An ad hoc group of about 10 people staged a protest outside of Port Coquitlam’s social assistance office Wednesday, demanding the province increase child support payments for people with disabilities.
Organized ACORN — short for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — the protesters spent about 30 minutes chanting slogans and repeatedly telephoning the offices of provincial ministers asking for change.
“We are here to demonstrate to the ministry of social development that there are people who need more for their disability rate,” said ACORN spokesperson Tom Page. “It’s been inadequate for well over a decade now and it’s just getting worse. Prices are going up in housing, clothing, everything.”
People living with disabilities receive up to $900 a month from the province, while ACORN is demanding that number be topped up to $1,200.
As well, the group wants changes to the way child support payments are factored into a disabled person’s income. Child support payments are considered unearned income that those with disabilities must access first before becoming eligible for income assistance. That money is then deducted from income assistance payments.
A 30-year-old single mother living with disabilities, Rachel Goodine, suggested she can only eat one meal a day in order to provide for her three-year-old daughter. And most times those meals — both for herself and her child — are inadequate, she said.
“I cannot keep the $700 per month in child support that my daughter’s father should be paying because I have to claim that amount monthly to the disability office, which then deducts it dollar-for-dollar off of my next cheque,” she said. “I’m not sure why my daughter needs to be punished because I have a disability.”
However, it doesn’t appear change will be coming any time soon.
Social Development and Social Innovation Minister Don McRae sent the group a letter dated Sept. 27 suggesting “the province is not in a financial position to raise disability rates at this time.”
He added no changes are being planned for child support payments, but did note his ministry has been tasked with producing a “white paper” to address the issues facing people with disabilities. No timeline was given for when that process will begin.
“The consultation process will be an opportunity for the public and various stakeholders to share their thoughts, opinions and recommendations on improving services to persons with disabilities,” McRae said.
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