B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. (Submitted)

B.C. to reimburse docked income assistance to thousands of recipients

Province had incorrectly docked up to $700 from more than 500 people a year

The province will reimburse thousands of people up to $700 each after an ombudsperson investigation found that the government miscalculated their income assistance payments.

In a report released Tuesday, the B.C. Ombudsperson said that the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction had incorrectly denied earnings exemptions to more than 500 people a year since 2012.

In B.C., income assistance recipients are docked some assistance per month based on how much outside income they bring in.

However, most recipients qualify for an monthly earning exemption of between $400 and $700. An exemption of $600 is available for people with a dependent child and a $700 exemption is available for those with a dependent child with a condition that prevents the caretaker from working more than 30 hours a week or those who have “persistent multiple barriers to employment.”

All other recipients get a $400 exemption, except people who have “no dependent children, no fixed address, and in the Minister’s opinion, is not taking up permanent residence in the community in which the person submits an application for income assistance.”

READ MORE: B.C. income assistance clients left on hold

However, under the province’s policy, the earning exemption is waived for the first month after someone applies for income assistance.

The investigation stemmed from a complaint by an income recipient assistant (dubbed Ms. Smith) who complained that she had been unfairly denied the earnings exemption in March 2016.

Smith, who had a serious medical condition that made her eligible for a $700 exemption, was able to work from time-to-time, meaning she had to reapply for income assistance.

As a result, she was regularly denied the earning exemption.

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke found that the province acted wrongly by continuing to deny the earning exemption for the first month to all applicants, despite having manually made the exemption for Smith once her complaint was received.

Chalke said that the ministry “acted unjustly and oppressively” in making recipients who were denied the exemption apply to have the ministry reconsider.

The ministry has been told to reimburse all income assistance recipients who missed out on the earning exemption since October 2012 by October of this year.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Inquiry begins into West Kootenay RCMP shooting death

Const. Jason Tait faces charges in the 2015 shooting death of Waylon Jesse Edey in Castlegar

Minor injuries in car, semi accident near Greenwood

Road conditions were likely a factor in the Friday morning crash.

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

LETTER: Seniors home care, day programs expanding, Adrian Dix says

B.C. health minister responds to latest Seniors Advocate report

Why film photography is less work (and more fun) than digital

A conversation with Nelson photographers Fred Rosenberg and Thomas Nowaczynski

Nelson tech innovation centre asks city for $50k

New facility will be located in the CPR station building

B.C. woman wins Instagram celebrity’s boob job contest

‘Kirill was here’ held a contest for women to win a boob job and a trip to Miami

Man pulls over to help injured owl, gets hit by SUV

Chase RCMP say owl flew away while they were on scene

New food guide addresses ‘elephant’ in the room – alcohol

Experts welcomed the tougher stance on an issue they say demands a co-ordinated strategy

Cannabis sales up 25% in November as overall retail sales fall 0.9%

Cannabis store sales totalled $54 million in the first full month of legal recreational pot sales

Most Read