Vancouver Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:15 AM

 

People experiencing poverty now have better access to income and disability assistance through a series of changes designed to give them the help they need, when they need it.“We took a careful look at the existing policies for income and disability assistance and asked if they’re helping or harming the people they are meant to support,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “All of these changes are removing unnecessary barriers that prevent people who were already struggling to get the support they need to break out of the cycle of poverty.”

Changes to the Employment and Assistance Act and the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act and regulations took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. These include:

  • ending the requirement for seniors to pursue Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits before the age of 65;
  • expanding access to security deposits and introducing a pet damage deposit;
  • amending the definition of spouse; and
  • eliminating the two-year independence rule.

Simpson made the announcement while meeting with one of the new community integration specialists (CIS) at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. Through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, the CIS position is designed to bridge the gap between some of B.C.’s most vulnerable people and supports and services. CIS workers go into communities to connect people to their local agencies and organizations.

The CIS team and policy amendments are part of a cross-government effort to better connect people with the services they need. Barriers, like a lack of identification or a security deposit for a home, can prevent people from receiving important services, accessing income assistance or finding stable housing. Government is identifying and reducing barriers by updating policies and ensuring that the changes reach the people they are designed to help.

The changes are part of a series of amendments. The first set of changes took effect in July 2019 and included expanding access to the identification supplement, removing the $10,000 asset limit on a primary vehicle and expanding the moving supplement for people to move anywhere in B.C. All of the changes reflect the principles of affordability, accessibility, social inclusion and reconciliation, as laid out in TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Delivering on the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quotes:

Susan Tatoosh, executive director, Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society –

“A new partnership between the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has a community integration specialist working in our office once a week and connecting one-on-one with the urban Indigenous people who we support here. Having a CIS team member in the office helps to streamline access to government services for urban Indigenous people who are experiencing poverty and homelessness, and recognizes the importance of VAFCSs culturally based supports and services.”

Adrienne Montani, provincial co-ordinator, First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition –

“The elimination of the policy requirement that young adults are financially independent for two years before receiving income assistance will help vulnerable young adults get the support they need right away. This is an important change that will better support youth aging out of care, who already experience multiple barriers that prevent them from moving forward into adulthood. It is equally important for other youth who do not have family support during this important time in their transition to adulthood.”

Learn More:

Read TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy

To learn more about the July 2019 policy changes, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019SDPR0051-001379

 

A backgrounder follows.

 

Policy changes support poverty reduction

Updating the definition of a dependent child:

This will better support families on assistance by addressing current gaps in shared parenting situations.

The new definition allows a child to access the full range of benefits and supports available to them, even if only one of their separated parents is on income or disability assistance.

Updating the definition of a spouse:

This will modernize the ministry’s definition of a spouse to better support people entering and leaving relationships by:

  • increasing the amount of time two people can live together before reducing their assistance to the lower couples’ rate; and
  • providing the singles’ assistance rate to two married people who have separated but not yet divorced, and are living in the same residence independently.

Streamlining the assistance reapplication process:

The streamlined reapplication period will increase from three to six months for people who need to return to assistance.

The updated timeframe will support people with more timely access to the income and disability supports that they need.

Removing the two-year financial independence rule:

Removing the two-year waiting period will better support vulnerable young adults in need of immediate access to income supports and benefits.

Removing the early Canada Pension Plan requirement:

This will improve the financial security of low-income people by ending the need for recipients of income and disability assistance to pursue early Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits if they are younger than 65.

Information and verification requirements (Section 10):

This will ensure document requirements do not create homelessness by ending the practice of automatically removing people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness from assistance if they are unable to provide documentation, and replacing the practice with a sanction of $25 per month.

Income and disability monthly report:

This will create more responsive, people-centred services by avoiding the need for regulation amendments whenever the monthly report form is updated, which slows down the process.

Supplements for rent and pet deposits:

This will prevent homelessness by removing the limit on the number of rental security deposits and creating a new pet security deposit so that people can find and maintain housing.

Crisis supplements for shelter:

Crisis shelter supplements will be increased, which will help with unexpected shelter costs by providing the full monthly amount of support and shelter for a family.

Creating a maximum repayment of debt:

This will ensure any repayment of debt people on assistance make is not more than the minimum repayment amount, unless they request to pay more, and ensuring that only one ministry debt is recovered at a time.

Support for hardship assistance:

This will provide people on hardship assistance with more supports while they work to establish their eligibility for income and disability assistance.

People receiving hardship assistance now have access to supplements that are available to people on income and disability assistance.

The expanded supports will help people address their health needs and, to help keep people safe, they will not be required to repay supports in situations of domestic violence and treatment in special care facilities.

This on BC Govt Website go to the link here

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