People with disabilities would generally rather not have to rely on income support like Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) or other disability benefits.
Then again, most people would rather not deal with a disability at all.
In a previous column, I noted how the provincial government is failing vulnerable Albertans by not increasing disability benefits.
Since that column was published, I’ve had people living in the disabled community tell me that it’s not just the province failing those with disabilities.
According to one person living on AISH, they can only collect that benefit until age 65.
Once they hit that age, they are removed from that income support and switched over to old-age security.
The problem is, as hard as it is to get by on AISH, with the disability amount being well under the poverty line, the old-age security pension is even less.
Compounding that issue is that medication coverage for seniors varies by region, if jurisdictions have coverage at all.
One person, currently on AISH, who will be transition to old-age pension within the next five years has been told that barring any increases between now and than, their income will be reduced to in between $600 and $1,300 a month, with minimal medication coverage.
At best, that is a $400 drop from the AISH allotment. At worst, it’s dropping income by nearly two-thirds.
There are two glaring problems here.
First, disabilities don’t magically go away when someone turns 65.
If anything, illnesses, disabilities and other maladies are liable to get worse, not better, so cutting someone off when they are even more vulnerable is just cruel and punishing for no good reason.
Second, the message the federal government and the provinces are sending to the seniors, to the people who built this country, is that they don’t matter.
English Ambassador to the United Nations Matthew Rycroft said during a Security Council debate, “How a society treats its most vulnerable is always the measure of its humanity.”
If that is indeed a true measure of a society’s humanity, Alberta, and Canada as whole get a failing grade.
The frustrating part is, the government knows where the poverty line is. When the government introduced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the payments for people were around the $2,000 mark because the government knew that was the bare minimum most people needed to get by.
I get it, social programs cost money. I do see the benefit in balancing the province’s, and country’s, books.
But, I also believe in treating people with humanity and compassion, something which neither government does with the most vulnerable.
Our governments need to do better.
We need to quit leaving the most vulnerable behind.