British Columbia

Disability increase amounts to $11 extra per month for 20,000 British Columbians

Disability rates have increased province-wide but for some people, the raise doesn't amount to much.

Special Transportation Subsidy axed in favour of new rate increases

Over 20,000 British Columbians who received the Special Transportation Subsidy on top of their disability assistance are only seeing an $11 increase in the new rate hikes. (CBC)

Disability rates have increased province-wide — and for some people, the raise only amounts to a scant $11 per month.

While the province's commitment to increase income assistance for persons living with disabilities has been dubbed "a step in the right direction," it's also been heavily criticized for being misleading — the $77 monthly increase is in lieu of transportation subsidies that have since been removed.

More than 20,000 people with disabilities across the province had been receiving the Special Transportation Subsidy — an annual subsidy that works out to $66 per month to cover transportation costs for people with disabilities who are unable to take public transit.

The updated assistance offers a total monthly rate of $983 (from $906) without the previous transportation subsidies.

For Mill Bay's Rosalind Adams — and 20,000 other British Columbians who relied on the subsidy — the new increase works out to only $11 extra per month.

"11 dollars a month is nothing," said Adams. "It's one chip in the car."

Adams, who suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, says it's hard enough to live off the government assistance, especially when rental prices across the province continue to rise.

"It's wrong to pass it off as an increase," said Adams. "11 dollars is better than nothing but it's not exactly going to go far when the whole amount we receive is taken up for rent and utilities and phone."

'Living with dignity'

Executive Director of Disability Alliance BC Jane Dyson says the increases are a good first step, but they aren't enough.

"The focus that is crucial is the rates — [they] are still inadequate for people to be able to live with dignity in the province," said Dyson on CBC's BC Almanac.

"We'd like to see a minimum rate of $1,200 a month," said Dyson. "And also, importantly, that the rates be indexed so that they rise with the cost of living."

Executive Director of the Disability Alliance of B.C. Jane Dyson argues that an increase should reflect the cost of living in B.C. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

Minister Michelle Stilwell stands behind the rate increases. She says removing transportation subsidies and increasing the overall assistance income gives persons living with disabilities more choice.

"Prior to this change, 45,000 people who were receiving disability assistance were not receiving the bus pass or any transportation supports at all," said Stilwell on CBC Radio One. "What it does is ensure everyone has options for how they'll get around their community."

With files from BC Almanac

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Jane Dyson says B.C.'s disability assistance increases are a good first step, but they are not enough