Introduction to Welfare (21:I)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 14, 2020.



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 Poverty Reduction (the Ministry; formerly the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation). 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.

B. Welfare policy

While the government’s policy on welfare is not law, it is an important lens for understanding welfare law in BC. Ministry policy sets out the practical details of how welfare is to be administered. The Ministry’s welfare policies are contained in “BC Employment and Assistance Policy and Procedure Manual”, which is available at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/policies-for-government/bcea-policy-and-procedure-manual The Policy and Procedure Manual incorporates MSDPR policy with the rules set out in the welfare legislation. It is an extremely useful tool for researching welfare law and policy.

C. 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 $710.00 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 $1033.42 to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities (or $52 per month more if the person chooses not to have a bus pass).
  • 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 $757.92 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 $710.00 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 $757.92 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 $ 1,133.42 per month to cover housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and all other basic necessities (or $52 per month more if the person chooses not to have a bus pass).

© Copyright 2020, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.


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