Jul 26, 2011

Government restores a little of what it took away from social assistance recipients – Acknowledges value of being able to walk


 If someone takes something away from you and then a year later gives half of it back, how much credit should they get for it? Well, less than half actually, but you get my point.

That seems to be the question the BC government is posing with its announcement Monday that it has “expanded its orthotics supplement for income assistance clients to ensure basic mobility needs are addressed.”

Minister Harry Bloy said:

It’s important that people on income assistance are supported so they can maximize their involvement in community life and perform the day-to-day tasks of living.

This all sounds very high minded and is quite a contrast to a different announcement in March 2010. Back then the government cut millions of dollars in social assistance spending. The government cut spending on medical equipment and supplies. They said they would no longer cover items like orthotics, contraceptives, glucometers, some diabetic supplies and manual breast pumps. They also planned to save $3 million in cuts to dental benefits. The cuts went on and on.

At the time Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman said he thought “we struck a balance,” given the tight budget. The balance apparently was to cut benefits for the poorest and continue to cut taxes for corporations and the most well off.

Community agencies complained at the time that the cuts would be very damaging, including the cuts in support for orthotics.

Now the government press release quotes a podiatrist as saying about the change in direction by the Ministry that:

Orthotics and orthopaedic footwear can significantly increase a patient’s quality of life by releaving pain, increasing mobility and preventing potential foot complications, including amputation.

Restored funding on orthotics is nice to see, but it would be nice to see the other cuts restored as well. Orthotics are not the only “cost effective” way of making lives livable for people.

And of course, the the question that needs to be asked is just how many people faced pain and even amputations because of the loss of orthotics for a year. 

The other question that needs to be asked is this. Is this really all about making lives better for people on social assistance or is it one more sign of a possible fall election?