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.
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 VAFCS’s 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.”
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.