High inflation hits those on fixed disability benefits hard

Even before inflation started to rise, Murray and Linda Mann said it was hard for their son Kevin to make ends meet.

Kevin, 58, suffers from various health issues including systemic lupus, which has affected his kidneys. He spends a lot of time in and out of the hospital, sometimes for months at a time. As a result, he is unable to work and relies on Canada Pension Plan disability benefits from the federal government and a small pension from his old job to survive on less than $17,000 a year.

Every month is a tough time financially, and inflation complicates things.

“Money is very tight for Kevin and has been for 25 years,” his father Murray said in a recent interview from their home in Belleville, Ont.

“And Kevin isn’t the only one,” Linda added. “There are so many people below the poverty line and disabled.”

People with disabilities have a higher poverty rate and a lower employment rate than the general population, according to Statistics Canada. Proponents say it’s a long-standing systemic problem that inflation is making worse.

Assistance that does not follow inflation

Murray said Kevin’s pension from his old job isn’t indexed to inflation, so it doesn’t increase as costs go up. Although federal benefits are indexed, they lag actual inflation, so he said the increases haven’t caught up with the Inflation rate of 6.7% announced by Statistics Canada in March.

The Manns would like to see more supports for people with disabilities, such as an income supplement that would put them above the poverty line and help offset rising costs for food, housing and other goods.

Guillaume Parent, a financial planner, said the poverty line is higher for people with disabilities because they face additional costs like adapted housing and transportation. (Submitted by Guillaume Parent)

Guillaume Parent, director of the wealth management firm Finandicap, specializes in financial services for people with disabilities. For her clients, there are often additional costs to bear, such as special needs housing and public transit, and personal support workers.

These expenses are pushing the poverty line higher for people with disabilities and governments need to recognize this and adapt, said Parent, who has cerebral palsy.

Quebec disability benefits are indexed to inflation, but Parent said these increases come long after prices have already risen.

“People are suffering a lot,” he said, adding that he has clients who are no longer able to cover their basic costs.

Waiting for legislation to help

In Ontario, people with disabilities can apply for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which provides income support to eligible adults with disabilities.

Pascal Kakule, an organizer with the Ottawa chapter of advocacy group Acorn, uses a wheelchair and relies on ODSP to make ends meet.

Pascal Kakule receives benefits from the Ontario Disability Support Program, but says it’s hard to make ends meet. (Radio Canada)

The amount he is getting, he said, is less than he needs, especially in the face of today’s rapidly rising prices. In addition, his wife works part-time, which means he is entitled to less money from the province, and rates have been frozen since 2018.

“This type of system that they’re working with makes it very difficult for people to survive,” Kakule said.

kakule and other defenders calling on Ontario to increase ODSP rates and cut clawbacks that affect him and others.

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Merrilee Fullerton, said in a statement that the provincial government increased social assistance rates by 1.5% when she took office. in 2018 and was waiting for the federal government to follow through on its promise to create a Canadian Disability Benefit, to help increase support.

This law, aimed at increasing the monthly incomes of Canadians with disabilities, was introduced by the federal government in 2021, but The law project died when the federal election was called and the government has yet to reintroduce it.

Carla Qualtrough, the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, said in a statement that she plans to revive the bill, but did not given schedule.

Existing financial assistance available to people with disabilities varies from province to province and can be difficult to navigate, said financial planner David Truong, chief private banking adviser at National Bank in Montreal. .

“Not everyone is aware of these programs, due to the fact that there are a lot of them and not all of them are easy to understand,” he said.

“Seek advice and try to make the most of the government programs that are available to you.”

WATCH | Inflation hit its highest level in 31 years in March:

Canada’s inflation rate climbs to 6.7%, its highest level in 31 years

Canada’s inflation rate hit 6.7% in March, much higher than economists had expected. This is the largest year-over-year increase in the cost of living since the GST was introduced in 1991. 10:36