People with episodic disabilities face significant employment and income support challenges. These issues have a significant impact on health:
- Income: People with low incomes are more likely to become ill. They’re also likely to suffer more adverse effects from illness than people with higher incomes.
- Insecurity about the future: The unpredictable nature of HIV and concerns about income security both contribute to the stress of people living with HIV. Stress adversely affects health.
- Social inclusion or exclusion: Long-term unemployment impacts self-esteem. Paid work, volunteer activities and social interactions are key to health, confidence and dignity.
Income security – a reliable, and predictable source of adequate income – is a concern for all people with disabilities. But for people with episodic disabilities, the challenge may be even greater. Recurring periods of ill health make it difficult to work, especially fulltime. Most people with HIV and other episodic disabilities must rely on health and disability benefits such as:
- Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits
- Long term disability (LTD) and extended health benefits (vision, dental, prescription drugs, physiotherapy, etc.) provided by employee group insurance plans
- Canadian Pension Plan Disability Program (CPP-D), and
- Provincial Disability and Social Assistance programs.
Rigid definitions and policies govern these benefit programs. As a result, people may have difficulty accessing or maintaining benefits. Existing policies also make it difficult for people who are receiving benefits to work part-time or when their health allows.