Last week CBC reported cuts in social assistance services for British Columbia’s most challenged citizens. The story received almost no coverage in most other media, so it is probably worthwhile just to highlight what the government thinks must be cut to pay for their deficit.
On March 4th the government issued a press release with the Orwellian headline, “Province Protects Services for Low Income Clients.” A backgrounder attached to the release, however, makes clear that there is no protection from the government for people on assistance. The backgrounder states the government will:
- Reduce regular dental visits from twice to one a year
- Cut dental X-rays from annual to once every two years
- Slash their budget for funeral services for people on assistance by nearly half
- Eliminate payments for contraceptive devices, pre-made foot orthotics, diagnostic testing devices (such as glucometers), optical, dental or extended therapies including chiropractic and physiotherapy.
- Cut supports that were supposed to help people transition from assistance to other programs
- Cut shelter allowances for people with disabilities and people aged 60 to 64.
- Assistance recipients used to be eligible for nutritional supplements if they had a serious symptom. Now they will need two symptoms to get the supplements.
The government complains in its press release that the cost of social assistance has gone up by $19.8 million a month over the last year. These cuts will save $10 million this year and $15 million next year.
What the government doesn’t say is that the cost of social assistance has gone up because people can’t find work and for many their EI payments have run out. Yet these are also the people who the government says must pay the price for the recession. For a government that has cut taxes year after year there is no sense of sharing the burden.
I don’t consider myself that out of the ordinary, but without pre-made orthotics, chiropractic support and physiotherapy, I wouldn’t be walking around. I am lucky enough to have those services, but I guess the government doesn’t care that much if people on assistance can walk – just as long as they can continue to cut taxes.
Gordon Campbell told the CBC “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.” Apparently it is a hit list.