A report from the B.C. Ombudsperson is calling on the ministry of social development and poverty reduction to pay back people on income assistance whose benefits were improperly calculated.
In a special report, Working Within the Rules: Supporting Employment For Income Assistance Recipients, ombudsperson Jay Chalke says the ministry failed to follow the law by imposing a one-month suspension of the earnings exemption.
The exemption is in place to encourage income assistance recipients to work and allow them to keep a portion of earned wages on top of their monthly income assistance payments.
The investigation started from a complaint that the ministry imposed the one-month hiatus from the exemption and the report found the ministry was aware the policy was inconsistent with the law, but continued to apply it.
The impact saw 500 instances a year, an estimated 3,700 people, denied up to $700 since 2012.
Among Chalk’s four recommendations is the full reimbursement to those who received less income assistance than they should have.
“I am pleased that the ministry has accepted all of our recommendations, and that as a result the ministry’s policy is being changed to ensure that its decisions about eligibility for the earnings exemption are consistent with the ministry’s legal framework,” Chalk said in a statement.
Chalke says his office will continue to monitor the recommendations and will report publicly on progress.