On June 17, I had the pleasure of joining the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Caregiver Coalition in Ottawa at a roundtable facilitated by the Institute for Research on Public Policy and co-sponsored by the MS Society. We gathered together to discuss the income and employment needs of people dealing with illness, with the end goal to create a report for our government that will recommend ways to better support Canadians who live with illness and struggle to work. Collaborations like these, between organizations that have similar goals, are one of the best ways to move our advocacy efforts forward, and I’m proud to have been a part of the discussion.
People living with MS who continue to work report being healthier, more financially secure and more socially active than people living with MS who are unemployed. Yet Canadians with MS struggle to continue working in their prime career-building years, despite their education and experience. Moreover, many Canadians with MS cannot qualify for disability-related public or private insurance programs because eligibility is obtained through employment. Even if they do qualify, the income is often not enough to maintain a decent quality of life.
Last week’s roundtable brought together senior federal decision and policy makers, top Canadian policy economists and researchers, and social policy think tanks (i.e. Vanier Institute of the Family, Caledon Institute of Social Policy and the Conference Board of Canada). We discussed the current state of knowledge on employment and income supports, in addition to the challenges that still exist in the system and what can be done to address them. The report from the roundtable discussion will guide our advocacy efforts moving forward, to ensure we improve supports for all Canadians dealing with illness, including people living with MS.
Multiple sclerosis, like many chronic and episodic illnesses, creates a life of uncertainty and unpredictability. What we can do at the MS Society is advocate for supports that create as much stability as possible by eliminating barriers to income, employment, and disability support systems that include both private and public plans.
I look forward to sharing the report in an upcoming blog, and I welcome your comments here as we work together to improve quality of life for people affected by MS.