Will the Social Development Minister finally lift people with disabilities above the poverty line?

Nov 30, 2023 | 42-4, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

The Minister of Social Development, Hon. Sheila Malcolmson, is often ignored in questions period. The minister is responsible for important work. On critical area is the implementation of the Accessibility BC Act.

Our built environment continues to be tremendously challenging for people, for example the total lack of parking that can accommodate a ramp at our local hospitals. It is a barrier and obstacle for people every day.

In my supplemental, I raise an issue that my colleague Sonia Furstenau and I have been demanding the government support people with disabilities to ensure they are not homeless and that their payments are above the poverty line.

Despite her repeated responses suggesting that her Ministry is doing enough, we continue to hear from people with disabilities of the increasingly challenging situation they face every day. Specifically, we hear the lack of meaningful support, ensures people receiving disability payment are kept in poverty by our BC NDP government.

Will the social development minister finally be able to convince the finance minister that action is needed not more empty rhetoric?

[Transcript]

A. Olsen:

This week, we heard a statement in the House celebrating the government’s process to add meaning to the Accessibility B.C. Act.

In 2021, I celebrated the passage of this legislation, but my optimism was cautious because the implementation timelines and enforcement mechanisms were unclear.

A lot of these promises for a better, more inclusive British Columbia sound good. We have yet to see these changes actually benefiting people. For example, there isn’t a single van ramp accessible parking spot at any of the five major hospitals in Greater Victoria. One of my constituents has missed hospital visits and has missed appointments because she can’t find a parking spot to meet her needs.

Our health care system should be a leader, and yet it continues to place inexcusable barriers in front of individuals with different accessibility needs when they’re trying to access the services.
To the Minister of Social Development, can she guarantee that the timelines laid out in the Accessibility Act will be met?

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

Thanks to the member for the question.

That British Columbia brought in its first accessibility legislation ever is a compliment to all the members in this House that supported that work, to advocates that pressed for British Columbia to catch up to the rest of the country. And now, with the accessibility legislation that is in place, we are leading the country so far as the legislation side.

The regulations and the implementation of technical standards are being worked on right now by a really powerful and impressive advisory group, both working on the technical elements and then also the lived experience elements of the accessibility standards that would relate first to accessibility equipment and then also service dogs.

I’m really encouraged. We hear monthly from this group. They’re working, bringing their lived experience to the standards and the regulation. We’ll see the first evidence of that in the spring.

Very happy to speak with the member about any specific implementation pieces that people that deserve support need help with right now.

Mr. Speaker:

Member, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

The monthly updates that the minister is hearing from are daily barriers, daily obstacles for the constituent that I raised. They have to navigate hospital parking lots that are simply not designed to allow them to access health care services in this province. That’s entirely unacceptable.

I asked the question as to whether or not the timelines were going to be met. No answer — just a bunch of noise, frankly.

Core housing need in this province — 30 to 50 percent of people’s incomes. Over that 50 percent and they’re in extreme core housing need. Creating accessible spaces continues to be a daily fight within schools, municipalities and within our community.

Meanwhile, financial assistance for persons with disabilities is far from acceptable. People who are accessing PWD payments are in that core housing need that the Minister of Housing has no answer for in the bills that he was talking about earlier.

Parents with children with disabilities are forced to pay out of their pockets for service. Adults with disabilities continue to live well below the poverty line under this so-called social democratic government.

The only MLAs to have been raising these issues…

Mr. Speaker:

Question, Member.

A. Olsen:

…have been sitting here. When we do raise the issues, the minister responds by naming a series of policy initiatives that fail to deliver people with disabilities out of poverty.
Mr. Speaker: Question, Member. Question?

A. Olsen:

To the Minister of Social Development, will she finally convince the Finance Minister to raise the disability rates above the poverty line in Budget 2024?

[2:30 p.m.]

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

The commitment that our government has, that all members in this House have, to creating that dignified life for all British Columbians — this is a shared value. It’s work that we are completely committed to, and frankly, the work that we had to do to catch British Columbia up from a decade and a half of underinvestment still continues.
The opposition froze income assistance at $610 for a decade. We have increased assistance rates five times. That the opposition withdrew in a mean-spirited decision the disability access bus pass…. We brought it back. We just this year increased the shelter rate by $125 a month.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members.

Hon. S. Malcolmson:

That goes particularly to people that are the lowest income and need access to housing. We have got over 10,000 new rental units that are specifically targeted and reserved by B.C. Housing for people with disabilities and have particular access issues.
The work continues, which is why we are rewriting our legislation and our new poverty reduction strategy, but the work is well underway and we’re committed to doing more.

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