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Roddickton man with disability can’t get funding for son’s injury

Wilfred Cassell at his woodpile outside his Roddickton home.
Wilfred Cassell at his woodpile outside his Roddickton home.

RODDICKTON, NL – A Roddickton father with a disability is fighting for additional funding to cover the treatment his 10-year-old son needed for a broken ankle.

Wilfred Cassell, 50, was recently diagnosed with Huntington's disease.

He no longer works and has been on income support from the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour since last year.

However, he says the amount he receives makes it difficult to pay for things like treating his boy's injury.

Nine-year-old Jack broke his ankle in June while staying with his mother in Deer Lake. Cassell and the mother of their two minor children are divorced. According to Moira Magee, a social policy advocate trying to help, a court order legislates that Cassell is to have custody of his two sons for most of the summer.

Soon after Jack suffered the break and received care in Corner Brook, he was back in Cassell's custody in Roddickton.

Magee says Cassell is trying to get by on about $900 a month. Roughly $600 pays for his house, and then there's the cost of food for himself and his children, the phone bill, expenses for some of his own drugs, and trips from Roddickton to St. Anthony for his own medical care. Now, he was left with the expense of taking Jack to the hospital in St. Anthony and to pay for his cast and care.

"There isn't money to play with when you're on social services," said Magee. "And for Wilfred to be the best dad, he's got to provide for his child. He has to provide his food, he has to provide his shelter, and he has to provide his medical care."

Cassell applied for additional funding from the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour.

On July 5, he received a letter stating his request was denied. The reason: Jack is not active on Cassell's income support file.

Cassell filed an appeal and requested his children be added. However, the initial decision was upheld, with the department indicating it couldn't add the children because Cassell does not have a 50/50 custody arrangement and does not receive a portion of the children's child tax benefits. That goes solely to their mother.

Magee will help Cassell try to appeal this decision as well.

Magee argues he should be eligible for the tax benefit because a court order indicates the children are to be with Cassell for most of the summer.

She points to the child tax benefits application. It states a parent should apply if "your child only lives with you part of the time" and if "your child is living with you for a determined period of time, for example over the summer holidays".

Whatever the policy arrangement, Magee feels it is unjust not to provide Cassell income support for his son when his financial situation is already so precarious, and when he is taking care of his children as the court order tells him to do.

Cassell ended up having to pay for Jack's cast on his own. Jack has since fully recovered from the injury.

Meanwhile, Cassell has been unable to pay a hydro bill because of the lack of financial support.

The Northern Pen reached out to the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour but did not receive a response prior to Friday's deadline.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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