rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

My welfare challenge: Days 4 and 5

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Seth Klein

Fascinating to see all the comments on these blog posts.

I want to highlight Dale's comments in response to my Day 3 post in particular.

Some may read these posts and point out that people with a recognized disability (those with PWD status in our welfare system) receive marginally more on welfare (a single person in the "Expected to Work" category receives $610 a month, while someone on PWD receives $906 a month), and that a majority of welfare recipients have PWD status (in 2012, just under 4 per cent of British Columbians were on social assistance, of which about 56 per cent were in the PWD category).

However, as Dale notes, people are often made to wait years before finally being granted PWD status. This is a major problem we found in our Living on Welfare report in 2008. And during that time, a disability or illness that should be obvious is actually worsened while people are forced to live on the basic allowance.

Moreover, even once PWD status is gained, life is no picnic. The extra dollars are often needed to cover extra costs associated with the disability, leaving not much more for food. Indeed, this too was a finding in our 2008 report; while many people we followed over two years did finally have their disability recognized and PWD status granted, they still reported a heavy reliance on food banks and other charities in order to meet basic food needs.

Is this really want we want -- a welfare system, including for those with disabilities who live on welfare for many years, that is structurally dependent on charities for people to meet their basic food needs?

It's the little things that drive home how hard this budget must be in real life, and which have made me very conscious of the cost of things this week:

-  Not being able to duck into a café for a coffee or treat.

-  Money for a parking meter.

-  The trip to the pumpkin patch (simply not on if I were really on welfare).

-  At my daughter's soccer game on Saturday, I was glad it wasn't my week to bring snacks for the team, as this budget certainly wouldn't allow for that.

I note all the continuing comments on these posts with shopping advice, or ideas for creatively meeting one's food needs in various ways. But I think some of these comments miss the point; of course people on welfare manage to survive in all kinds of creative (and often desperate and harmful) ways. Many have done so for years. But doing so takes up a huge amount of time (time the government says they are supposed to be spending looking for work). And we know living this way is not good for people's health.

People make ends meet by turning to charity, or friends, or picking food. But the government claims a welfare cheque is supposed to be sufficient to meet your food needs. The object of the exercise in the Welfare Food Challenge is to show that this is not so -- people only make ends meet by creatively and time-consumingly pursuing other options (often at great cost to their dignity).

As I approach the final two days of this challenge, I suspect I can make it to the end (although I continue to bend the rules treating my cold). But it sure is miserable, eating the same things day in and day out.

BTW, I encourage people to read the blog diaries of others who are taking the challenge this week. They can be found here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.