Friday Fail File Special Edition:The disability bus pass debacle.

“The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it. Whether he’s got an abscess on his knee or in his soul.” – Rona Barrett”

The past year has brought us diehard #bcpoli followers more than a few stories of government action and inaction that have left a bad taste in our mouths-the deaths of kids in care of the MCFD, Rod MacIsaac’s suicide following the health firings,and most recently the changes to the disability bus pass that have left thousands asking for help across the province.

A bit of background if you haven’t followed:

On February 16, 2016, the Province of BC tabled its budget.

People with disabilities received a small increase to their disability benefits but there was a catch. The $77 per month increase was tied to the cost of a person’s transportation. These are the changes, effective September 1st, 2016:

People with disabilities will receive a $77 per month increase to their benefits.

People receiving PWD benefits will no longer be able to purchase an annual bus pass for a $45 annual fee.

The cost of the bus pass will go up from $0 to $52 per month, plus an annual $45 administration fee.

For people with a bus pass, the new change means a $25/month PWD benefit rate increase. After a nine-year rate freeze, this is an insult.

Indeed. And the reaction from not only people on disability payments but their caregivers, community support workers and families has been loud, continuous and heartbreaking.

People on disability in Minister Stilwells own riding of Parksville-Qualicum have even rallied in the rain.

Some, with personal words for the Premier and Stilwell

Others have for the first time, written about what the impact will be on their lives.

I am writing because of the egregious changes to our bus pass. I have always appreciated our bus pass as it is my sole source of transportation. I used to cycle but a brain injury affects my balance now. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, eat out, go to movies, attend cultural events that charge, or buy new clothes. I cook from scratch eating simple meals. I’ve raised a family so I know how to budget. I have post secondary education. I pay my bills on time and gave up tv years ago when cable got too expensive. I’d like to think I’m an ideal PWD citizen, budgeting carefully down to my last dollar. My underwear is cheap and tattered. I no longer have family members here because they have moved to other BC cities where cost of living is cheaper. Even though I have taken exceptional care of my teeth I now suffer from daily nerve pain due to age related receding gums. My only choice is to have multiple teeth extracted which is extremely humiliating. However, all that aside, I am heartbroken and feel utterly defeated regarding the impending changes to our bus passes. I feel I have no choice but to give up my bus pass in order to get the full increase because the cost of food has gone up so so much as have my hydro and phone costs. I do not squander one cent of what I receive yet I feel there is no other logical choice. I will suffer even more from isolation giving up bus rides to the ocean or parks just to lift my spirits. Your changes have literally chained me to my apartment and the few surrounding blocks I painfully walk with my cane. I will no longer be able to bus to friend’s for coffee and enjoy much needed socialization. Huge numbers of us are opting for food , rent and utilities rather than bus transportation. As our daily happiness erodes so will our mental health and well being. You have obviously overcome obstacles in your life but now, sadly, you have become primarily instrumental in creating a huge obstacle for us in our daily lives.

And Stilwell, clearly feeling the heat, finally announced with much fanfare online that they would eliminate the annual $45 fee..a token offering they hoped would quell the noise. It didn’t. http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2016/06/22/scrapping-of-fee-called-token-measure

Outrage is turning to desperation and despair for many as they contemplate cutting food,hydro,medical appointments and other basic essentials most of us take for granted. Even for others who have been lucky enough to build up a support system or are able to independently walk, the impact is still substantial in being able to raise themselves to fulfill health requirements and future goals and dreams. One of my readers reached out and shared her story with me,asking for help in raising awareness:

