Introduction to Welfare (21:I)
This chapter gives a general overview of a very complex area of law governed by lengthy and detailed legislation. It is not designed to be used on its own. Users of this chapter should be sure in each case to refer to the applicable welfare legislation.
A. What is welfare?
Welfare is a basic form of income support provided by the state to those in need. In BC, the provincial government administers welfare via the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (the MSDSI). Welfare is a “payer of last resort”, which means that in order to receive welfare, a person must demonstrate that he or she has exhausted all other forms of support. This chapter will use the term “welfare” to describe all forms of income support provided by the BC government under the province’s welfare legislation.
See Chapter 22: Referrals for additional referrals.
Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)
B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Disability Alliance of BC
First United Church
Kettle Friendship Society Advocacy Centre
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
C. The Welfare Legislation
Welfare law in BC is governed by the following statutes and regulations, all of which are available at http://www.bclaws.ca:
Employment and Assistance Act, SBC 2002, c 40 [EAA];
Employment and Assistance Regulation, BC Reg 263/2002 [EAR];
Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act, SBC 2002, c 40 [EAPWDA]; and
Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Regulation, BC Reg 265/2002 [EAPWDR].
Forms regulations under the EAA and EAPWDA create many of the forms that MSDSI uses in administering welfare. See also the Child in the Home of a Relative Transition Regulation, BC Reg 48/2010.
Please keep in mind the following important points when dealing with a welfare law issue.
- Be current. The statutes and especially the regulations governing welfare in BC can change often. Therefore, it is very important that students check the BC Laws website and confirm that one is dealing with the most current legislation. Occasionally, legislation on the MSDSI’s website is updated faster than BC Laws. Legislation is found on the MSDSI’s site at: http://www.eia.gov.bc.ca/ministry/leg.htm
- Be comprehensive. Be sure to read the relevant section of the appropriate act or regulation in its entirety and to scan the legislation for other relevant sections. The legislation is complex and often a number of provisions work together to govern a particular program or benefit.
- Be alert to mandatory versus discretionary wording. Welfare legislation contains a mix of mandatory provisions (requiring the government to do or provide something) and discretionary provisions (which permit, but do not require, the government to act in a particular way). Consider whether the legislative provisions relevant to the client’s case are mandatory or discretionary.
D. Welfare policy
While the government’s policy on welfare is not law, it is an important lens for understanding welfare law in BC. MSDSI policy sets out the practical details of how welfare is to be administered. MSDSI’s welfare policies are contained in an “Online Resource”, which is available at http://www.gov.bc.ca/meia/online_resource/or_index/. The Online Resource incorporates MSDSI policy with the rules set out in the welfare legislation.
It is an extremely useful tool for researching welfare law and policy.
E. Types of Welfare
Under the current welfare legislation in BC, the following types of welfare benefits are available to those who qualify:
- INCOME ASSISTANCE. This is a basic monthly support and shelter allowance provided under the Employment and Assistance Act [EAA]. This is the benefit most people get when they receive welfare.
On income assistance, a single person under age 65 currently receives $610.00 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities.
- DISABILITY ASSISTANCE. This is a slightly higher, but still modest, monthly support and shelter allowance provided under the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act [EAPWDA] to those who meet the definition of “person with disabilities” in s 2 of that Act.
On disability assistance, a single person under age 65 currently receives $906.42 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities.
- PPMB ASSISTANCE. This is a special form of income assistance for people who have “persistent multiple barriers” to employment according to the criteria set out in s 2 of the Employment and Assistance Regulation [EAR]. It is for people who have a medical condition that makes it difficult or impossible to look for work or to keep a job. Technically, it falls within the definition of “income assistance” but this chapter will refer to it as a distinct form of welfare benefits.
On PPMB assistance, a single person under age 65 currently receives $657.92 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities.
- HARDSHIP ASSISTANCE. This is a support and shelter allowance provided under s 5 of the EAA and s 6 of the EAPWDA to persons who are not otherwise eligible for income assistance, PPMB, or disability assistance (see also part 4 of the EAR and part 4 of the EAPWDR). Some (but not all) categories of hardship assistance are repayable, i.e. a person receiving hardship assistance may accrue a debt owing to the government. It is usually temporary assistance. People with the PPMB or PWD designation may also receive hardship assistance, if they are not otherwise eligible for PPMB or PWD benefits. Therefore, there are different rates of hardship assistance.
On regular hardship assistance, a single person under age 65 currently receives a maximum of $610.00 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities. On PPMB hardship assistance, a single person under age 65 currently receives $657.92 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities. On disability hardship assistance, a single person under age 65 currently receives $906.42 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities.
- HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS. Recipients of income assistance, PPMB, and disability assistance may qualify for various health supplements from the MSDSI. See Part 5, division 5 of the EAR, and the EAPWDR. The MSDSI has a useful table summarizing health supplements that may be available, at http://www.sdsi.gov.bc.ca/forms/rfs/health_supplements_eligibility.pdf
- SUPPLEMENTS These are other forms of assistance that may be provided on a case-by-case basis for specific purposes set out under the EAA and EAPWDA and their associated regulations. See especially Part 5 of the EAR, Part 5 of the EAPWDR, and MSDSI website.
F. Useful Publications by Outside Agencies
In addition to this LSLAP manual chapter, students may wish to refer to the following publications:
- BC Disability Benefits Help Sheets. These 15 guides are published by Disability Alliance BC. They are available at http://www.disabilityalliancebc.org and cover many areas relating to applying for benefits and appealing decisions.
- Your Welfare Rights, a plain language guide published by the Legal Services Society for welfare clients and advocates. It is available at http://www.lss.bc.ca and gives an excellent overview of welfare issues.