The Province has failed to live up to a commitment to support volunteers with disabilities who live in poverty, says a Victoria legal advocacy organization for people facing issues with income assistance, disability benefits and tenancy.
The Together Against Poverty Society says funding promises of $5 million in 2011 and $10 million in ensuing years
were intended to clear the wait list for the Community Volunteer Supplement program, and to allow a greater number of disabled individuals to receive a stipend to recognize volunteer efforts. However, TAPS claims new volunteers have not been allowed to apply for the CVS program — a $100 per month supplement that helps with volunteering costs such as clothing, food and hygiene products.
“This delay is extremely disappointing for the thousands of people living with disabilities in B.C. who want to contribute to our communities through volunteering,” TAPS executive director Kelly Newhook said in a press release. “Many people simply cannot afford to volunteer without the CVS because the provincial ‘persons with disabilities’ income assistance rates are so low."
TAPS submitted feedback from volunteers and organizations to the Ministry of Social Development. The main themes of the feedback were portability of the benefit from one volunteer placement to the next; flexibility in benefits to account for monthly variations in volunteer hours; and ensuring the program is accessible going forward to avoid lengthy wait lists that built up before 2011.
A group of more than 20 disability service providers and advocacy organizations are calling for restored CVS funding to encourage people with disabilities to volunteer in communities.
Minister of Social Development Moira Stilwell says the CVS, as it existed, was not sustainable. At the time the decision was made to grandfather the program in the fall of 2011, the estimated cost to clear the wait list was about $15 million per year.
In October 2011, as promised, every person on the CVS wait list was given the opportunity to apply for the program and begin receiving a supplement, Stilwell added. Those enrolled in the program will continue to receive their supplement for as long as they choose to continue working at the volunteer job in their community.
"Going forward, our government is focusing on programs and initiatives that will increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities," Stilwell said in a statement. "Our goal is to ensure supports are in place to foster greater community inclusion and encourage people with disabilities to work as they are able."