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welfare and debt

Help us test Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law!

We are still looking for testers for Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law! LSS is offering a $25 honorarium to participants.

If you’re an advocate, paralegal, or lawyer who uses (or could use) this manual to research your clients’ civil law issues, would you please consider volunteering for our usability test? Usability testing is an important way of evaluating if a publication is working for the audience and trying to make improvements – we are testing the publication, not you! The session would take approximately 45 minutes to an hour and needs to take place in the Greater Vancouver area. If you’re a member of our target audience and could spare some time to help us, please email publications@lss.bc.ca. We can offer you a $25 honorarium for your time. Thank you.

Update on Your Welfare Rights

LSS has run out of printed copies of Your Welfare Rights. We are in the process of updating this publication to reflect current law and will have new printed copies ready to order by March 31, 2012. If you still have copies of the existing edition, please distribute them by March 31, or email us to arrange for redistribution to cover the need in the meantime. The online version is still available on the LSS website.

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

Help us test Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law!

If you’re an advocate, paralegal, or lawyer who uses (or could use) this manual to research your clients’ civil law issues, would you please consider volunteering for our usability test? The test session would take approximately 45 minutes to an hour and needs to take place in the Greater Vancouver area. If you’re a member of our target audience and could spare some time to help us, please send us an email with a date and time within the next four weeks that is convenient for you. Thank you.

Repeal and grandfathering of the Community Volunteer Supplement

On August 9, 2012, the Employment and Assistance Regulation and the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Regulation were amended to repeal the sections under which the Community Volunteer Supplement (CVS) and the monthly incentive supplement were provided by the Ministry of Social Development (the ministry).

The CVS provided a payment of $100 per month to eligible individuals who volunteered for a non-profit agency. The monthly incentive supplement provided a stipend for people with disabilities who participated in a vocational, self-improvement, or other program to prepare themselves for employment.

Two groups of people can still get the CVS:

  • people who received it before August 9 — as long as they are on welfare and participate in a community volunteer program; and
  • people who were on the ministry’s CVS waitlist as of August 8, 2011 — if they complete their application for CVS, continue to receive welfare, and volunteer about 10 hours a month for a non-profit agency.

The ministry says that it may introduce another measure to encourage volunteerism. However, that has not happened yet.

The ministry says that CVS is no longer provided under the authority of the welfare legislation. and that people in the two groups above can’t apply for reconsideration or appeal of any decision to reduce, refuse, or cut off CVS benefits. However, there is a good legal argument that they have the right to do so.

Alison Ward, lawyer at the Community Legal Assistance Society, asks that if you come across such cases, to please post them to PovNet (if you are a member of the PovNet welfare list), or to contact her directly.

Our thanks to Alison for providing the above entry.

Change to eligibility for shelter benefits when a child is removed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development

A policy change by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will help parents who receive welfare benefits and whose children have been removed by the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) due to alleged child protection concerns. This change took effect on May 3, 2011.

Under the new policy, the family’s shelter rate will continue to include the children as part of the family unit (even though they are temporarily living outside the home). The shelter rate will include the children until either:

  • an MCFD social worker advises MSD that the parent is no longer actively working toward the return of the child; or
  • a continuing custody order is made in regard to the children (i.e., the child is placed in the permanent custody of MCFD).

Before this policy change, shelter benefits would include the children only if MCFD confirmed they would be returned to the parent’s care within 3 months. This meant many parents had to move into smaller, cheaper places that were often not appropriate for children to be returned to and children were kept in foster care longer, impeding family reunification.

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

Screening expanded to all Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program recipients

Effective September 1, 2011, families who receive benefits from the Ministry of Social Development through the Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) Program, and who started to receive CIHR benefits before 2007 will be required to undergo screening checks. In 2007, the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) introduced screening for all new CIHR applicants. Families who were already receiving CIHR benefits were exempt. The ministry recently reviewed this decision, and added screening for all families receiving CIHR benefits as a precautionary step to help ensure that no children are being put at risk.

Under the new screening requirements, each person age 18 or over living in a home that receives CIHR benefits must provide written consent for MCFD to conduct screening checks (unless that person has been screened before). Two kinds of checks will be done:

  • a Prior Contact Check: this check reviews any contact the adult may have had with either MCFD or a Delegated Aboriginal Agency; and
  • a criminal record check

If another adult (aged 18 or over) moves into the home or another child in the home turns 18, that person must agree to be screened by MCFD for continued CIHR eligibility.

MCFD will use the information obtained by these checks to decide whether the household poses any evidence of risk to the child on whose behalf CIHR benefits are paid.

Families must participate in the screening process to continue to receive CIHR benefits. Caregivers who agree to the screening will continue to receive CIHR benefits as long as the child remains in their home.

The ministry says that screening will begin with families caring for the youngest and most vulnerable children, and that they plan to complete the screening process by March 2012.

This change in policy affects families caring for approximately 1,800 children and youth in BC. Affected families will receive letters notifying them of the new policy and requesting that they fill out consent forms agreeing to both kinds of checks.

For more information about changes to the CIHR policy, and about the Extended Family Program (the program that replaces CIHR for all new applicants), please visit the BC government website.