I’m feeling as though I may not have ‘the story’ for you regarding the PWD bus pass, and that so many are more significantly affected, yet by the same token, I see importance in shedding light on the diversity of impact this bus pass issue has. Here is what I can offer:
    I’m roughly one of 50 000 individuals currently utilizing the PWD bus pass. While my story of personal impact regarding this issue is unique, the theme of continued access to resources, inclusion, independence, and hard decisions is universal, and requires a compassionate, supportive, realistic, and necessary shift.
    Though I’ve been immensely fortunate to create community around where I live and I’m currently able to walk independently for most of my daily activities, I feel this impact of these bus pass changes.
I’ve been unable to secure housing within the Vancouver boundaries, and need to travel into the city weekly for medical appointments, as the health resources I continually need are not offered near me.
To complete my education, I need to travel to my post-secondary institution for mandatory monthly seminars. Specialist appointments are scheduled to help me continue to manage my complex medical conditions, and I’m often needing to travel from my home in **removed to protect privacy**, to various facilities located throughout the Lower Mainland.
All of these instances once worrisome primarily in regards to my energy levels, has now compounded my worry as I ponder the impact of potentially choosing to give up my bus pass, versus continued accessibility to my resources.
    Despite cost of living increases across the board, PWD rates haven’t shifted in nearly a decade. It’s common knowledge that meeting one’s basic needs of food and shelter and associated costs is becoming more and more difficult. It’s also common knowledge that necessities exist beyond this, which significantly impact a person’s overall health, such as a person’s feelings of safety, community, worth, and contribution.
To make one feel they must choose between access to their resources only currently accessible through the use of their bus pass, or feeling slightly less financially constrained, negatively impacts not only the individual facing the hard decision, but also those around them – it’s a compounding negative ripple effect.
I’m faced with the hard fact that if I surrender my bus pass, I’ll have more monthly funds to allocate towards bills and expenses, yet I’ll lose much of what helps to balance and sustain, and maintain my levels of health and well-being. I will become more isolated. We will become more isolated. Finances are a basis of our sustainability at what cost?
    Increase the awareness. Please help keep us in our communities. Please help us remain independent. We offer so much.
How will the numbers shift come September when one of us feels they can no longer afford to attend their medical appointments? Day program? Work? Volunteering? Food bank? Or to meet with a friend? How will we get to where we need, and are needed?
I have more letters and while each situation is unique,the glaring need for the government to make this right, is not. What are people on disability payments asking for? Not much.Which is what makes the situation all that more frustrating.

Bring back the $45 per year bus pass for people with disabilities.

Eliminate the new $52/month bus pass fee.

Let everyone receiving PWD benefits keep the $77/month increase.

Raise the PWD benefit rate to $1200 per month by October 1, 2016 to reflect the cost of living.

With the current party leading government in BC firmly in campaign mode for next years election,we are constantly hearing how  BC is in the best financial position.There is a new funding announcement at least three times a week if not more.

It’s unacceptable to allow this situation to continue when people are becoming ill with worry about what September’s implementation will mean for their lives.Eat or stay warm? Stay warm but become home-bound? Missed medical appointments? Inability to access education opportunities to build a better future?

For many, it will be a life-changing moment, and not for the better. Don’t let these friends, family and neighbours fall behind. Because success shouldn’t be defined by those who make the most money,but by those who enable the most vulnerable among us to reach their full potential.

raisetherates

32 thoughts on “Friday Fail File Special Edition:The disability bus pass debacle.

    1. Laila Yuile

      Not happy to see this and hearing the same from many others. I know how much I have seen my grocery bill go up on the same food,as have others.When there is nothing to work with,something has to get cut.

      Like

  1. I wonder “how much” the government will make from us PWD Clients, re:Bus Pass. I’ve paid $45 for my pass till December 31. Now I’m expected to pay for another bus pass from September to December, so double charging us for the bus pass will generate a profit of how much money during September to December . Does anyone have a guess amount?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Delphine Charmley

      Theresa Marie, basically they are saying that 55,000 have current bus passes that were paid for in Jan so 55,000 x $208.00 ($52x4mths) that is how much the government is clawing back for those on PWD for bus pass that were already paid for in Jan that were suppose to go till Dec 31 2016

      Like

      1. Laila Yuile

        Disgusting-there is no other word for it. I have been keeping this going on twitter and facebook-it’s been shared over a thousand times on facebook alone, so keep it circulating and contact your Liberal MLAS if you have one.

