An open letter to the Hon. Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Innovation

This April marks the 8th year in a row that welfare rates have remained frozen despite our provincial government acknowledging the need for an increase. The rate for single people who are expected to work, $610 a month, is literally not enough to pay rent and buy food, let alone meet other necessary expenses. According to the Dietitians of BC the cost of nutritious food for a month for a single man was $290 in 2011. The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in Vancouver is over $1000. Families and people with disabilities are also suffering.
We urge the provincial government to raise welfare rates substantially to ensure that the 174,772 people on social assistance and disability can meet their basic needs.
Endorsed by:
Trish Garner on behalf of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, with over 400 member groups throughout BC: “The current income assistance system in BC is fundamentally broken. People in desperate need are being denied assistance, and if lucky enough to navigate all the structural and administrative barriers to welfare and have their application accepted, they are subjected to a life of “survival,” struggling to meet the most basic needs of shelter and food. Welfare is only $610 for a single person and $906 for a person with a recognized disability, and has not been raised since 2007. It wasn’t enough to live on then and it definitely isn’t enough to live on now. We support a significant raise in welfare and disability rates!”
Thelma Jack, Interim Director, and Bill Beauregarde, Community Co-ordinator, Aboriginal Front Door: “With higher rates people could afford better accommodation, other than SRO’s, which can be bad for their health. People could have the dignity of choice of buying their own food and not standing in line for free food.”

Wes Regan, Executive Director, Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association: “Raising welfare rates will increase the spending power of the residents who live alongside our merchants, better enabling them to shop locally and enjoy the range of goods and services available here. This better enables small businesses and social enterprises to create further jobs, including jobs for those with barriers. In short, increasing welfare rates is good for business as it puts money right back into the local economy, where it can do its work to create a healthier community.”
Janice Abbott, CEO, Atira Women’s Resource Society: “The biggest impact of an increased support allowance will be increased access to more food and better nutrition, resulting in better health, better decision making, better/improved interpersonal relationships including relationships with children, greater independence and increased dignity. For some women it may also allow for increased participation within their neighbourhoods, including greater civic engagement and the opportunity to give back to their communities. Children who are able to stay in their families and be nurtured physically and emotionally are also far less likely to experience the same indignities their parents may have experienced, including homelessness, struggles with substance use and mental and spiritual wellness. This is a long-term investment in all our futures.”
Ethel Whitty, Director, Carnegie Community Centre: “With the shelter portion of income assistance at $375 and the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver at over $1000, people who need welfare can’t afford to rent a place to live in Vancouver unless they get into social housing. Tenants often wait years before a social housing unit becomes available. If welfare rates went up substantially people would have options other than homelessness or being forced to live in tiny hotel rooms and share washrooms with strangers.”
Paul Taylor, Director, Gordon Neighbourhood House: “Community organizations across the province are seeing an increase in the number of people on welfare accessing community-based charitable meal programs and the like. The growth is not sustainable for community organizations that struggle to meet the growing demand. People on welfare struggle to meet their food needs each and every day, as they navigate the web of emergency/charitable – this is not a solution to poverty.”
All of us urge your government to take immediate action and raise welfare rates substantially.
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Contact:
Thelma Jack/Bill Beauregarde: 604 697-5662
Paul Taylor: 604 683-2554 ext. 202
Janice Abbott: 604 331-1420
Wes Regan: 604 805-3591
Bill Hopwood, Raise the Rates: 778 686-5293
Trish Garner, Poverty Reduction Coalition: 604 417-8885

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