Professor David Pettinicchio recently co-authored an article titled “Canadians with disabilities are feeling left behind by pandemic policy” on First Policy Response. The article reports on findings from a study he and a colleague conducted in June 2020 that found that many persons with disabilities and chronic health conditions were ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and faced increased costs as a result of the pandemic, putting them in a particularly vulnerable position. In response to these findings, Professor Pettinicchio calls on the policy community to re-think its strategies, and to focus on long-term wellbeing for all Canadians, including those with disabilities and chronic health conditions.
Professor David Pettinicchio is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He specializes in the area of political sociology and studies the intersection of inequality and politics. His work has been published in many well-known journals including Gender and Society, The Sociology Quarterly, Canadian Review of Sociology, and the British Journal of Social Psychology.
We’ve included an excerpt of the article below. You can read the full article here.
Because of low employment earnings or being completely excluded from the labour market — in addition to lack of access to credit markets (such as credit cards, mortgages and loans) — people with disabilities and chronic health conditions make use of other income supports. These include personal and household assets and government benefits, mostly from provinces. They also often face higher overall costs of living, and they experience obstacles in accessing health and personal care services.
This meant that people with disabilities and chronic health conditions were in an especially tough situation during the pandemic. Many faced increased costs, but without employment, they did not qualify for benefits such as CERB.
In June 2020, we conducted a national survey of 1,027 people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, as well as 50 in-depth follow-up interviews. We asked about their experiences with the pandemic and pandemic countermeasures, their employment and financial situations, their mental health status, and their attitudes toward government and policies during COVID-19.
People with disabilities who were employed but lost their jobs when the pandemic hit saw increased economic insecurity. Individuals in so-called “good jobs” like government and unionized jobs felt more financially secure, as did those who received CERB. However, as we show, employment does not always guarantee financial security. Half of employed respondents still worried about their economic futures.
Coupled with heightened fears of getting COVID-19, worsening economic situations also contributed to deteriorating mental health. Increased anxiety, stress and despair were associated with negative financial effects of COVID-19, greater concerns about contracting COVID-19, increased loneliness and decreased feelings of belonging.
More generally, as our findings show, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions felt left out of the policy process. Whatever policy efforts are made to mitigate social, health and economic impacts of the pandemic on this diverse community must include their voices.
The pandemic calls into question existing policies that focus on a person’s capacity to save for a rainy day — policies that ignore structural disadvantages and strict income thresholds that can keep people with disabilities out of better jobs. Now is the time to revisit and reform these systems for long-term wellbeing.