People with disabilities deserve a basic income

Posted on October 26, 2020 in Social Security Debates

Source: — Authors: , – Opinion
October 25, 2020.   Evelyn Forget and Sheila Regehr

Evelyn Forget is author of Basic Income for Canadians: From the COVID-19 Emergency to Financial Security for All. Sheila Regehr is chair of the Basic Income Canada Network.

Last month’s Throne Speech committed to the creation of a new Canadian Disability Benefit for persons with disabilities – that’s good news. The details remain vague, but some disability advocates have long championed a basic income for people with disabilities. The new Disability Benefit may offer a step toward that reality.

Basic income is a guarantee that no Canadian will have to live on an income far below the poverty line. It is not a replacement for necessary public services, but rather a federal government cash transfer made directly to individuals that would replace provincial income assistance and supplement the incomes of the working poor.

Critics of basic income have watched their debating points topple one by one before mounting evidence. It costs too much? No less an authority than the Parliamentary Budget Officer showed that Canada has the resources to pay for a well-designed basic income during normal times and, even during the pandemic, a basic income would cost less than the alternatives.

It’s bad for women? For Indigenous people? Not according to the Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that called for a guaranteed livable income for all Canadians, or the coalition of 4,000 organizations and individuals who have called for a basic income to address gender inequity.

Bad for workers? Not according to the Steelworkers Union. Basic income encourages people to work less? There is no evidence whatsoever that overall work effort will fall; experimental evidence, in fact, suggests some people will work more, and many people invest in job training to improve their future prospects.

Now some critics have claimed that basic income will take resources away from people with disabilities to give money to people who don’t need it. Nonsense.

Some people with disabilities require income replacement, which they currently receive through provincial disability programs. A basic income would guarantee a higher monthly income, without mountains of monthly paperwork or the need to apply for multiple, complicated special allowances subject to the discretion of caseworkers. Basic income would consolidate and expand monetary supports. Others receive support through the Canada Pension Plan; this program depends on previous work history and has an obligation to current workers and recipients. Basic income could top up CPP for those who still fall below the poverty line.

Some people require assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or hearing aids, prescription drugs or medical supplies or specialized services. Currently, these items are supplied or subsidized through a variety of federal and provincial programs. These programs should remain in their current or modified form, available to people with disabilities in addition to basic income. In other words, basic income would mean more money for people with disabilities, not less.

For example, someone who requires a wheelchair would be able to get one the same way that they do now. While arrangements differ by province, every province subsidizes assistive devices one way or another. In Ontario, OHIP’s Assistive Devices Program subsidizes everyone who needs these devices.

But now would be a welcome time to reform other (federal and provincial) disability supports beyond income replacement too. Persons with disabilities are among the poorest in Canada, and it makes neither moral nor economic sense to make disability-related benefits, to which they are entitled, difficult to access or designed to trap them into endless cycles of poverty.

Currently the co-payment for an assistive device, as well as other necessary items such as prescription drugs, testing supplies for diabetes, orthotics, or other supplies are subsidized for people who receive provincial income replacement in some provinces, but not for low-income working people who have similar incomes and needs.

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to supply these items to everyone who needs them, based on the level of their income rather than its source?

That would both allow low-income working people with disabilities to benefit, and it would allow people with disabilities to work should they be able, without fear of losing necessary supports.

Basic income replaces money; it doesn’t replace needed supplies and services. With increased money, people with disabilities can decide for themselves how to meet needs that are often not met by the current system, such as service dogs or alternative therapies.

It’s time to treat people with disabilities with respect instead of paternalism and to address the inadequacies of the current system. The proposed federal Disability Benefit is an opportunity to do better. Will it measure up to a basic income? Let’s hope so.

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2 Responses to “People with disabilities deserve a basic income”

  1. Lorraine Needham says:

    Im a person on odsp l have a prolonged disability l cant work Doug Ford doesn’t want to give us a raise this is pathetic people are turning to maid they want to end there life because the provencal government wants to keep people in poverty and make them so destitute and desperate l cant believe he has even hired fraud investigators and going to pay big bucks to them this is beyond cruel when cerb was introduced they gave everyone 2000 dollars plus they could make a thousand why are we treated so differently l worked 20 years at one time paid my taxes now l have physical and mental problems and chronic pain not only do l live to struggle living way below the poverty line struggling to pay my rent there will be more homelessness if this is not addressed it is not even fair what this government is doing to the most vulnerable when Doug Ford says he cares were all in this together l dont think so odsp has to many flaws the pandamic pay not everyone received and it was up to your case worker if she wanted to give it to you special diets all these forms need to keep getting filled out all the time for a top up and the case workers can decide to take things away from you if she wants to it’s a very scary system and when you have no other way you depend on them that’s all it has made my depression and anxiety worse that’s why there is an opioid crisis and the government wasting lots of money when poverty is the problem throw the money there not shelters harm reduction sites thank you that’s my input hope something comes out of it yours truly

  2. totally i agree with that People with disabilities deserve a basic income


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