Are You on Welfare? Don’t be Ashamed to Admit it.  Legal mediation consultant and practitioner Joan Amanfoh, host of The Awareness Show shares a recent, shocking experience.  A single mother of two came to my office yesterday crying that her case manager cut off her benefits. Which means the monthly monetary assistance the government was giving to her to pay rent and medication had been stopped. I was not surprised because of the recent increase in these kind of cases. I have represented and defended many women at Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT).  Usually, their benefits have been cut simply because they no longer have a refugee claimant’s status in Canada. The Social Benefits Tribunal, is a court where disputes of civil law are brought before an arbitrator or judge called “Members”

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I told the woman that I could definitely help her to appeal the decision. But in the meantime, since she claimed she had no food or money to pay her upcoming rent, she should contact her friends, family and her church pastor for financial assistance; while I try my best to overturn the government decision to terminate her benefits.

Do you know what this woman said to me? She said and I quote ” Abaa! No!” looking at me she continued, “I don’t want my family and my friends to know I’m on welfare. My children and I would rather die of starvation!” I was stunned and flummoxed at her ignorance.

When my newest client left, I reclined my chair facing the ceiling and wondered how a woman would rather starve her children because she was too proud.  She wanted to just protect her ego. Then, I pondered how many others are doing the exact same thing right at that very moment. Their pride perhaps egos prevent them from asking for help from people they know can help them or offer solution; while they continue to die in silence. Have you forgotten the saying that “Two heads are better than one”?  How fascinating of you to be thinking so shallowly. If I’m talking to you, please stop and go seek for help. Nobody would laugh. It is all in your head and you are letting your ego cloud your judgement.

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For those of you who laugh and criticize those on welfare, you should stop.  Don’t you know that you help to create the ignorance perpetuated by ill-informed people like this woman?  At least in Canada, don’t you know that welfare can pay more than certain jobs?

Suppose someone offered you the same amount of money that you currently make at your job on one condition — you don’t work.  Would you not be tempted to take it? That is exactly the deal that our welfare system offers to many people today.

The federal government funds numerous separate anti-poverty programs annually. Some of these programs provide cash or other benefits such as housing assistance, day care assistance, energy assistance and free commodities directly to poor families.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Likewise, we should consider that, most often individuals who do leave welfare for work often start employment in the service or retail industries.  You may see them as clerks, personal support workers, secretaries, cleaning personnel, salesmen, and waitresses. We all know the wages for these types of jobs are minimum wage which is barely enough for a family to pay sky rocketing rent in Ontario.  Note that these types of jobs do not come with benefits.  A family with a sick child will end up working two jobs in order to make enough to buy much needed medicines. So next time you think of condemning people on welfare, you should sit and think before you do that. No condition has to be permanent.

Many welfare recipients are hard-working people. Including the ones who have been on the program “long-term”. Welfare pays substantially more than an entry-level job does. Studies suggest that people on welfare are not lazy. In fact, survey after survey suggests that they would prefer to be working.  By not working, welfare recipients are simply responding rationally to the incentive systems our public-policy makers have established for them. It is also fair to say that some policies do not encourage working.  For example let’s look at child tax benefits. When I wasn’t working and not on welfare, I was receiving a monthly child tax benefit amount of $2000 for my four children. As soon as I started working, they cut the entire amount.  As a new business owner, I was barely making that $2000 a month. But if I was not the strong woman I was (and still am) I would have given up my business and continue to receive that money for my children.

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Having said all of the above, I am not encouraging you not to work. I work and I work hard because I love it.  I have a strong work ethic and desire to give my children a better life with opportunities for them to have a great future. Any government policies that discourage work is bad for the recipients. Getting by is not enough.  You should strive for better and for more.  One of the most important long-term steps toward avoiding or getting out of poverty is employment.  But if you need the help, take it.  There is no shame in needing help.  Be proud to say you are on welfare. But by all means look for that job that will bring you out of poverty and make you happy.  Again, while you are searching for your dream job, enjoy collecting your welfare money.  happy-latina

If you have applied for and were refused assistance from Ontario Works(OW) or from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP); you may w seek services from a legal professional such as Joan Amanfoh Alternative Disputes Resolution & Legal Services.   If your benefits have been cut or if your benefit amount has been reduced, I will fight to get you assistance or have it reinstated for you.  Make sure you bring the Notice of Decision with you when you come to my office:

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Joan Amanfoh is an advocate for women in the greater Ontario metropolitan area.  She owns a legal mediation consultancy firm handling a variety of cases for the general public.  Contact Joan at:

Joan Amanfoh Alternative Disputes Resolution & Legal Services:
4370 Steeles Avenue West Unit 205, Vaughan Ontario L4L 4Y4
Phone:905-605-2424 Fax:905-605-2422

Joan also hosts “The Awareness Show” discusses a variety of topics and current events affecting the African Canadian community and individuals all across Canada and the United States.  TAS is seen on the Rogers TV shown in Canada, Europe, Africa and on Youtube.