Like many Nova Scotians with concerns for social Justice , members of the THANS Board of Directors were very concerned about comments made by Health Minister Leo Glavine, in his Feb 6th Kings Co. Register/Advertiser:
Here is the THANS response to Minister Glavine and the Liberal Government:
The Honourable Leo Glavine
Minister, Department of Health and Wellness
P.O. Box 488
Halifax, NS B3J 2R8
February 24, 2014
Dear Minister Glavine:
The Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS) provides crisis and transitional services, at thirteen locations across the province, to women and their children experiencing violence and abuse. The THANS provincial office works with the three levels of government and other equality seeking organizations, to increase opportunities for women and their families across the province.
Your article that appeared in the King’s County Register on February 6, 2014 was forwarded to us. We have real difficulty with both your perspective and your message.
To suggest that people on income assistance, or low incomes or in fact anyone who struggles with their weight and exercise regimes, do so consciously and with disregard to their own or other’s health is problematic.
Imagine, if you will, a young mom who is a resident in one of our shelters. She has a high school education and three children, ages two to eight years. Not only is safe affordable housing limited to her and her family when she leaves the shelter, so is access to a job that would allow her to pay rent, feed her children and cover childcare costs. Income assistance is often her only recourse.
Income assistance and low income child benefits are not sufficient to maintain eating at optimum health levels. Add to that the challenges, again, of finding transportation and childcare, in order to access the highest quality, lowest cost food. And let us not forget that many of the women and their children who access our ‘welfare’ system often have the added barriers of low literacy, physical disabilities, mental health issues, and a variety of other barriers that make a successful entry into the workforce and the ability to provide health and eating role models unlikely. And because the young mom in our example has limited shopping access, most of her food has to be bought once a month – no hopping in the family car for a quick trip to the grocery store or farm market for this mom.
It is one thing to enroll your child in a sports league, but who pays for the equipment and uniforms? Who takes this child to practice and games in various locations, when you do not have a car or there is no public transportation and you have two younger children who either need to be taken along or who require childcare, particularly in a rural area?
Added to this young mom’s challenges is dealing with the trauma that happens in violent and abusive relationships and impacts her children as well, so mental health support is usually necessary, but difficult to access, and includes the realities of finding transportation and childcare also. You can hardly take your children to a counselling session with you, with no one to watch them while you are in session.
Moms on income assistance are not only financially poor, but also time poor. Everything takes longer, because most available supports are not in your home, and may or may not be available outside the home. Women, with careful planning and a whole lot of luck, manage the best they can.
At the end of your “if healthcare worked like banks” comments, you said: “But, copying this approach would be archaic and inhumane, and it is not for me to judge those who are dependent on the system.” Your article, in fact, did just that. You suggested that people misuse our income assistance program, are careless of their health and fitness, and are headed for disaster, and taking the rest of the province with them, because of the costs they incur.
We respectfully suggest that an apology is owed to those on low income or income assistance who are doing their very best for themselves and their families, within the constraints of limited funds, housing, transportation, mental and physical health supports. We are available for discussion of this important issue.
cc: Premier Stephen McNeil, Minister Kelly Regan, Minister Diana Whelan, and Minister Joanne Bernard; Board Members: Transition House Association of Nova Scotia