Officials with the province’s Department of Community Services say it’s time to move on their Employment Support Income Assistance Program.
Lynn Hartwell, the department’s deputy minister, has been in the Quad Counties, including a visit to Port Hawkesbury Wednesday.
She says they’ve received positive feedback, but some critics say more consultation is needed.
Hartwell tells The Hawk it’s time for action following advocate concerns and studying problems.
“We want to shift a program that hasn’t really changed for decades- from one that is about people having to be in great need and demonstrating over and over again the needs that they have, (to) one that’s about actually starting where the client is, and trying to build on the strengths that they have.”
Hartwell says they want to be respectful of clients, but also support them toward independence.
She says she’s heard a bit of a mixed reaction to the changes.
“I think there’s a bit of caution; people need to see the proof, they need to see that we’ve listened to them, that we understand, and that the changes will make a difference,” she says. “It’s hard in this area, because sometimes changes aren’t felt immediately.”
Hartwell says some short-term targets include doubling the poverty reduction credit to $500 per year for people in the greatest depths of poverty.
She says they’ll start work toward a no-reduction process for income assistance for single parents if they’re receiving child support.
Hartwell says a wage policy change could be the biggest, immediate and noticeable adjustment; residents on income assistance will keep their first $250 per month- rather than $150- and those who earn more will keep more.