        I have also emailed the minister although what kind of response I’ll get I don’t know. With the summer legislative session just announced, it might be a good idea to hold a rally at the legislature or in Vancouver, or timed rallies around the province to drive this home.

        Every email I get is so sad and it only makes me more appalled, particularly because many fear speaking out in the event something happens to their benefits!

        Like

  2. e.a.f.

    looks like Christy does need the money. After much petitioning from the public she stopped clawing back the child support money from children in this province, which came to $17M a year. Now she is clawing back money from the disabled to make up half of that.

    Christy and her cabal know no bounds when it comes to ripping off the most vunerable in our society. She knows how to bully with the very best. She doesn’t go out and shoot people. She makes sure they do it themselves. My forecast: we can look forward to more hospitalization and suicides by the disabled. Christy’s take on it will be, well less money to “hand out”. Christy and Stillwell ought to be put in jail for the abuse of the disabled and causing the deaths of the disabled. I don’t know if manslaughter covers it here, but it ought to. Christy and Stillwell along with the rest of the B.C. Lieberal cabal have set the stage where people will becoming increasingly ill and die. In my opinion that is murder.

    In Alberta two parents went on trial for failure to provide the essentials of life for their child who was ill. I know the disabled aren’t children, however, it would be interesting to see if we have a law which Christy and Stilwell could be charged under. They will be causing the deaths of more disabled.

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      Good point. Give to one, take from another.

      I too worry. A friend recently crowdfunded for a single mum on disability who was about to be cut off her hydro,which bits had accumulated on and she never could catch up without totally starving. There are so many more like her out there I fear and we don’t know the half of it.

      Like

  3. Delphine Charmley

    As a mom of 9, 8 whom we adopted and the youngest 7 having special needs I have worked very encouraging for my children to flourish and be independent.

    Now 2 of my boys who have special needs are going to be giving up their bus pass because they feel they need the full $77 increase more so. I am the mom in orange in that video above.

    Our boys and like many on disability did not ask to be disabled, did not ask to be limited in the abilities be it mobility or cognitively yet all they are asking for is some independence.

    Now, my boys are like many others being forced yes FORCED by Minister Stilwell and Christy Clark to “CHOSE” to do without their bus pass in favour of paying their bills or being able to afford to go to the Special Olympic activities.

    I find it pathetic, sad, heard hearted and yes ironic that while Minister Stilwell jets off to Rio to follow her Para-olympic quest for the Gold medal those here at home her in BC with disabilities are stressing about how they are going to get to their DR /physio, or out to get groceries, or see their friends.

    We all need to ensure this government realises that there are 100,000 on disability add to that their caregivers, family, friends, and the public who support them and that my friends is a very strong powerful voice and group of voters that this government best start paying attention to……

    Respectfully Delphine Charmley, Nanaimo BC

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laila Yuile

      #Respect for your love,courage and tenacity for not only your boys,but everyone who benefits from your advocacy Delphine. Thank you for sharing this with us.Keep it up,there are many who feel as you do, across partisan lines. I really thought by now the government would have realised their mistake and rectified it. While I wish Ms.Stilwell the best in her personal journey to get the gold, I do hope she see’s a change of heart and realises not everyone has the same journey as herself and are just barely getting by.

      Like

      1. Hawgwash

        I am a believer.
        No, not that kind.
        I am a believer that Ms.Stilwell had and has very little to do with this.
        I am a believer that Ms.Stilwell will not stand up for her peers.
        I am a believer that Ms.Stilwell will be unelected next May.

        Daphne, thank you for doing what you do.

        Like

        1. Laila Yuile

          We all know where the budget comes from and how- well, those of us who follow that closely at least. And you are correct. But Stilwell is the one who has been defending this in the legislature,quite vigorously and with great fervor under the guise of providing people with more ‘options’.

