FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PROVINCE QUIETLY ENDS LIFETIME BAN FOR WELFARE FRAUD
VICTORIA – On August 1, 2015, the BC Government quietly amended the province’s welfare legislation, (the “Employment and Assistance Act,” and the “Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act”), by order in council to remove lifetime bans on welfare eligibility for the province’s most vulnerable citizens.
Unfortunately, it appears almost no effort has been made to make such individuals affected by the ban aware of the significant change in their eligibility.
By ending the lifetime ban the BC government has finally done the right thing, nearly a decade after the same practice was ended in Ontario. Imposing lifetime bans to income assistance recipients in Canada has proven to have dire consequences; including increased homelessness, increased pressures on the criminal justice system, deleterious health consequences, and even death.
Advocacy organizations like the Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) have long advocated for an end to the unnecessarily punitive practice. Banning recipients has been an ineffective and cruel public policy. Now that the practice has ended, TAPS wants to get the word out so that those individuals who have suffered under the ban may once again find access to income supports.
Zoë Macmillan, a practising lawyer and legal advocate for the society states that, “To date, it appears the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation has made very little effort to advise low income individuals of the changes. Without this information many of the province’s most impoverished citizens will continue to struggle needlessly.”
It is unsettling that the government has neglected to make the public aware of this significant change. When the lifetime ban was first introduced in 2002 it was well-publicized by then Minister of Social Development, Murray Coell. According to the ministry website, there have been no press releases publicizing the repealing of the lifetime ban. This despite at least nine other releases being made since the repeal took effect.
While the ministry has demonstrated clear communication with respect to other initiatives and changes to the legislation, no attempts have been made to make the public aware of this significant change to eligibility requirements.
Advocacy staff at TAPS have witnessed the impact of the ban on individuals and their families over the last 12 years. While we are disappointed the Ministry has failed to make efforts to publicize the end of the lifetime ban, we are hopeful that this information becomes known to individuals needing support. Individuals affected by the ban are encouraged to reapply for income assistance immediately either in person at their local Ministry office or online at www.iaselfserve.gov.bc.ca.
For more information regarding lifetime welfare bans see: Fighting the Enemy: Ending the Life Time Ban on Income Assistance, Taproot, Issue #103, (June-July 2015).
TAPS has provided free, face-to-face legal advocacy for South Island residents with income assistance, disability benefits, employment standards and tenancy issues since 1989.
Zoë Macmillan, Lawyer, Legal Advocate – TAPS
Stephen Portman, Advocacy Lead – TAPS