The Province: Protesters call on B.C. government to halt ‘claw back’ policy for social assistance recipients
Posted May 12, 2014
The B.C. Liberal government has been under increasing fire from the NDP and social justice groups who say the claw back is hurting struggling families
Posted May 12, 2014
About three dozen single moms and their supporters marked Mother’s Day with a “poverty potluck” to protest the B.C. government’s “claw back” policy on child-support payments.
Among the items on display at the rally Sunday were boxes of Kraft Dinners, cans of Spam, and expired soup cans — products that food advocates say single moms often have to resort to because the long-standing government policy is denying them the means to put healthy food on the table.
“We shouldn’t have to feed our kids year-old expired soup because we live in poverty,” said Diane Terrillon, a single mom and spokeswoman for national social action group ACORN.
“If there was no claw back, we would have the extra money needed to go and buy healthy food for our children.”
The B.C. Liberal government has been under increasing fire from the NDP and social justice groups who say the claw back is hurting struggling families.
In Terrillon’s case, the Burnaby mom receives $200 a month in child-support from her ex-husband for their nine-year-old son. However, that means $200 is deducted from her disability cheque of $1,220.
“That’s $50 a week extra for groceries,” said Terrillon. “It’s huge. It means I would have $85 a week for groceries and incidentals, for clothing, to put some money away for Christmas and birthdays.
The claw back doesn’t make sense and punishes her son, she said.
“Why does my son have to suffer for it? His dad wants to help him out, so why can’t he?”
The policy has been in effect since 2002. More than $18 million was clawed back in 2013, according to ACORN.
Prior to 2002, single parents were allowed a $100-a-month exemption in child-support payments on top of their income assistance and disability cheques.
There is extra urgency to the cause now, said Terrillon, because many families are sinking further into poverty.
“This has been going on for so long, it needs to stop,” she said, noting welfare and disability rates have been frozen for the past seven years while the cost of living continues to escalate.
Last month, advocacy groups West Coast LEAF, First Call and the Community Legal Assistance Society called for an end to the claw back, urging B.C.’s political parties to let single parents keep up to $300 in child-support money.
In an emailed statement, Social Development Minister Don McRae said the government is not considering reforming its income assistance policies at this time.
Income assistance is considered a “program of last resort,” and beneficiaries are expected to pursue other forms of income first, including child-support payments, noted McRae.
The statement provided examples of other supports in place for low-income families, such as school startup supplements and the universal child care benefit.
“We all recognize this is a tough issue,” said McRae. “While we would all like to do more — we have to balance this with what taxpayers can support.”
Article by Cheryl Chan for The Province