The reality is not realistic

Instead of starting at the beginning of my journey into poverty, I think I’ll start right now.

My current situation is that I’m on income assistance and have been for the last 8-months. Which, quite frankly, is about 7-months longer than I thought I’d be on it. I am currently working part-time, about 50-60 hours/month.

Our expenses are very basic – rent, utilities, bus pass for my daughter to get to/from school, cell phone, internet, cat food and groceries. I don’t drink or smoke, am not addicted to drugs and no longer have a car, cable or a credit card.

For a single mom and child, the government allows for $945 per month, which is what my rent is for the 3-bedroom ground floor suite I live in just off Commercial Drive. There are all kinds of reasons for deductions, but for me, my child support and any income I make over $200 reduces that initial $945/month. Before I got my part-time job in October, I was receiving about $801/month. However, the income I now make from my part-time job cancels out any income assistance I might have received. It’s impossible to get ahead.

In the last 20-years, social assistance rates have decreased. As we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the amount available to a single parent and child is ludicrous. The breakdown allows you to put $375 of that total towards rent and to use the remaining $570 to pay for a month’s worth of groceries and bills, etc. Finding a place to live somewhere in the Lower Mainland that’s a decent, safe place to live for $375 is unrealistic.

As with many issues in life, a genuine understanding of the issues cannot be fully comprehended without first-hand experience. For years I’ve seen people begging for money near Skytrain stations and line-ups out the door on Welfare Wednesday, but rarely did I think too much on how those people ended up there. For some, it’s the only life they know. For others, it’s an appalling, humiliating, exhausting experience. For me, it’s my current reality and damned if I’m going to let it swallow me whole.


4 thoughts on “The reality is not realistic

  1. It is utterly ridiculous, particularly if you contrast the stereotype of welfare recipients encouraged by the media and the hardship which is the reality.

    It sounds as if the welfare payments are even stingier than UK ones. Surely taxpayers are entitled to a safety net that works?

    Best of luck, in any case.


      • Whilst it hasn’t been generous for a while, the highly complex system of universal and means tested benefits, tax credits and National Insurance contribution-based payments did function relatively well until the recent “reforms” began to be implemented.

        Young families and pensioners have been best served by the system. The former will mostly get Tax Credits and also Child Benefit worth £2,000+ ($5,000) a year (based on family size), in addition to subsidised childcare. The latter group have benefited from free TV Licenses and bus travel, a guaranteed minimum state pension, a Winter Fuel Payment, among other things.

        But it is the working-age low-income workers, unemployed and disabled who got a pretty raw deal in the past and are suffering the most now. For example, low-income households, unemployed or in work, used to be eligible for Housing Benefit that would cover the expensive rents in the private sector. Rents in London are so high that it’s almost the only way the poor can live there. But now the government has introduced a cap on the payments they’ll make, which is causing an exodus of the working poor from our major cities (even our Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson, said it was tantamount to “social cleansing”)

        But as for the basic level of cash an unemployed person gets… £70 a week ($175) it’s absurdly low. And now the Government is inflicting workfare-style requirements on claimants too.

        Don’t get me started on how this Government are treating the disabled. But if you’re interested, I’d recommend my articles:


      • Wow! Those statistics are appalling. I haven’t gotten around to researching other countries’ assistance programs, although it’s definitely on my list.

        As with the UK, it is the working poor and low-income families who suffer the most. Yes, I do get a child tax credit which is about $3500CAD/year. We also have a rental assistance program for single parents, which is based on the previous years’ tax return. However, you cannot be receiving rental assistance and income assistance at the same time.

        On the flip side, people with disabilities actually get a much better deal than most, and, if you’ve been unemployed and on income assistance for 6-months you can apply for it. Instead of the $945/month I’m currently allotted (less child support and any income I make over $200), on PWD I’d receive about $1200/month and can work up to $800/month before they deduct it from my total. For a minimal fee, they also offer a yearly bus pass, cover costs for most medical expenses and a few other things. Although the amount is still much lower than making minimum wage ($10CAD/hour in BC), if budgeted carefully, you could get ahead and get out of the system.

        I’ll definitely check out your articles. Thanks again for your perspective.


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