Rally calls for an increase in welfare and disability benefits

Jim McLean lives in an apartment that comes equipped with high-efficiency, energy saving light bulbs that cost about $8 a pop. As the bulbs started to burn out and his home became darker, the Ontario Works recipient had to choose carefully how he would spend the last few dollars of his monthly cheque.

He chose to eat.

“I have to buy food instead of light bulbs. It’s OW, you don’t get much money to live with. It’s pretty scary,” said McLean, 51.

McLean came out on Saturday to join about 50 others including members of Local 1005, the Ontario Association of Social Workers and the Hamilton District Labour Council in support of the Adequate Welfare and Disability Campaign. The annual walk and rally is taking a stand and demanding that the government provide adequate benefits to those who are on welfare and people with disabilities.

“Everyone should be treated equal and they are not,” said Kevin Rosa, 51.

Rosa is on unemployment and maintains a strict a budget to get by. He’s been staying at the YMCA where he pays $400 in rent but says it’s not ideal by any means. Due to expensive housing in the city, it’s all he can afford. He was at the rally because he wants affordable housing, he wants everyone to eat, especially children and he wants everyone to be treated the same.

“It’s good to see other people are sticking up for the others who don’t think they have rights,” Rosa said.

The rally comes just before a report on the city’s Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey will be presented to the Board of Health at City Hall on Monday. The survey collects the lowest average cost of 67 foods that represent a nutritious diet based on Canada’s Food Guide.

In 2013, the estimated cost of the NFB for a family of four in Hamilton is $741.34.

The report, which was submitted by the medical officer of health is recommending an increase in social assistance rates to a level that reflects the actual costs of nutritious food and housing in the city and is asking for an immediate increase of $100 per month for every adult who is using social assistance.

The most significant factors in the ability to buy food are income and the cost of housing, according to the report. It recommends the Board of Health advocate for adequate income and investment in affordable housing so everyone can afford to buy nutritious food. “A healthy $100 food supplement would allow residents to buy more of their own food rather than relying on charity.”

In 2013, the estimated cost of the NFB for a family of four in Hamilton is $741.34.

The report, which was submitted by the medical officer of health is recommending an increase in social assistance rates to a level that reflects the actual costs of nutritious food and housing in the city and is asking for an immediate increase of $100 per month for every adult who is using social assistance.

The most significant factors in the ability to buy food are income and the cost of housing, according to the report. It recommends the Board of Health advocate for adequate income and investment in affordable housing so everyone can afford to buy nutritious food. “A healthy $100 food supplement would allow residents to buy more of their own food rather than relying on charity.”

BY THE NUMBERS
$741.34 – Average cost for a family of four to purchase a Nutritious Food Basket per month in 2013

$988 – Average cost for a family of four to rent a three bedroom unit in 2013

$2,112 – monthly income calculations for a family of four on Ontario Works

12,666 cases (families or individuals) received Ontario Works and employment assistance in Hamilton in July 2013

18,058 cases (families or individuals) received Ontario Disability Support Program benefits in Hamilton in June 2013

76 per cent of people who used a Hamilton food bank in 2013 were assisted by either OW or ODSP