          The reality I am hearing, as have others before me, is that instead of giving more options,it’s taking options away.
          And you are correct. I believe as well that if this is not corrected that she and others may not be re-elected next year.

          Like

      2. Delphine Charmley

        Thank you, I continue this advocacy not only for my children but for those out there who will benefit from it. Unfortunately so many do not have a voice and if my voice can aid them too well I glad for that.

        I am determined especially when I see such an injustice. I had hoped by now that this government would have seen the error of their ways. Premier Clark knows me and knows that I will NOT go away till this issue is resolved properly.

        You don’t attack those who need things the most, you reach out and ask what can you do to aid them better in their journey.
        To say I am disappointed and dishearten in the way this government has treated those with disability saddens me greatly.

        One question I would ask of the Premier and her government who ran on family first…How is this helping families first that have disabilities to deal with.

        Like

        1. Hawgwash

          Delphine; my apologies for getting your name wrong in my first comment.

          Ms. Stilwell, is in a rare position as a first term MLA with a cabinet post.
          Couple that with the end game of a lucrative pension if she can hang on through the next election, it is easy to understand why she would abandon her principles and good sportsmanship, to toe the party line. Most of them do.

          She should pause to realize she has that post only because of optics and if Parksville, Qualicum doesn’t put her on the sidelines next May, shame on them.

          Remind me again, how much Christy has spent on private jets flitting about the province.

          Like

          1. Delphine Charmley

            All good, lets hope she doesn’t make a second term. She states she is an advocate for the disabled however it would appear that kind of advocating does not appear to be very healthy for those with disabilities

            Like

        2. Laila Yuile

          I’m not sure what happened to Families First. Haven’t heard that for a while. Oh perhaps because it’s getting harder and harder for families to make ends meet on the west coast. ?

          Like

  4. maureen Pineau

    Christy Clarks Government is beyond contempt. They even went so far as to put a minister in place who herself if disabled in an attempt to what?? Do they realize how petty and patronizing she looks every time she opens her mouth to say how she is like them and fully understands.
    Really, I should think that the cost of her clothing that she wears daily costs much more monthly than most people on PWD can afford in a five year period of time. How lucky for her that she is able to hold the position she has.

    I wonder if the many individuales on PWD would be in the same position as her and able to hold this same position with their intellectual delays. Or their many other hidden disabilities.
    Oh, come to think about it perhaps she is not really so much like many of the individuales who receive PWD funding. Perhaps her paycheck puts her in a whole other position. Perhaps we could even go so far as to say she is privileged. Perhaps she should hang her head in shame for the length she is willing to go , hurting people who are not able to be just like her, for the sake of her important position.

    Shame on her and shame on this Liberal government. Increase the funding and what ever other perks you can find to help make life worth living for everyone collecting PWD. Everyone deserves to live life not just try to survive it.

    Thank God for the Delphine Charmley’s and all the other angels who have been out letting BC know that this is not OK. Keep on keeping on all of you. You Rock.

    Maureen Pineau, Nanaimo BC

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Evil Eye

    I find the bus pass fiasco extremely disturbing, especially when the very same government is virtually giving away universal U-Passes to over 130,000 post secondary students and faculty.

    TransLink has devolved itself as the conveyor of the poor, elderly and students; ridership is shaky and transit planning down right retarded, yet the government has refused to come to grips with disabled people and their needs.

    TransLink and the government are deeply disturbed as continue to debase and victimize those who have no come back.

