The Brain Injury Society of Toronto hopes Social Assistance Reform will include community consultation & lead to an improved standard of living for all recipients
As an agency that supports people living with acquired brain injury (ABI) and their families, the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) serves a broad community, including many individuals who suffer from financial loss following their brain injury.
A brain injury results in significant changes and challenges. Many individuals experience chronic pain and fatigue, depression, cognitive impairments including memory loss and difficulty with attention, concentration, insight and judgment, and sensitivity to stimulus such as noises and bright lights. Many brain injury survivors also sustain lasting physical disabilities and these conditions very often present a major barrier to returning to work, either in a full or part time capacity. This puts individuals at high risk for poverty.
In fact a recent Toronto study has shown that more than half of Toronto’s homeless population has an ABI. Even more concerning 70 per cent of those individuals became homeless after sustaining their brain injury. Affordable housing and access to publicly funded, community based treatment options to help people cope with life changes after their injury are limited and/or have long and extensive wait lists.
As the cost of living continues to increase, it is imperative that social assistance programs and services ensure that all individuals, despite their level of disability, are able to maintain a level of dignity by having access to safe, affordable housing, access to required medication and medical treatment and meaningful community engagement, as all these factors help contribute to a healthy standard of living. When full time work is no longer an option because of the lasting effects of brain injury, social assistance programs are vital to ensure people’s needs are being met. We know that if individuals are given a basic standard of living and a sense of financial security there is a reduced strain on our health care and emergency shelter system.
Nearly half a million Ontarians are currently living with the effects of Acquired Brain Injury. As Ontario’s Social Assistance programs are being reformed, BIST urges policy makers to consider the needs of ABI survivors and others with disabilities who are reliant on these programs. It is BIST’s hope that consultation from individuals with lived experience and organizations like ours will be a part of the process to help inform any proposed changes or program development.