B.C. changing orphan benefit policy

Government stopped deducting child support and CPP orphan benefits last year, but WorkSafeBC benefits were overlooked

The B.C. government is ending its practice of deducting WorkSafeBC death benefits from income assistance collected by the survivors.

The regulatory change is being made after Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog questioned the government about a constituent who has had her four-year-old son’s benefit deducted since she began receiving income assistance.

The father disappeared and was presumed drowned while working on a log boom at Port Mellon in 2011, before the child was born. The boy was eligible for $286.72 per month in a WorkSafeBC benefit because his father was killed on the job, but under the province’s income assistance policy, that amount was deducted, leaving the mother with $658 a month.

Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell said Tuesday she has instructed ministry staff to change the regulation, similar to a change that was made last September to exempt Canada Pension Plan orphan benefits.

Stilwell said there appear to be only a few cases involving WorkSafeBC, and she was not aware of them when regulations were changed to stop deducting CPP and parental child support payments.

“As with many government benefits, when it comes to staff members, they follow it word for word,” Stilwell said.

As of last September, single parents on income assistance are allowed to keep child support payments made by the other parent. That affected about 3,200 families and 5,400 children.

NDP social development critic Michelle Mungall said that since the Nanaimo case came to light, MLAs have heard of similar cases involving WorkSafeBC child benefits. She urged the government to make the change as quickly as possible.

“New Democrats advocated for more than a year to end the child support clawback, and we saw success on that, and at the same time, the government made the right decision to end the clawback of CPP orphan benefits,” Mungall said. “Somehow they ignored this one and the minister needs to account for why they ignored it.”

Income assistance payments in B.C. were last increased in 2007. For an employable adult, the rate is $235 per month plus a maximum shelter allowance of $375 a month. For an employable single parent with one child, the rate is $375.58 plus $570 for shelter.

 

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