DABC Statement on Bill 7 – Social Development and Poverty Reduction States Amendment Act, 2024. 

Today, March 5, 2024, The Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction introduced Bill 7, which proposes amendments to three Acts:

  • Employment and Assistance Act (EAA)
  • Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act (EAPDA)
  • Poverty Reduction Strategy Act (PRSA)

Bill 7 can be found on the Legislative Assembly of BC website here.

The proposed amendments passed first reading and are scheduled for second reading in the next sitting of the house (likely tomorrow). Understanding that there was no debate or questions when Bill 7 was first introduced today, we anticipate that the Bill will be passed and receive royal assent soon.

DABC’s assessment of Bill 7 primarily focuses on the changes to the EAPDA which governs the legislative requirements of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR)’s management of provincial disability assistance (known colloquially as PWD). We list below the main changes to the EAPDA and possible implications:

  • The requirement for an employment plan has been removed

Under the EAA, those who are on Income Assistance (IA) are required to enter into an employment plan as part of the eligibility stipulations to continue to receive IA. The EAPDA also had provisions that required people on PWD to enter into an employment plan, however this hasn’t been enforced by SDPR in many, many years. This change to remove any requirement to have an employment plan for people on PWD reflects what is already happening in practice. To confirm, people on PWD are not required to look for work.

However, to ensure that people on PWD still have the same access to employment supports and opportunities as those on IA, a person on PWD can request to receive an employment needs assessment and employability plan should they choose. Receiving a needs assessment or employability plan as a person on PWD does not directly result in their PWD eligibility denied or having their PWD income clawed back. The $16,200 annualized earnings exemption still applies.

  • Removes the monetary penalty in cases of inaccurate or incomplete information submitted by PWD or IA clients

The new changes to both the EAA and the EAPDA removes the Ministry’s ability to impose a monetary penalty to an IA or PWD client in cases when the client has received an overpayment as a result of inaccurate reporting. What this means is that the Ministry will still have the ability to “garnish” or claw back a person’s IA or PWD payments so that any overpayment previously provided to the client is rectified through a garnishment or clawback, but that the Ministry no longer has authority to impose additional monetary penalties beyond the overpayment amount.

DABC are happy to see that SDPR will no longer be allowed to impose further monetary penalties on PWD clients for inaccurate reporting. In our experience supporting PWD clients, it is almost entirely the case that inaccurate reporting has occurred because the rules for reporting under PWD can be very complex and hard to follow.

DABC’s support on overpayment issues is limited as this process largely requires the client to provide additional information to SDPR, however we may be able to advocate on your behalf to negotiate a fair repayment plan if you are on PWD. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or requests for support.

  • Increases the amount of time a person has to appeal an IA or PWD application

Currently, if a PWD application is denied, the client has 20 business days to submit a reconsideration request to SDPR. If a reconsideration request is also denied, the client can submit an appeal to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal. Further information on the process for this can be found in our helpsheet here.

Under these new changes, the timeline for appeal has increased from 7 business days to 20 business days. This will give clients more time to prepare for an appeal.

We are encouraged to see the timeline for appeal being extended, as that will directly impact those trying to get onto PWD. DABC Advocates can assist clients with PWD applications, reconsiderations and appeals Please reach out to us if you have any questions or requests for support.

  • Flexibility to conduct pilot projects

Currently, SDPR are limited to what they can do in testing out new ways to implement IA and PWD programming. Bill 7 establishes SDPR’s authority to carry out pilot projects to test out new approaches in IA and PWD.

The implications for this are at first vague, as DABC is unsure what pilot projects SDPR plan to carry out, however in general we support this amendment as it will give more flexibility in trying new approaches to supporting PWD clients.

Overall Assessment

The EAPDA outlines the framework and authority of SDPR to manage provincial disability assistance, but it does not detail specifically how SDPR must carry out PWD. Most of the changes DABC wishes to see in the PWD system will need to come through the Regulation. To learn more about the difference between Acts and Regulations, please visit here.

DABC calls upon the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction to begin meaningful public engagement in amending the BC Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Regulation. Last year, we wrote a series of recommendations on ways to improve the PWD system in a report here.

Community Update: PWD/Income Assistance Rate Increase Table

The BC Budget for the 2023/2024 fiscal year was announced at the legislative assembly in Victoria on February 28, 2023. The Budget revealed that there would be an increase to the shelter rate for people on income assistance and disability assistance; an increase that has been long overdue. The shelter rate, which hasn’t changed since 2007, will increase from $375 per month to $500 per month for single individuals. Rent prices have increased by much more than $125 since 2007, so while we recognize that this shelter rate increase is a step in the right direction, it fails to meaningfully address systemic poverty in our province.

There are also increases to most income and disability assistance supplements, including diet supplements (increased by 50%) and the monthly nutritional supplement (increased from $165 to $180 per month). These changes take effect as of August 1st, 2023 (and will appear starting with the July 19th 2023 cheque issue).

The provincial government recently released a rate table, detailing current rates as well as the new rates. You can view this rate table here: https://tinyurl.com/5xxh5527.

If you have questions about any of these changes, you can email us at advocacy@disabilityalliancebc.org or call us at 604-872-1278 (Toll-free: 1-800-663-1278). Please be advised that we receive a high volume of inquiries and it will likely take some time to hear back from an advocate.

To read our original response to the 2023/2024 BC Budget, from which some of the information in this Community Update has been taken, please visit our blog: https://disabilityalliancebc.org/dabcs-response-to-2023-bc-budget/.

DABC Community Update: Bill C-22 Receives Royal Assent

On June 20th, 2023 Bill C-22 was passed by the Senate! The Bill proposes to create a federal income supplement for low-income, working-age people with disabilities, modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement. As of June 22nd, Bill C-22 has now received Royal Assent and becomes law by “written declaration” by the Governor General.

We applaud everyone—from the disability community (individuals and organizations) to those in Government—who tirelessly advocated for the passage of this Bill.

Prior to its passing of the Bill, the Senate had recommended 4 amendments[1], and the Bill was sent back to the House of Commons for re-consideration. The House approved 3 of the 4 amendments. The amendment the House rejected would have protected the Benefit from potential private insurance claw backs; the reason given for the rejection was due to “concerns over provincial jurisdiction over the regulation of the insurance industry.”[2] DABC has concerns over the omission of this amendment and will continue to advocate for a Canada Disability Benefit that safeguards against any clawbacks to a disabled person’s income.

We know that this work isn’t done. There is a 12 month deadline to develop the new Act’s regulations. DABC looks forward to working collaboratively to help develop these regulations over the next months. We will continue to provide updates through social media, email and our newsletter when possible. 

[1] https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/tell-the-senate-to-pass-a-stronger-bill-c-22/

[2] https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/canada-disability-benefit-bill-passes-parliament-1.6448999