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

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Castlegar Rebels take flight in win over Grand Forks

Team speed was too much for the visiting Grand Forks Border Bruins to handle.

Property crime on the rise in Grand Forks: RCMP

Grand Forks RCMP sat down with the Gazette to talk property crime and community solutions.

RDKB elects Russell as board chair

Grace McGregor will be vice-chair of the board.

MLA Larson wants to abolish daylight saving time

Okanagan-Boundary MLA put forward private member bill

VIDEO: Best photos of the Supermoon 2017

At its closest, the Frost Moon was about 363,300 km away from the Earth

UPDATE: Liberal Hogg wins South Surrey-White Rock byelection over Conservative Findlay

B.C. riding to be represented by non-conservative for first time in decades

Six-year-old boy needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Mother of sick Sooke boy asks government to help fund treatments

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

Be ladder safe both at work and home

WorkSafeBC wants you to keep safe while hanging those Christmas lights this year

B.C. overdose deaths surpass 1,200

96 people died of illicit drug overdoses in October

Crown appeals stay against Jamie Bacon in Surrey Six killings

B.C.’s prosecution service says judge’s decision reveals ‘errors of law’

Feds agree to give provinces 75 per cent of pot tax revenues

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the agreement today

Red Scorpion associates cuffed in drug-trafficking bust

Kamloops RCMP lay charges in connection to Red Scorpion drug trafficking ring

Most Read