Posted February 24, 2015
BC ACORN members had quite the day last Tuesday when it was announced in the provincial budget that, starting September 1st, the government will end its policy of clawing back child support payments from single parent families receiving income and disability assistance. This victory is a significant achievement for our members, as this policy change will return 13 million dollars a year of child support back to 3,400 low income families across British Columbia. After nearly two years of continuous campaigning to end the clawback, ACORN members, supporters, and allies should savor the moment and appreciate that 5,200 of BC’s poorest children are better off because of their hard work!
In summary, BC ACORN members organized and led a series of 11 actions over 18 months, which engaged thousands of members and supporters, and generated approximately 50 media stories on all sorts of media platforms around the province. All of this was made possible by the members, leaders, organizers and allies’ dedication to 18 months of door-knocking, phone calls, actions, planning meetings, house meetings, leadership workshops, a focused approach, and online organizing.
Members launched the campaign with a series of monthly actions at various social assistance offices across the lower mainland, the first of which was a 50 member action in Surrey in July of 2013. At first the Liberal Minister Don McCrae’s office ignored our actions and failed to respond to our requests for a meeting. However, after four actions in five months, plus two coordinated “phone actions” - where ACORN members blitzed Minister McCrae’s office with phone calls demanding a meeting - he relented and agreed to meet with ACORN leaders in December and again in January. The meetings weren’t fruitful, but our members promised the Minister that we would not stop and he would be hearing from us again.
Early in 2014, ACORN began meeting and working with other organizations who were interested in seeing the end of this callous policy: First Call, the Elizabeth Fry Society, Raise the Rates, the NDP, CLAS, West Coast Leaf, and later on the Single Mothers Alliance. This effort resulted in four ACORN leaders on this campaign making an April visit to the Legislature to hear Christy Clark try and make sense of her government’s policy during Question Period, and then hold a media session with NDP Critic of Social Development, Michelle Mungall. This trip was a significant turning point in the campaign, as Ms. Mungall’s hard questions and our members’ poignant personal stories caught the provincial media’s attention and put this issue on the front burner.
ACORN members then continued to run with the campaign, holding a Mother’s Day “Poverty Potluck”, which highlighted the inadequacy of a food bank diet that families experiencing the clawback were forced to live on. The BC Nurse Practitioner’s Union President and the NDP Health Critic spoke at this powerful action, as ACORN members brought the unhealthy food to a New Westminster social assistance office and renewed their commitment to fight for poor families across BC.
At this point the “End the Clawback” campaign was like a runaway train with more and more clawback victims’ stories appearing in the media, and hundreds of ACORN members and supporters sending letters and emails to the government calling on the Liberals to take action. By June of 2014, after a 40 person ACORN action at the Liberals’ “Disability Summit”, the government was forced to announce that a review of the clawback policy would take place in the fall.
The “End the Clawback” campaign really highlights the potency of ACORN’s organizing model: real people coming together and exercising their collective power to change the adverse circumstances impacting themselves and their community.
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