High inflation is hitting people 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, has a variety of health problems, including systemic lupus, which has affected his kidneys. He spends a lot of time in and out of the hospital, sometimes for months. As a result, he is unable to work and relies on disability benefits from the federal government’s Canada Pension Plan and a small pension from his previous job to survive on less than $17,000 a year.

Each month is a financial stretch, and inflation makes it more difficult.

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

“And Kevin’s not the only one,” Linda added. “There are so many people below the poverty line and with disabilities.”

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

Assistance not keeping up with inflation

Murray said Kevin’s pension from his previous job isn’t indexed for inflation, so it doesn’t increase as costs go up. While federal benefits are indexed, they lag behind actual inflation, so he said the increases haven’t caught up with Inflation rate of 6.7 percent that Statistics Canada reported for March.

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

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 his clients, there are often additional costs to bear, such as adapted housing and transit, and personal support workers.

Those expenses raise the poverty line for people with disabilities, and governments need to recognize that and accommodate it, said Parent, who has cerebral palsy.

Quebec’s disability benefits are indexed for inflation, but Parent said those increases come long after prices have already risen.

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

Hoping the legislation will help

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

Pascal Kakule, an organizer with the Ottawa chapter of the 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 said it’s hard to make ends meet. (CBC)

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

“That kind of system that they’re working with, it’s very, very difficult for people to survive,” Kakule said.

Kakule and other defenders they are asking Ontario to increase its ODSP rates and reduce reimbursements that affect it and others.

A spokeswoman for Ontario Children, Community and Social Services Minister Merrilee Fullerton said in a statement that the provincial government raised welfare rates by 1.5 percent when she took office in 2018. , and is waiting for the federal government to make good on its promise to create a Canada disability benefit, to help boost support.

That legislation, intended to increase the monthly income of Canadians with disabilities, was introduced by the federal government in 2021, but the invoice he died when the federal election was called and the government has yet to reintroduce him.

Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister for employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement that she plans to revive the bill, but did not give a timeline.

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

“Not everyone knows about these programs, there are a lot of them and not all of them are easy to understand,” he said.

“Seek advice and try to take full advantage of the government programs that are available to you.”

CLOCK | Inflation hits 31-year high in March:

Canada’s inflation rate jumps to a 31-year high of 6.7%

Canada’s inflation rate rose to 6.7 percent in March, much higher than economists expected. It is the highest year-over-year increase in the cost of living since the GST was created in 1991. 10:36

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