Policy victories: Clawing back the clawbacks
First Call celebrated the BC government ending the clawback of child support from single parents on income and disability assistance. This reduced the depth of poverty for more than 5,400 BC children annually in September 2015.
Another 50 to 100 children have benefited from the elimination of the clawback to the CPP orphan’s benefit. Widowed welfare recipients received this benefit when their disabled partners died. However, families are still fighting to stop the clawback of the CPP survivor’s benefit for spouses.
In March 2016 government announced the elimination of the clawback of the Workers’ Compensation orphan’s benefit.
In October 2016, the Government eliminated the clawback of maternity and parental leave benefits from Employment Insurance. This was a result of a human rights complaint through the Community Legal Assistance Society from mother Jessica Alford. This is great news for the many families and children affected by this policy change.
Neil and Jake
There is still more work to do. Families like Neil and Jake continue to fight to stop the clawback of the CPP survivor’s benefit for spouses.
“If I could keep the death benefits my wife earned. I would enroll my son in more things, buy him more clothes and not pinch pennies”
Clawback of child support payments
This policy change means that, the government will finally stop picking the pockets of 5,400 of BC’s most vulnerable children. The average monthly child support payment in BC is just over $300. For families living in deep poverty, even being able to keep $50 or $100 will make a big difference. This means roughly $13.4 million will be going towards 5,400 of BC’s children!
This is a clear example of why the First Call coalition advocates for change at the public policy level. Campaigns to change public policy aren’t won overnight – First Call has been calling for this change since 2007 – but when they are successful the widespread benefits are significant.
This win also includes an end to the mandatory assignment of a parent’s maintenance rights. If a client would like ministry help with obtaining a maintenance order or written agreement, the client may voluntarily assign their maintenance rights to the ministry, but they are no longer required to assign these rights in order to be eligible to receive income assistance. There are criteria for income assistance recipients to meet to obtain this help.
In this op-ed in the Province, End of Clawback Welcome News, First Call’s Adrienne Montani illustrates the importance of the policy change to single parents and their children. Special thanks to Rebecca Bodo for sharing her story.
First Call also wrote a letter to former Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Don McRae to thank him for his role in eliminating the clawback.
There remain a number of other improvements First Call would like to see implemented within the income and disability assistance programs and other aspects of government policy. This will better support children’s healthy development and move families out of poverty. We are anxious to have those discussions with government.
“I would not have to visit the food bank if I could keep the $400 in child support,” explained Rebecca Bodo. One of the courageous single mothers on disability assistance who advocated for an end to the clawback.
Rebecca’s daughter Sophey will now have an extra $4,800 per year in child support. Money that can go to nutrition, swimming lessons, proper shoes and everything else she child needs.
- In 2002 the policy changed so that the total amount of all child support payments is clawed back from single parents on income and disability assistance. Previously they were allowed to keep up to $100.
- Since 2007, in First Call’s annual BC Child Poverty Report Card, we have been recommending that government end this clawback.
- Many of our coalition partners and allies wrote to government and spoke up about the urgent need to rectify this policy and its impact on child well-being.
- The call to end the clawback was reinforced by the official opposition and the BC legislature’s Finance Committee in their budget recommendations. Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall worked especially hard to support this campaign.
- Three families and the Single Mothers’ Alliance BC filed a legal action in the BC Supreme Court in September 2014 to challenge the clawback of child support payments from families on income and disability assistance in BC. The case alleged that deducting child support from families on assistance violates their right to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Read the press release from the Community Legal Assistance Societies’ website.
- MSDSI Minister Don McRae and government staff attended the December First Call coalition meeting. First Call presented a statement, partners and allies explained the need to end the clawback and courageous single mothers shared their stories.
- First Call, the Single Mothers’ Alliance and Community Legal Assistance Society made a joint submission to the provincial government’s February 2015 consultation on the clawback.
- The Single Mother’s Alliance and BC ACORN held rallies and shared the stories of those affected throughout 2014 and 2015.
- The February 17, 2015 budget included an announcement that the provincial government would end the clawback of child support payments from single parents on income and disability assistance, effective September 2015.
- Laura Track, legal director at West Coast LEAF, and Kendra Milne, a staff lawyer at the Community Legal Assistance Society, shared their views in the Times Colonist article
- Keith Baldrey, Surrey Now: Low-income families in B.C. feel province’s uncompassionate pinch
- Andrew MacLeod, The Tyee: Single Mom Slams Clark on Clawbacks: ‘She Has Zero Idea.’
- News 1130: Disabled mothers in BC rallying against child support clawbacks
- YouTube videos from the 2014 BC legislature on the debate with Minister McRae, Opposition critic for the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, Michelle Mungall, and other NDP MLAs when this issue was raised in the legislature on April 2 and 9, 2014. (Positions were at the time of video release). You can read or watch these debates:
- See also: BC Government Factsheet: B.C’s family maintenance program and income assistance
Funding for this campaign generously provided by:
Support for this campaign does not necessarily imply funders’ endorsement of all contents of this site.