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welfare and debt

Hot off the press: Your Welfare Rights

Your Welfare RightsWe’ve reprinted our popular booklet Your Welfare Rights. There have been some changes to the law since the booklet was last printed in April 2012. These changes are highlighted and explained at the beginning of the booklet. Previous versions of the booklet and/or update insert should be recycled.

This booklet explains in plain language:

  • who can get welfare,
  • how to apply for welfare,
  • what benefits are available,
  • your responsibilities while on welfare, and
  • how to appeal a decision about your benefits.

The booklet also has detailed information on who can help you and where to get more information.

Help us test Your Welfare Rights!

Test Your Welfare Rights

We’re working on improving our booklet, Your Welfare Rights, which includes finding out how easy it is for people to use. To do this, we need a group of volunteers.

Do you have clients with low incomes in the lower mainland who:

  • are either on or need to apply for Income assistance, hardship assistance, PWD, or PPMB;
  • read and speak English;
  • can attend a 90-minute, in-person interview with a researcher; and
  • would benefit from a $75 IGA gift card in return for helping us?

Note: We would like to see clients with some barriers to accessing information (lower literacy, ESL, disability, mental health problems that would not make it impossible for them to contribute to our project). Please note that clients must be able to sit through a 90 minute interview. Finally, we will not able to interview clients who, in your experience, might be violent or threatening to staff.

If so, we would like them to help us test Your Welfare Rights. Please have them email their contact information to publications@lss.bc.ca.

Once we have their info, we will call them for a brief (5–10 minute) screening interview. We will ask some personal questions about their situation. Screening will end on November 28, 2013. Eligible volunteers may be asked to come to LSS for a 90-minute interview.

Please pass along this information to anyone who fits the criteria and might be interested.

Clarification: Your Welfare Rights is not disappearing

Your Welfare Rights

A few weeks ago we put out an update on the status of our booklet Your Welfare Rights. In the update we mentioned that print copies of the book were running out and that, for the time being, it would only be available online.

Recently at our Provincial Advocates Conference, we heard from quite a few people who were upset that we weren’t going to publish the booklet again. This isn’t the case. Firstly it was fantastic to see so many people who care so passionately about this booklet and to hear how helpful it is. Secondly, we should clarify that Your Welfare Rights is not going away. Currently, the booklet is only available online as a PDF. Right now, we are working on updating all the information in Your Welfare Rights and once that is ready, it will be available again in print. This should be in the near future.

For the time being though, please use the online version and take care of any print copies that you might still have. Apologies for any confusion that the last update may have caused.

Update on Your Welfare Rights

Your Welfare RightsWe’ve run out of copies of Your Welfare Rights. As you’re reading this, we’re updating the booklet to include the information from the 2012 insert, as well as making sure that all the information in the booklet is up to date.

As it stands, we aren’t sure when the new version will be available, or even if it will stay in booklet form. (For anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes complications of publishing, it’s because the booklet is physically getting too big to be contained by the binding.)

The online version is still current and available on the LSS website. Please use this online version as much as possible, and make careful use of the hard copies you have left. Feel free to print or photocopy and hand out sections to your clients as needed.

For those who don’t know, Your Welfare Rights is a popular booklet for people in British Columbia who need welfare. It explains:

  • who is eligible for welfare,
  • how to apply for welfare,
  • what your rights and responsibilities are while you’re on welfare, and
  • what benefits are available.

The booklet also has a comprehensive resources section with information on how to find an advocate and how to get legal information and help.

Thank you for your patience as we work to provide you with the most up-to-date information on this subject matter.

Hot off the press: Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law

Consumer-Law-and-CreditDebt-Law-17-lssWe’ve updated our online-only version of Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law for paralegals, legal information counsellors, and lawyers with clients who have consumer or debt problems. Covering 46 topics, it also includes updated consumer and debtor statutes, case citations, and consumer and debtor resources.

We’ve revised the language of the manual to make it more user-friendly and added a few new features, like tips on how to search the PDF and internal and external cross-reference links for all “see” or “see also” references.

