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

Festival of Mini-Trees raises almost $7,000 for Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation

Twenty Christmas trees decked out with merchandise, gift cards were given out in raffle draw

Caledonia Kermode basketball team holds first-ever Men’s Health Night fundraiser

Approximately $250 was raised during the senior boys’ home opener game

Here are the top earners at Coast Mountains School District

Audited financial report released for 2018/2019 fiscal year

Skeena Voices | The wild path

Courtenay Crucil is a nature-based therapist and herbalist who helps people with the earth in mind

Northwest B.C. physician receives Medal of Good Citizenship Award

Dr. Peter Newbery was one of 18 people in B.C. to get provincial recognition

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read