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

LSS wants your feedback on Your Welfare Rights: A Guide to BC Employment and Assistance

Your Welfare RightsLSS is currently revising Your Welfare Rights: A Guide to BC Employment and Assistance. In order to get the updated booklet out to you and your clients as soon as possible, we’re not planning extensive revisions to the look and feel of the publication right now, but we would like to take this opportunity to ensure the current structure/design of the booklet works for you and your clients. We’ll be collecting more extensive feedback on the entire publication next time we revise.

Here’s the survey; it’s quite short and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes of your time!

Please respond by Monday, November 14, 2011. Feel free to email Alex Peel, Publications Development Coordinator, if you have any questions or information to share about this or any other LSS publication.

Expanded orthotics coverage for people on social assistance

The BC Ministry of Social Development made changes to their orthotics program as of August 2, 2011. The program can now pay for a wider range of medical footwear and orthotic needs to help people with disabilities perform day-to-day activities. People whose requests for orthotics were refused before August 2, 2011 may want to re-apply to MSD for orthotic coverage under the new criteria.

MSD can now provide more items under the program, including:

  • off-the-shelf foot orthotics (such as prefabricated insoles and arch supports);
  • off-the-shelf orthopedic footwear (such as prefabricated diabetic footwear and wound care footwear) with a cost limit of $250 and a one-year replacement period; and
  • off-the-shelf footwear with a cost limit of $125 and a one-year replacement period only when required to accommodate a custom-made orthotic

The eligibility criteria for custom-made foot orthotics also changed. Some key changes are:

  • You no longer need to show that a custom-made foot orthotic is needed to prevent amputation of your foot.
  • The $375 cost limit was increased to $450.
  • The replacement period was decreased from one pair in four years, to one pair in three years.

More information on these changes can be found by visiting the Medical equipment — orthoses section of the ministry’s website. Our thanks to Alison Ward, Community Advocate Support Line lawyer at the Community Legal Assistance Society for providing the above entry.

Nutritional supplements and social assistance on reserve

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AAND; formerly Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) recently introduced a Monthly Nutritional Supplement and Tube Feed Supplement program.

For the Monthly Nutritional Supplement Program, people living on reserve:

  • who have the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) designation, and
  • are receiving disability assistance,

can apply to their Band social development worker for financial support for nutritional supplements and vitamins and minerals to help address chronic medical conditions. A total of up to $205 per month may be available.

To qualify, individuals must:

  • be receiving treatment from a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner for a chronic, progressive deterioration of health due to a severe medical condition,
  • require items to alleviate specific symptoms that are a direct result of the deterioration and are necessary to prevent imminent danger to life, and
  • have no other resources available to them.

For more information, please see AAND’s questions and answers and application instructions.

The Tube Feed Supplement Program is intended for eligible people who cannot eat or digest solid food. The supplement can be used to pay for liquid nutrition as well as the medical equipment and supplies needed to deliver it. To be eligible for a tube feed supplement, individuals must be:

  • living on reserve and receiving income assistance or disability assistance, or
  • living on reserve but temporarily residing in a licensed drug and alcohol facility; or
  • a dependent of an individual described above; or
  • a child living with a relative who receives the Child out of the Parental Home benefit from the band on that child’s behalf.

To qualify, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, or registered dietician must confirm:

  • that the individual must obtain his or her main source of nutrition through tube feeding;
  • what kind (and how much) of a nutritional product he or she needs;
  • how long he or she is expected to need tube feeding for; and
  • what other tube feeding supplies and equipment he or she needs.

For more information, see the AAND policy on the tube feed supplement. Our thanks to Alison Ward for providing the above entry.

Helping people with low incomes stay connected

LSS has partnered with the Community Voicemail project, a service that provides people in need with a local phone number, personal greeting, and means of retrieving voicemail messages. The service offers a weekly update for clients on community events, local services, places where they can get free meals, and more.

Through the project, LSS staff can provide phone numbers and voicemail access to clients who have neither a phone nor a place where messages can be left. The service is currently equipped to handle 604 and 778 area codes, and the long-term goal is to serve all of BC and, eventually, all of Canada.

Facts about community voice mailCoordinated by the Lu’ma Native Housing Society, the project has grown quickly, with over 50 partner groups from health, justice, employment, housing, and women’s services providing numbers to about 900 people. This project has already helped people find housing, receive healthcare, find employment, contact family, and receive social assistance. While the number of LSS clients without phones is declining, seven percent of legal aid applicants have neither a phone nor voicemail, so many of our clients may benefit from this service.

For more information about the Community Voicemail project, read their recent report.

BC also has agencies that offer free or low-cost Internet services that people with low incomes may benefit from. These services include the South Island Community Access Network, which provides computer access to the general public in many locations in the South Vancouver Island region, Victoria Free-Net, a not-for-profit Internet service provider that provides Internet service and facilities at low cost, and the Vancouver Community Network, which provides free services to individuals, community groups, and non-profit organizations.

If you know about other free or low-cost services that could assist people with low incomes, please comment and let us know.