    Like

  6. Gizelle River

    Happy to read a part of one of my many letter being used here. Great blog. So far all Stilwell has done is delete the $45 admin fee but we all need to keep up the pressure and protest in any way we can to have our voices heard. Show up for rallies if you can. Write letters if you can. Send emails if you can. Send letters to newspapers if you can. Just do what you can! And best of all Phone her office (Mon-Thurs.) When the government tried to change bus passes for low income seniors they raised hell and the govt backed down. Notice this time around when they announced these changes the govt left the seniors alone! They still get a pass for the old annual fee of $45. We must stay strong and united and pour on the pressure. I hope Stilwell realizes that she is doing an excellent job of LOSING votes for her party more and more each time she makes this terribly unfair changes and then announces how wonderfully her ministry is taking care of us all. ALSO did you know if you ask DIRECT questions in any email or letter to Minister Stilwell’s office, like “I don’t understand about (issue). I’m really confused. Can you please answer this question directly,” that one of her staff or ministry staff HAVE TO CONTACT YOU BY PHONE to answer your question!!! Then you get their time and attention and that puts more pressure on Stilwell and her staff!!!

    Like

  7. Ernest RB Titcomb

    I could hardly read some of the comments through the tears.
    Thank you, Laila, for your strength and courage in exposing this criminal cabal in Victoria.
    You rock!

    Like

  8. Thank you for writing this article and providing a wider exposure to this issue to those who may be unaware of the issues affecting persons on PWD. The bus pass/STS issue was the lightening rod that struck more persons on PWD as it happened in one fell swoop and in such a visibly dramatic and cruel fashion.

    It is the trigger to a long list of legislated poverty decisions made by this government. The income clawbacks is the other issue hitting the media, but there are many other decisions that keep people on PWD poor, in compromised health, and without hope.

    The PWD rate for single persons stands at $906.42/month (that must pay for everything including shelter). Come September, that rate will increase to $983.42/month (if people choose not to buy the bus pass).

    Knowing that the Alberta disability benefits rate is close to $1600/month, any bit of clawback that the government does to British Columbians on PWD is acutely felt (and Albertans are saying what they are getting is not enough and are suffering). We need to raise the PWD rates to an adequate level to live on not just to ‘survive’ on.

    Here are a selection of articles/features we posted on bus pass/STS, income clawbacks, and other legislated poverty issues.

    Clark knows minimum wage isn’t enough to live on while persons on PWD (provincial disability benefits) must live on half of that

    Posted by BC Disability Caucus on Sunday, July 3, 2016

    Dear Honorable Christy Clark & the BC Liberal Caucus

    Posted by BC Disability Caucus on Saturday, July 2, 2016

    BC government continues keeping persons on PWD (disability benefits) living in abject poverty by clawing back their other income

    Posted by BC Disability Caucus on Saturday, July 2, 2016

    Don’t Lose Sight About Raising the Rates

    Posted by BC Disability Caucus on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Sincerely,

    BC Disability Caucus

    Like

  9. nonconfidencevote

    Remember this and everything else these elected, arrogant, out of touch Liberals have done to you …..at the Ballot box next May…….9.5 months to go.

    Like

  10. Just, sad.
    When you think “hey, it just can’t get any worse”, Clark pulls this off.

    I was very happy (and grateful) to pay the $45 fee for my year bus pass. I need it. My feet are so bad these days walking is agony. Now.. I have to pay the $45 PLUS $52 a month. I don’t have that money!!

    “Oh, but you’re getting a raise to the DB as our dear Premier knows how tough the last couple years of inflation(s) and recessions have been on those with the least”.
    Has been the reply.

    Ok,Thank you VERY MUCH!!
    I am truly grateful that we get a “raise” yet.. it’s pretty much all going back into the bus thing that I had previously already paid for ( still the $45 fee comes out of my “food”), isn’t it?

    So, where’s the increase so I can offset some of the prices of food and housing (rent has gone up, food at least 3 times in the last year alone. They charge you more (or the same amount) as a large item (that has since been removed from stock) for something that’s half of the product.
    Help!?

    Like

  11. brian collins

    it was planned by gov it was not a debacle the gov wants to make it harder on disabeled db people because the govment thinks no one will stand up and speak out on behalf of disabelde db peole

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      Many are speaking out for all Brian, and we will keep at it. There have been many great pieces written by other journo’s on this but the pressure needs to be kept up.And we will continue to do that. 🙂

      Like

  12. Laila Yuile

    Response to an email I sent to Minister Stilwell directly:

    Filion, Corinna GCPE:EX
    Jul 19 (2 days ago)

    to me

    Hello Ms. Yuile. I am writing to you in response to your correspondence to the Minister dated July 11, 2016 regarding transportation supports for people on disability assistance.

