Nova Scotia

Community Services cuts some bus passes for people with disabilities

Some Nova Scotians with disabilities living on social assistance have lost their monthly bus pass as a result of ongoing reviews, according to the Department of Community Services.

Bus passes available for people who need to see a doctor multiple times a month

Two agencies in Nova Scotia who help people on social assistance say in the past few months they've been hearing complaints from people with physical disabilities who say their bus pass has been cut off by the Department of Community Services. (CBC)

Some Nova Scotians with disabilities living on social assistance have lost their monthly bus pass as a result of ongoing reviews, according to the Department of Community Services.

Dalhousie Legal Aid outreach worker Evan Coole says he's been hearing more complaints.

"What people are being told most consistently is that they need 12 medical appointments a month to qualify for a bus pass for medical transportation. In the case of people with physical disabilities I think that's especially cruel. These are folks who require a buss pass just to shop for groceries and venture out of their homes," he said.

Seventy-three tenants on social assistance rent from the Metro Non-Profit Housing Association, where Carol Charlebois is executive director.

"We've had many tenants come to us to say that their bus pass money has been cut. This includes people who have had bus passes for many years because they are disabled," she said. 

The department says the policy has not changed, but more people may have come under review and found out they aren't eligible. Social workers review the cases.

It's not clear how many people have lost their passes.

Spokeswoman Lori Errington says the pass was never based on the need to get around but rather the need to see a doctor.

"It's very clear in the manual that its for emergency special needs, things like medical appointments. It has to be cost effective," she said.

The social assistance policy manual says the emergency transportation allowance is only for "a critical situation for which no other options are available."

Errington says unless a client has a dozen appointments in a month, it's cheaper for the government to pay for bus tickets or taxis.    ​

Charlebois sees it differently.

"This is leading to a lot of people becoming kind of prisoners in their homes," she said.

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