Woman with cerebral palsy says disability benefits rules prevent her from working

A Moncton, New Brunswick woman with cerebral palsy who wants to open up her own business says the government is penalizing her for wanting to work. “I want to be a contributing member of society,” she said.

Kourtney Stevenson, President Greater Moncton Community Living Association and Sharon Warren, staff member. The Telegraph Journal

By Shelley Steeves, Global News December 5, 2017

Kourtney Stevenson, 27, says some people with disabilities are fearful to go to work because they may lose the benefits that help them pay for expensive life-saving medication, wheelchairs and support workers.

However, she says it’s hard to make a life for yourself living in New Brunswick if you have a disability. She says for seven years, she has been trying to find a job in her field of study: graphic design.

“I don’t want to be on disability for the rest of my life and that is why I am trying to make my own business,” she said.

She recently designed her own Christmas cards and wants to launch her own in-home graphic design business making brochures and calendars.

The Department of Social Development disagrees with Stevenson’s characterization. They say that entering the workforce doesn’t preclude someone from receiving government funding.

According to Department of Social Development rules established in 2014, if someone living with a disability earns more than $500 per month, they are able to keep 30 per cent of every dollar earned beyond $500 and stay on social assistance.

“If someone living with a disability wants to start their own business, they won’t lose assistance if it falls within the asset limit,” a department spokesperson said in an email.

“Providing support for persons living with a disability is one of the priority areas identified in New Brunswick’s Family Plan.”

According to a study released by a poverty group called the Common Front for Social Justice last Friday, some people with disabilities in New Brunswick live in deep poverty because the province has the lowest rates of income assistance in the country.

“Single disabled people in New Brunswick are receiving the lowest rates in Canada for social assistance. They are at $763 a month and that is not enough even to cover their basic needs,” said Julie Gaudet, who completed the study this fall.

She is calling on the province to increase the exemption so that people with disabilities who are able and want to work can be lifted out of poverty.

“Maybe if they would consider bringing up the working exemption to $800 a month,” Gaudet said. She also wants the province to raise income assistance for people with disabilities to at least $16,000 a year to cover life’s basic necessities.

Stevenson also relies on a government-funded aide to help her 67 hours a week with things other people take for granted, such as getting out of bed in the morning and going to the washroom. She says she could never afford to pay for the $2,000 per month service if even part of it were taken away because she earned too much income.

She says a lot of people with disabilities in the province want to work, but don’t because of the current system.

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” she said.

Source Global News

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Greater Moncton Association of Community Living launches new program in CBC News

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