Office of the Premier, Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, Families Sector, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region, Kootenay Rockies Region, Northern B.C. Region, Provincewide, Thompson / Okanagan Region, Vancouver Coast & Mountains Region, Vancouver Island / Coast Region

Common Sense Changes Encourage Work, Protect Vulnerable Families

/2012/06/common-sense-changes-encourage-work-protect-vulnerable-families.html
Families Monday, June 11, 2012 10:55 AM


VANCOUVER - Premier Christy Clark today unveiled the first pillar of her Families First Agenda: Supporting Vulnerable Families. These changes and initiatives will help build a stronger foundation for B.C. families to help them become self-sufficient.

"A good-paying and secure job is one of the most important contributions to a healthy, happy and strong family," said Premier Clark. "Our government is making balanced changes to remove barriers to employment for people who want to return to the workforce while providing adequate support for those most in need. We believe all British Columbians want to be independent and self-sufficient, and we are working to make sure government programs are supporting opportunities to participate in our growing economy."

The changes, most of which will come into effect later this year, will help vulnerable families attain better financial outcomes, assist individuals with disabilities lead more independent lives and help people capable of work avoid the cycle of income-assistance dependence.

To improve financial outcomes for vulnerable families, changes include:

  • Increasing the school startup supplement so that families now receive $100 for every child aged 5-11, and $175 for every child 12 and over.
  • Providing access to dental services for children of families on hardship so parents can take their children in for regular dental checkups.
  • Exempting income tax refunds so individuals and families on income assistance will be able to keep their full income tax refund.

To assist individuals with disabilities to lead more independent lives, changes include:

  • Individuals receiving disability assistance will be able to earn up to $800 per month and still receive their full benefits.
  • Providing the flexibility to calculate earnings on an annual basis, rather than monthly, so individuals with disabilities can maximize their earning during times when they are feeling healthy and able to work to an annual total yearly exemption of $9,600.

To help families avoid the cycle of income assistance dependency, changes include:

  • Extending work search requirements for new applicants from three weeks to five weeks.
  • Instituting a modest $200 monthly earnings exemption for all expected-to-work clients, regardless of family size, to give employable individuals a better opportunity to get job skills and experience, take advantage of short-term or temporary work, and better provide for their families while receiving assistance.
  • Enhancing employment planning to support people transitioning off income assistance and returning to work.

"These changes strike a balance by providing the supports people need to get back into the workforce, while helping to improve financial outcomes for vulnerable individuals and families," said Premier Clark. "We know that every family wants to have the opportunity to grow, prosper and live in a safe community."

"These changes to some of the more straightforward policy items will immediately improve the income-assistance system," said Minister of Social Development Stephanie Cadieux. "We will continue to work with families, businesses, community members and others to bring together ideas, solutions and resources addressing the issues around income and disability assistance in B.C."

In addition to these changes to income and disability assistance, in April the Ministry of Social Development opened 85 centres in communities throughout the province to deliver the new Employment Program of B.C., which provides the supports and services to get unemployed British Columbians back into the workforce quickly.

Over the coming weeks, more ideas and actions will be put forward to support our commitment to supporting families in B.C. These family-first initiatives, part of the Families First Agenda, will help support vulnerable families and provide them with supports and tools that will help participate more fully in their communities.

A backgrounder follows.

Contacts:

Sara MacIntyre
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
250 580-7701

David Haslam
Communications Manager
Ministry of Social Development
250 356-1670 Families First Agenda: Supporting Vulnerable

BACKGROUNDER

Family-first policy changes for B.C. families

Improve financial outcomes for vulnerable families

  • Increase the school startup supplement so that families now receive $100 for every child aged 5-11, and $175 for every child 12 and over.
  • Provide access to dental services for children of families on hardship so parents can take their children in for regular dental checkups.
  • Child-benefit exemptions for families on hardship.
  • Families on assistance, who are eligible for a lump-sum federal Family Bonus refund, will get a replacement top-up from the ministry. When their refund comes, it will be exempt except for up to the amount of one month's assistance if it was provided in advance by the ministry as top-up.
  • Increasing the maximum top-up for the Family Bonus from $123.50, to $181.41, and continue to match future federal increases, which mean more money every month for those families who are receiving the Family Bonus top-up.
  • Exempting income-tax refunds so individuals and families on income assistance will be able to keep their full income-tax refund.

Modest increases to personal assets

  • A single person can now retain assets, including cash, up to $2,000.
  • Couples or families will able to keep up to $4,000 in assets, including cash.
  • For single disability assistance clients, their asset limit, including cash, is increasing to $5,000.
  • For couples and families receiving disability assistance, they can retain up to $10,000 in assets, including cash.
  • Expected to Work clients will be able to keep a car valued up to $10,000.

Mandatory income tax filing and relieve the claw back on income tax benefits

  • Effective spring 2013, mandatory income tax filing to ensure individuals and families are getting all the tax credits to which they are entitled.
  • Appropriate exemptions will be in place to protect anyone who may be exposed to risk, such as fleeing an abusive partner.
  • Exempting income tax refunds to maximize the monetary benefit available to clients when they file. Under current policy, all provincial and federal tax credits are already exempt.
  • A Community Benefit Fund, intended for first-time tax filers, is being established to provide additional community level capacity to help people living with disabilities access RDSPs, file their taxes and improve their financial literacy.

Providing assistance for parents without status who are fleeing abuse

  • Parents without status who are fleeing abuse and who cannot leave the country with their children can receive assistance while they work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to resolve their legal status.

Assist individuals with disabilities to lead more independent lives -

Earnings exemption enhancements for disability assistance clients

  • Individuals receiving disability assistance will be able to earn up to $800 per month and still receive their full benefits.
  • A couple who are both collecting disability assistance can earn up to $1,600 per month without impacting their benefits.
  • Providing the flexibility to calculate earnings on an annual basis rather than monthly will help to address the range of circumstances persons with disabilities may face, including episodic conditions. Individuals with disabilities can maximize their earning during times when they are feeling healthy and able to work to an annual total yearly exemption of $9,600.
  • The waiting period for claiming earnings exemptions for former disability assistance clients who find they have to reapply for assistance will be waived.

Trust and asset enhancements

  • People on disability assistance can now invest up to $200,000 - double the previous amount - in a non-discretionary trust account. This is the same amount that individuals can keep in their Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).
  • Individuals will be able to access up to $8,000 per year from their trust account for any other cost related to promoting independence - nearly double the previous annual allowance - and make their own choices about how best to use these funds.

Help individuals and families avoid the cycle of income assistance dependency -

Reinstate earnings exemptions for employable clients

  • Instituting a moderate $200 monthly earnings exemption for all expected-to-work clients, regardless of family size, to give employable individuals a better opportunity to get job skills and experience, take advantage of short-term or temporary work, and better provide for their families while receiving assistance.

Extend work search for new applicants to five weeks

  • For new income assistance applicants, the work search period is being extended to five weeks to strengthen income assistance applicants' efforts to find employment.
  • Returning clients will still be required to undergo a three-week work search before they are eligible to receive income assistance.

Expand Application and intensity of work search requirements

  • Remove time limits (previously 24 months in a five-year period), and replace with intensified work-search requirements to help ensure that those on income assistance are using all available resources to find work.
  • Clients with an immediate need for food, shelter or urgent medical attention will receive hardship assistance while still being required to undergo a three-week (for returning clients) or five-week (for new clients) work search.
  • Enhance employment planning to support people transitioning off income assistance and returning to work.

Contacts:

Sara MacIntyre
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
250 580-7701

David Haslam
Communications Manager
Ministry of Social Development
250 356-1670


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