview with BC Disability's Spencer van Vloten, increasing disability assistance was the first thing housing expert Brian Clifford identified as being vital to providing respectable housing for disabled persons.
Oh, but they should just get a job...
This is sometimes mentioned in response to calls for raising the rates, but it's not a suitable response for a few reasons:
Many people on disability assistance can't work, which is why they're on disability!
Even if someone on disability can work a limited number of hours, when they're struggling so much to get by how are they going to find the time, resources, or energy to develop employment skills or to send out 30 applications a day when they're struggling just to eat or find shelter?
Jobs are very tough to find for anyone, let alone disabled persons, who face discrimination in hiring
Raising PWD actually helps the economy in general, as persons with disabilities would have more money to spend at local businesses
What You Can Do
Sign The Petition
If you do not want persons with disability to live in poverty, please add your support to the 300 To Live petition to increase disability assistance
Read And Share The Stories
Read and share first-hand accounts about the struggle of living on current disability assistance rates. If you are comfortable, please share your own story.
Contact Your MLA,The Premier, and Key Ministers
You can simply tell them: If you don't support poverty, increase PWD!
The 300 To Live campaign, which advocates for raising provincial disability assistance rates, has also provided this very helpful script for contacting your elected representatives.
Premier John Horgan:
Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Nicholas Simons:
Finance Minister Selina Robinson:
Find the email of your MLA by using this tool.
RE: Permanently increasing income and disability assistance
Dear [politician’s name],
My name is [name] and I am writing to you from [city / constituency] in order to urge you to continue the $300 per month increase to income and disability assistance, and to further increase income and disability assistance to livable rates.
(Optional: share your story about how the $300 increase has helped you or someone you know, & what barriers you / people in your community are facing.)
Poor and disabled people have been living in an ongoing crisis of poverty, inaccessibility and injustice for far too long, which has been maintained by provincial legislation and policy. The recent temporary increase of $300 significantly helped poor and disabled people gain access to basic necessities, such as healthy food, medication, and safe housing.
Withdrawing this increase will force people back into choosing which bills to pay and starving at the end of the month. [We / disabled and poor people in BC] need the $300 to live.
Do the right thing: make the $300 increase permanent. I urge you to:
1. Bring back and maintain the $300/month increase to income and disability assistance rates
2. Permanently raise income assistance rates to at least the poverty line, indexed to inflation; and
3. Ensure that increases to income assistance and disability assistance include a clear, earmarked increase to the shelter portion.
Thank you for your consideration.
If you want to share your thoughts, your story of living on disability assistance, or just want to connect, please send us a message through our contact form, or to firstname.lastname@example.org!
BC Disability Editor