Open Letter to Premier Christy Clark and all B.C. MLAs:
Imagine that you’re a disabled person. You receive $906.42 a month to pay for your food, shelter, clothing, recreation, etc.
Since $906.42 is obviously not enough to live on, anywhere, provincial regulations allow you to earn an additional $500 a month at a part-time job.
Then a workplace injury prevents you from earning the additional $500 a month. Any other worker would receive payments from Work Safe BC to offset their loss of income, but you don’t. Instead the provincial government deducts any compensation payments from your $906.42 disability allowance.
That’s the punitive legislation currently applied to all developmental disabled persons in B.C.,
It is time they were treated the same as all other workers who are injured on the job.
This month, which is Community Living Month, would be a good time for all of us to become more aware of the legislative challenges disabled persons have to deal with every day. Their first responsibility after a workplace accident, should not have to be deciding what to give up—their telephone, Internet, cable TV, recreation or even their present accommodation.
Compensation payments are not the only discrimation that disabled people encounter. Disabled people pay Employment Insurance premiums, like everyone else who works. But if they become unemployed, regardless of the reason, any EI benefits paid to them are deducted from their disability income, dollar for dollar. In this way, they are denied any benefits from the EI premiums they have paid.
They’re also penalized for receiving an income tax refund. The refund represents an overpayment of taxes over a 12-month period, but the refund comes as a single lump sum which is considered extra earnings during the month in which it is received.
If the 12-month refund pushes the single month’s earnings over the allowable $500, any extra will be ducted from their disability cheque.
No other sector of society is treated this way.
Seniors receive pension payments regardless of their level of other income. Seniors would not tolerate having their Canada Pension or Old Age Security payments reduced to offset an income tax refund. But that’s what happens to the low-income disabled in B.C.
The rigidity with which the rules are applied to people with disabilities further penalizes them.
Their earnings cannot be averaged annually. If a disabled person can work only three months—perhaps during a summer tourist season—and earns $2,000 per month during those months, they are only allowed to keep $1,500; the government takes the other $4,500. Applying exemptions over a year, instead of month by month, would enable disabled people to retain more of their earnings.
Rigid monthly calculations further penalize disabled persons.
If wages are paid every second Friday, for example, a particular month may have five Fridays. The paycheque on the 2nd covers the two weeks work in the previous month; the pay cheques on the 16th and the 30th cover work done in the current month. But the provincial regulations require that income be reported when it is received, not when it is earned. So in a three-Friday month, a disabled person will be required to declare three $250 paycheques, and the $250 excess over the $500 will be deducted from the following month’s cheque which will accordingly be deducted, leaving the disabled person with only $656.42, with no way of making up for the loss.
Why can’t we re-asses current legislation, to eliminate regulations that deny disabled persons the same treatment given to other Canadian employees? Why can’t we allow people with disabilities some dignity and respect?
The disability was not their choice. In most cases, they were born with it.
Because of their disability, many are unable to write letters to argue their cases; they are unable to travel to advocate for more equitable treatment. They are the most vulnerable adults in our society.
Any benefits paid to them should be considered a minimal allowance to compensate for their inability to live what others consider a ’normal’ life. If they are fortunate enough to earn additional income through work, they should not be penalized for their efforts.
It is time now to end these discriminatory regulations.
Mother of a developmentally disabled adult,