The Household Income Policy in New Brunswick does not work to meet many people’s needs who live with a mobility disability. The policy pushes people not only into poverty but also forces those who live with a mobility disability to go with unmet needs.
For instance, I am 30 years old and live with cerebral palsy. I was diagnosed at one years old with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which is a chronic neuromuscular condition. I also live with eosinophilic esophagitis, which became an emergency situation that led to me needing to get my throat dilated and having a biopsy.
I have been engaged to my fiancé Lucas for more than four years. Due to the current household income policy for Social Assistance in New Brunswick, I cannot financially afford to get married because I would lose my current social assistance, rent subsidy and home supports. Once I get married, my partner will be left to pay the bills. All of them. Even the ones we can hardly afford when we are both making an income.
Amy is 37 years old and lives with spina bifida. She has been with her partner for six years and they have been married for the last three. Amy moved in with her husband who worked at the bottle exchange in Moncton and his income became too high for her to continue qualifying for Social Development services so she lost her disability benefits and provincial health card. Amy then moved from Moncton to Nashwaak Bridge because the cost of rent was going up in Moncton, and she could no longer afford to live there.
Amy fought for several years before even getting married to keep her benefits but did not win. Her husband’s income was just over the Social Development threshold, which was not sustainable for two people to live off of, especially one living with a disability. It is very hard for them to live off of one income and no health insurance. Currently, Amy pays disability-related services and items out of pocket.
Choosing to get married should have enhanced Amy’s quality of life rather than limiting her livelihood. Amy feels discriminated against due to conditions out of her control.
Rebecca lives with hereditary spastic paraparesis, which is a physical disability that causes pain, fatigue and cognitive issues. She continues to work part-time, but struggles each day to get through the work day due to the pain and the fatigue of working.
Rebecca is married and is forced to continue to work because her husband’s household income is too high. Due to her marital status, the Household Income Policy means that she no longer qualifies for health services and support. Rebecca and her partner make well under $50,000, which is not enough for two people to live on.
Changes to the Household Income Policy would give Rebecca the ability to let her body heal and potentially get off of some of her pain medications. Rebecca must pay for all her equipment needs. She also pays for private insurance so she can stay on her medication, which is why she must continue to work to meet her basic health requirements.
Rebecca has been married for two years now and has been forced to work in order to afford the price that comes with a mobility disability in New Brunswick. She did not choose to have her disability and deserves a right to marriage and health as everyone should.
Teena lives with diabetes and a herniated disc in her back. In May 2020, she had two strokes. She also left a 33-year abusive relationship, which caused her to have to move out into a rental unit with a roommate.
Throughout this past year, Teena has faced a lot of challenges due to the Household Income Policy. She had applied for Social Assistance and a Health Card through Social Development but was denied as they must consider her roommates income as well as hers. She and her roommate are not in a romantic relationship and they have no obligation to pay for each other’s health care needs. She has found herself in an extremely stressful situation and sometimes must go without important medications, such as blood pressure and cholesterol medications. She is trying to take courses to prepare for work, but the computer courses are made even more difficult, without up-to-date eye glasses.
The Household Income Policy does not allow for all situations and contingencies. Not everyone falls under the same umbrella and choosing to live with other people should not force residents to be unable to take care of their health.
Kaitlyn Layden is a Saint John resident living with cerebral palsy. She loves coffee, her cat and is an advocate for those living with disabilities. She also owns the small business, Layden’s Keepsakes.