Jobs Minister Shirley Bond

Finally, some real progress on poverty

Cutting single parents off benefits if they enrol in school keeps them in the welfare trap. That's finally ending

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has made its most significant moves in decades to address the needs of some of the province’s poorest people.

The largest financial commitment is for a new program to help single parents escape from the welfare trap. There are 16,000 single parents in B.C. receiving provincial income assistance or disability payments, most of them women.

Even if they could find an entry-level job, it wouldn’t pay enough to cover the child care they would need to go to work. Worst of all, the current system requires that if they enrol in training, they lose their income assistance, including dental and extended medical care for themselves and their children.

That is the welfare trap, one of the most perverse government policies to have survived into our supposedly enlightened modern era.

The new program takes effect in September. It will not only continue income assistance payments when single parents enrol in skills training, it promises to cover their child care and transportation costs for an approved training program of up to one year.

Medical and child care costs will then be covered for up to a year after training, to allow a transition to employment.

Approved training means training for jobs that are identified as in demand, requiring high school and occupation-specific training that can be completed in a year or less. They include retail sales, general office work and assistance jobs in health services.

Another overdue policy change is to double the allowable earnings for all income assistance recipients from $200 to $400 a month. This gives people a chance to improve their circumstances by taking whatever part-time or casual work they can manage, without having that little income cut from their already meagre welfare cheques.

And then there was the recent decision to end the claw-back of parental child support payments from income assistance payments.

The province has for many years run a costly child maintenance enforcement program to track down (mostly) deadbeat dads and force them to pay at least a token amount to support their children. Now when they pay child support to a single parent on income assistance, they will at least have the satisfaction of knowing the children actually receive the extra benefit.

These harsh, historic policies were built around a philosophy that welfare is a temporary last resort, to be withdrawn as soon as some other source of income is identified. That is a valid if unfashionable position to take on behalf of working taxpayers who pay for all this, but it only makes sense if the income assistance recipient has a realistic option.

For those who are already in the entry-level job market, the minimum wage goes up 20 cents an hour in September, from $10.25 to $10.45. This is the beginning of an annual review that will tie the wage to the consumer price index.

A paltry sum, to be sure, but anyone who still thinks jacking the minimum wage up to $15 an hour is a magic solution that won’t cost some entry-level jobs is clinging to a socialist dream world.

• I have been contacted by several low-income seniors who read my recent column on B.C.’s Seniors’ Advocate. They were asking where to find out if they are eligible for support programs such as the SAFER rent subsidy, assistance for Medical Services Plan premiums, property tax deferment and grants to help with home modifications for disabilities.

I apologize for this oversight. One place to start is the Seniors’ Advocate toll-free information line, 1-877-952-3181, weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For web information on the SAFER rent program, click here.

Other resources for seniors are available at seniorsbc

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Bulkley Valley tourist industry adjusts to salmon closure

Businesses maintain philosophy of cooperation and enthusiasm as tourists begin arriving in Smithers.

Northwest family doctors win awards for B.C. launch of CHANGE Program

Northwest family doctors win awards for B.C. launch of CHANGE Program

Employer health tax may strain local governments

RDBN on the hook for an extra $24,000 by 2020

UPDATED: Horgan says B.C. defending its interests in Trans Mountain pipeline

Canadian finance minister’s update comes the same day Kinder Morgan shareholders plan to meet

Houston working around the clock to address flooding

River Forecast Centre upgrades advisory for Houston

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

B.C. tech company will power Uber Elevate

Moli and Uber announce research and development partnership.

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Most Read