Opinion Column

THE DUEL

Welfare rates are starvation rates

By Laila Yuile, City Hall

Trying feeding yourself on $21 a week. (FOTOLIA)

Trying feeding yourself on $21 a week. (FOTOLIA)

Topics

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: Should the B.C. government raise welfare rates?

Most of you likely woke up in a nice, warm bed today, then headed off to a warm shower and a quick breakfast before work. You will probably have a good lunch and many of you will either stop at the grocery store tonight on the way home, or stop to pick up take-out food.

Your life is full of choices.

For thousands of British Columbian's on social assistance — including many who read our weekly columns — choice isn't an option, and sometimes eating isn't either.

Hardest hit without a doubt are the single men and women who have to live on $610 a month while trying to get back on their feet.

Last week, Vancouver-based musician Bif Naked announced she will be taking part in this year’s Welfare Food Challenge. For one week, she’ll have to survive on whatever she can buy for $21.

According to Raise the Rates, after deducting rent, transit tickets, room deposit and laundry-hygiene funds from the $610 monthly payment, approximately $84 is left for food for the month, or $21 a week. It’s a pittance and nearly impossible to buy nutritious food, let alone enough of anything to keep your body properly sustained.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

Former MLA Jagrup Brar found this out in 2012 when he took the challenge and lived for 30 days on the single-person rate. He lost 26 pounds and discovered why it’s so hard to get off social assistance once you get on – people are dragged into a vicious cycle that’s nearly impossible to overcome.

Most people think they can get a job easily enough, then discover how hard it is without reliable access to food, showers, and finding clothes suitable for interviews. Just surviving day to day is a struggle insurmountable to some, which is why the cycle continues.

The arguments used against raising rates are often based on a lack of knowledge of the barriers to employment people face while on social assistance. Rates shouldn't be so high there is no incentive to get off, but the current rates are contributing to poverty and homelessness, not alleviating it — particularly at the single-person rate.

It’s time to acknowledge that it takes more than a roof over one’s head to find a job, and raise the rates enough to help people get back their dignity, get back to work, and once again become contributing members of our communities.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.

 

Poll

Who wins this week's Duel?

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions