Single mothers living on welfare ‘desperate’
Jacqueline Thompson, director of Londons Low Income Family Empowerment Sole Support Parents Information Network (Life Spin), told the jury something as simple as a cheque being held can set off fears it can be quite devastating.
Fifteen years ago women with children who relied on social assistance were allowed access to post-secondary school. She returned to school as a single mother and earned two degrees, said Thompson.
Before she returned to school, she and her children lived on social assistance for five years and once were homeless for six months.
Since the Mike Harris Tory government cut welfare benefits by 22 per cent in 1995, the social assistance system isolates disenfranchises and punishes people to the point many just give up, she said.
We serve many people who give up their children its very disturbing, she said. These people cant make it they give up and turn their kids over to CAS (Childrens Aid Society).
Thompson recited a litany of horror stories about single mothers in London.
Thompson was testifying at the coroners inquest into the death of Kimberly Rogers, who was eight months pregnant when she was found dead in her West End apartment, during a blistering heat wave Aug. 9, 2001.
Rogers was sentenced to six months of house arrest after pleading guilty to fraud over $5,000 for admitting to collecting $13,500 in welfare benefits while collecting $32,000 in student loans between the fall of 1996 and fall of 1999.
Rogers died of an overdose of anti-depression medication. The inquest has heard she suffered from chronic depression, insomnia, panic attacks and migraine headaches.
After her conviction on April 25, 2001, Rogers had her welfare benefits cut off by the provincial government for three months. A judge reinstated the benefits after a successful court challenge one month later.
Thompson told the jury how some mothers have admitted pouring vinegar in their last bag of fresh milk so they can claim the milk went bad and get three fresh bags at the grocery store.
Many mothers dont have the money to purchase winter boots for their children, so they patch up old running shoes and boots with duct tape, she said.
Hundreds of clients have returned to abusive relationships because women and her children cant survive under the current system, said Thompson.
This has all had a devastating effect on our community, she said. Its very disheartening and very frightening.
Food banks were designed years ago to assist desperate people in desperate situations, but now hundreds of thousands of social assistance recipients have no choice but to attend on a regular basis or starve, she said.
Food banks, they try, but they are not enough, she said. Families have been forced to turn to them as their main source of sustenance.
The current system
is not designed to encourage training and pursuit of higher education,
which leaves recipients no choice but to accept low-paying jobs with no
benefits and no prospect of leaving the cycle of poverty, she said.