Meeting and Event: Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship: Income Security Reforms to Advance Inclusion

Date/Location: Friday, July 19, 2013; 11:45-1:00; NLB Conference Room 5

Speakers: Dr. Michael J. Prince (Professor of Social Policy, University of Victoria); Mr. Michael Stein; Mr. Klaus Lachwitz (President, Inclusion International)

Written by: Marli Kasdan

Attended by: Alyssa Strasser, Sunny Hor, Norah Crossnohere, Gregory Swistel, Janice H.W. Wong, Marli Kasdan

As part of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities a side event was held today entitled “Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship: Income Security Reforms to Advance Inclusion.” This panel discussion featured statements about poverty and social assistance concerning persons with disabilities.

Starting the discussion, Dr. Prince spoke about his six year research project, “Disabling Poverty and Enabling Citizenship” sponsored by the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA). The project is currently halfway into year four, and focuses on coming up with recommendations inspired by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) concerning income security and social protection.

Article 28 of the CRPD ensures the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection for persons with disabilities. Dr. Prince’s study focused on disabled persons in Canada, and found that there is a high proportion of people with disabilities in Canada living on social assistance (50-65%). Furthermore, people with disabilities have a greater risk of living in or near poverty. In Canada, there are strict disability requirements and most benefits come in modest amounts.

Sadly, most of these programs are unavailable for people with intellectual disabilities because they lack significant labor force attachment. However, efforts are being made to improve social assistance for persons with disabilities and Canada is giving 2 million dollars in short term funding to invest in the creation of a Canadian Employers Disability Forum. Furthermore, other agencies are focusing on employment and poverty reduction strategies are being implemented in 7 of the 10 Canadian provinces. Finally, Dr. Prince’s study made some key policy recommendations:

 * Extend the duration of unemployment insurance and sickness benefits

* Introduce a refundable disability tax credit

* Increase child disability benefits

* Raise social assistance

* Create a National Basic Income for people with severe disabilities

Following Dr. Prince’s explanation of his research study, Mr. Stein gave a statement on disabled persons and asset retention. Assets and income are what help keep people out of poverty in times of crisis. Mr. Stein pointed out that in many circumstances of social welfare, people on welfare support are only allowed to have an extremely minimal amount of assets in order to stay on welfare, which results in these people being retained at or near the poverty level.

This often happens with people with disabilities and this problem leads to intergenerational poverty. Mr. Stein also spoke about the common misconception that people on social welfare prefer to stay on welfare rather than find a job. He stated this is typically untrue and anti-discrimination protection for disabled persons on welfare is important and that there needs to be more effort in getting disabled people back into the work force.

Following, Mr. Lachwitz spoke about how article 28 of the CRPD also states that countries should continuously improve the living conditions of persons with disabilities. He further pointed out that persons with physical disabilities have different needs than people with intellectual disabilities, and both these needs should be taken into account when implementing the CRPD. He also spoke about the high unemployment levels facing persons with disabilities. The session then concluded with questions and comments from the floor.

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