Advice for professionals and society (2)


Michael:  So you asked the question “What would you want to say to policymakers?” I guess another thing that I find really maddening is that, as an adult now, Oliver receives around about $930 a month for disability. That’s for food, shelter, clothing, entertainment and all of his other.

Lillian:     Accommodation.

Michael:  Well, I said shelter, but…

Lillian:     Oh.

Michael:  But, so you think about it. I mean $900 a month. Oliver needs full-time supervision. Now, he likely will get onto some sort of community program through CLBC and so there may be other resources, but this crazy idea that somehow people can live on what they get through disability, that is really, really troubling. And then if you look at the legislation and the rules that are applied, there’s a subtext of it that says “You’re living off the fat of the land, and you’re not going to get a penny more. If you do make a penny more,” because some people with disabilities can make a little bit of money—but as soon as they cross the threshold, it gets clawed back.

The message is somehow like, “You’re well taken care of, and if you’re going to just become fat and lazy,” or something like that, “if we let you make any more because you’re already having such a rich and treasured life…” People should be able to make much more than they can make on these sorts of forms of assistance, because everybody’s already well below the poverty line. I just think that we need to change our culture about that. We have to get out of this idea that people on welfare are all cheating the system; they’re all having a good time at our expense. Those people by and large are struggling, and being on welfare, whether you’re disabled or not, is not a picnic. It’s not fun. it’s not fun being able to not participate in the great parade of life, to not build relationships that happen when you’re involved in work, to not be able to tell other people that this is what I do with my life. There are lots of ways in which people are completely marginalized by being on assistance for whatever reason, and yet we perpetuate this idea that they’re all just having a good time. It’s just so patently false and absurd. And I think what it speaks to is our underlying culture that, somehow, we don’t want anybody to be comfortable, except of course [if] you’ve made it by yourself.

Lillian:     Or no, it’s anybody getting a free ride. It’s this kind of notion.

Michael:  A free ride, yes.

Lillian:     This kind of notion and that’s… it’s just so absurd; you’re right. It’s for anybody who’s on welfare, whether you’re disabled or not. But the vast majority of people on welfare have some sort of disability.

Michael:  Yeah.

Lillian:     But, but like $900 a month is just simply not enough to live. You can’t live. I mean, unless you’re in a rooming house—a room in a large house where there are many other people—and that would be…

Michael:  And you don’t need somebody to care for you full-time, and you don’t need somebody to prepare your meals, and…

Lillian:     To feed you…

Michael:  And dress you, and bathe you, and that stuff…

Lillian:     But it’s not a life, it’s absolutely not a life.

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