I'm Being Investigated by the Welfare Ministry
If the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction ("the Ministry") believes that you have received welfare benefits you shouldn't have, they may ask you to repay them. The same applies for the Administering Authority for welfare on an Indian reserve. This is called an overpayment. If the Ministry believes that you have received the benefit through fraud, or providing false or misleading information, it will investigate and may have you charged with an offence under the Criminal Code or provincial welfare laws. Fraud means receiving assistance as a result of providing information that you know is false or misleading.
|Take any accusation of welfare fraud very seriously. Bans on welfare eligibility because of fraud convictions were eliminated on August 1, 2015. But there are still serious consequences of being convicted of welfare fraud. In most cases at least $100 per month will be deducted from your welfare check to pay the Ministry back for money you were convicted of obtaining by fraud or through providing false or misleading information. This deduction will last for at least 12 months. If you were convicted of fraud under the Criminal Code, the deduction will last until all of the funds your conviction related to are repaid. (The exception is that the Ministry can choose to deduct less than $100 per month if you are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless because of the deduction, or if the deduction puts your health or the health of someone else in your family at risk).|
- If you are being investigated by the Ministry, contact an advocate for help. (See the listing for PovNet in the Resource List of this Guide for contact and website information for welfare advocates in your area.)
- If you are being investigated and think you may be charged with welfare fraud, immediately contact a lawyer for advice. Many criminal lawyers will provide some advice at no charge. Use the internet to search for criminal lawyers in your area or see the Yellow Pages. It is almost always advisable that you don't discuss the accusation with a Ministry investigator before you have spoken with a lawyer.
- If you are charged with welfare fraud under the Criminal Code or the provincial welfare law, look at the section in this Guide "I've been charged with a criminal (or youth) offence and have to go to court." Make sure that you apply for legal aid, for a criminal lawyer to represent you.
What happens next
The Ministry will continue their investigation and will probably want to speak with you. This can be tricky. You have to provide certain information to the Ministry in order to continue receiving benefits, but it is generally not a good idea to discuss anything with them that could lead to a criminal charge and conviction. Be guided by legal advice, and speak with a welfare advocate about what information you need to provide to the Ministry in order to continue receiving benefits.
Where to get help
See the Resource List of this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- Legal aid representation, to see if you qualify for legal aid.
- Criminal duty counsel, to see if you qualify for assistance if you have to appear in court.
- PovNet, including their Find An Advocate" feature for welfare advocates near you.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Alison Ward, March 2018.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
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