    Beginning this September, everyone on disability assistance will receive a $25 rate increase and a $52 transportation support that they can receive in the form of a subsidized bus pass if they choose – something no other province in the country offers.

    Currently 45,000 people on disability assistance don’t or can’t access a subsidized B.C. Bus Pass, while the rest receive additional benefits in the form of a bus pass or transportation subsidy. In September, all 100,000 people on disability assistance will have equal access to monthly transportation supports.

    Individuals on disability assistance will have more money on their monthly cheque whether they choose a bus pass or not. These changes create equity in the system and mean all people receiving disability assistance, no matter where they live, benefit in some way.

    To learn more visit http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/services-for-people-with-disabilities/disability-assistance/on-disability-assistance/rate-increases

    Like

  13. Carly

    This compass card came mid year something like that and I had already paid for my yearly pass of 45 bucks last fall. So I should of been able to use my bus pass that I paid for the year 2016 but no .. that got tossed out and replaced by the compass card which now I can not use since I chose to keep the increase haha laughing at increase. So from now until dec I am shit out of luck sorry for my language but that is exactly what it feels like. I have been ripped off and lose 3 months of freedom of being able to get to appointments to doctors and every 3 months I have to go to the hospital. What the government has done is the usual at taking care of itself and screw the rest of us. We do not matter yet if it were not for many of us they would have nothing. They are taking from people who used to work. Not everyone was born with a disability. All those people who paid into the system only to be treated like they no longer matter now that they seem to be a burden to our government. Do you seriously think they want to continue paying us??? No of course not. All that money they are taking from us is criminal. Everyone who paid for their 2016 bus pass were taken for a ride. I am sure none of us will be paid back for that 45 bucks we invested in to get us around for this year. That money came out of my hydro bill last year. These people think we are rich as we collect from them and to them 906 bucks a month is plenty to live on. Hell no ..its a disgrace to think we only get 375 bucks towards rent. Imagine trying to find a place for that??? What choice do we have but to spend the support portion of our checks to top off our rent. They say that phones and cable are things we can do without, this is laughable I was actually told that by a worker many years ago when I asked for a crisis grant. So basically they want us stuck at home now, with barely anything in our cupboards, no tv/cable and phone. I am lucky in a sense that even with my disability since birth and a hip injury 2015, as well as having diabetes
    I have a walker to help me get around and I live close to downtown. That still does not change the fact that now I have to find rides to get to the north end to go to Walmart or any other stores in the north end. I have arranged that my diabetic check ups every 3 months are made after my check dates so I have change for the bus. I only have one family member where I live but she has her own family and work and so forth. I am not sure what they were thinking about when they decided to do this to all of us but equality was certainly not true. There is nothing equal here. Those people in other areas of bc without bus services are still in the same situation of having to choose to use that money for bills, food or transportation. Would like to know how far 25 bucks is going to go for many who choose to keep the bus pass. Wow that’s just incredible that the government thinks 25 bucks is going to make this huge impact in our lives. For those who used to get the yearly transportation grant or what ever its called for them if they keep that its only 11 bucks a month they get for an increase. YOU can not even buy a jar of peanut butter for that as its now $11.99 for the larger container and some stores even more than that for peanut butter. Its getting horrible and I am terribly worried with my diabetes that I will not live long living like this. I am eating twice a day and taking insulin. I should be eating 3 times a day every day plus what is needed for insulin reaction. The reality of our government in BC is they do not give a damn about us. Cutting corners and what ever else they think we can do is something we all have been doing for the last 9 years of inflation while no increase was given to us. For 9 years we have all been figuring it out for ourselves and making many sacrifices to the point of not really having a life we can enjoy as we all should.

    Like

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