I am a proud disability advocate in New Brunswick. With the Department of Social Development conducting a review of its social assistance policies, I call on New Brunswickers to join calls to abandon policies that discriminate against people with disabilities, including the Household Income Policy.
For those of you that have been following my journey, you know that I am currently engaged. My partner is able-bodied, but due to the household income policy, if I was to marry him, I would put my livelihood in jeopardy.
I have cerebral palsy and as a result of this, I am unable to work and so I rely on social assistance. Having never been able to work, I do not have access to the federal Disability Canada Pension Plan, and so social assistance is my only option. There are no other options for me.
I am thankful that the Department of Social Development currently provides me with income assistance, a rent subsidy, provincial health card, and home care support. It has been a true Godsend. However, if and when I marry (something I long to do), I will be considered a unit with my partner. What does this mean? It means that because I fell in love with an able-bodied and employed man, I am at risk of losing all the social supports that I need to live.
Based on the Household Income Policy, my partner and I would make “too much” as a combined unit for me to qualify for the support I am currently receiving. To be clear, the love of my life takes home a very modest income, which is barely enough to feed two people. His income is definitely not enough to pay for my special needs as a person with a disability.
As for the “provincial health card” (famously known as “the white card”), getting to keep it would depend on whether we can show a financial need, that is if our medical expenses put us in a deficit.
In this world of equal rights for all, does this sound like a policy that should exist for people with disabilities in our province? Are you okay with me not being able to be in a relationship and have lifetime companionship due to the province potentially stripping away the services I so desperately need? Is this equal marriage rights for everyone?
Join me here next month as I continue my series on housing challenges for people with disabilities.
Kaitlyn Layden is a disability rights advocate in New Brunswick.