Please note that while most of the manual is up to date as of November 2012, Chapter 33: Limitations is up to date as of June 2013, as a new Limitations Act came into effect on June 1.

This edition is dedicated to Allan Parker, QC, who was the legal reviewer for several editions of this manual, and who passed away unexpectedly while working on his last review.

The Union Gospel Mission’s Summer Connect

Last week, we were at the Union Gospel Mission’s annual Summer Connect event. Summer Connect brings together 35 different social agencies in one location. The idea is to put all these service providers under one roof so that homeless and other poverty-stricken people can access services without many of the barriers they would otherwise have to face. To those without an address, transportation, or literacy, many of these services become inaccessible.

This year was one of busiest we’ve ever seen. We were there with an information table and an outreach worker ready to answer questions. By the time the doors opened at 11 a.m., there was a lineup of people waiting to get in. Over the course of the day, around 150 people stopped by the table to ask questions and look at the publications we had brought. Your Welfare Rights was one of the more popular publications we handed out. All in all, we answered 86 different legal questions that ranged from housing issues through family law, through criminal law, to child protection, and everything in between.

Summer Connect is a great chance for us to reach out to a community who we may not get to see on a regular basis. Not only is it a good opportunity for them to access the services they need, but it’s also a good opportunity for us to find out where the gaps in services are and how we can address them.

Thanks to United Gospel Mission for organizing this event!

Big changes coming to welfare

It’s been a turbulent time lately to be a community worker. Many areas of law are changing right now: the Family Law Act is replacing the old Family Relations Act, the immigration process is being overhauled, and now income assistance will undergo a number of changes this fall.

Recently, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) announced major changes to income assistance policies. Most of these changes do not come into effect until October 1, 2012, but there are some exceptions. Most notably, the expanded School Start-up Supplement came into effect on July 3, 2012. This change increases the amount of the supplement and expands it to cover people on income assistance, disability assistance, or hardship assistance with a dependent child in school.

For a summary of all the changes, see the MSD website.

Hot off the press: Your Welfare Rights

Your Welfare Rights: A Guide to BC Employment and Assistance has been revised and reprinted and is now available to order. This popular booklet is for people in British Columbia who need welfare. It explains who is eligible for welfare, how to apply for welfare, what your rights and responsibilities are while you’re on welfare, and what benefits are available. The booklet also has a comprehensive resources section with information on how to find an advocate and how to get legal information and help.

Hot off the press: Can’t Pay Your Mortgage?

Can’t Pay Your Mortgage?

What you can do if you’re facing foreclosure

This revised booklet is for homeowners who can’t make their mortgage payments, or have received a Petition to go to court. It explains what they can do when lenders try to take their properties because of missed payments (foreclosure). The 2012 edition incorporates changes to Supreme Court Civil Rules that occurred after publication of the previous edition.

A flow chart at the beginning of the booklet shows the two options you can choose when facing foreclosure — solving the problem without going to court or following the steps of the court process. The rest of the booklet describes these options in detail. “Solve the problem” explains about reinstating or redeeming a mortgage. “Go to court” covers how the court action starts, what steps you can take to prepare for and appear in court, and what happens when your home is sold.

The redesigned two-column, two-colour format with visual accents increases the readability of information. Icons of small houses alert readers about specific points, and the house motif highlights answers to homeowners’ questions about foreclosure.

The 14-page booklet concludes with information about where to find required court forms online and the instructions to complete them, how to prepare an Affidavit, and a list of legal agencies that can provide more help.

Ministry of Social Development offices closed March 30

An important notice for community workers and advocates

In order to upgrade their computer systems, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will be closing all offices on Friday, March 30, 2012. This outage will also include phone services and online applications. Service will resume on April 2, 2012.

Please keep this in mind and plan ahead if you or your clients need anything from MSD that has to happen on that day or be completed before the end of March.

If you or your clients do have urgent needs on March 30, the ministry will post an emergency contact phone number on its website closer to that date.

Our thanks to Alison Ward, lawyer at the Community Legal Assistance Society, for providing the above entry.