Adding the numbers correctly

Authority Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation
Details

Martina contacted us with a complaint about the Ministry of Social Development. She had received hardship assistance while waiting for Employment Insurance benefits to begin. The benefits were repayable. Martina signed an authorization for repayment of her hardship assistance to be deducted directly from her Employment Insurance benefits. The ministry deducted more than the amount Martina expected, leaving her with insufficient income. Martina said she knew she had to repay the ministry for the hardship assistance she received, but was concerned that the ministry was exceeding the correct amount from her Employment Insurance benefits.

Martina had contacted Service Canada to ask whether the amount being deducted from her Employment Insurance cheques was correct, but Service Canada told her that such inquiries must be made to the ministry. Martina contacted her local ministry office, but was told by the supervisor it could not respond because Employment Insurance was a federal program.

We investigated whether the ministry followed a fair procedure in responding to Martina’s questions about the amount that was being deducted from her Employment Insurance cheques. We reviewed ministry policy which stated that staff could contact the ministry’s Financial and Administrative Services Branch and request a review of an Employment Insurance Assignment of Benefits if a person thinks the amount deducted is incorrect. When we initially contacted the supervisor of the local office we confirmed that the supervisor was unaware of the policy. The supervisor still had the view that because Employment Insurance was a federal program, the ministry should not review the matter.

We contacted the ministry’s Financial and Administrative Services Branch directly. The ministry sets a Minimum Living Allowance in calculating the amount that is deducted from a person’s Employment Insurance cheque to repay the ministry. The Branch confirmed that it cannot directly change the amount that is deducted from the Employment Insurance cheques, but it can conduct a review to ensure that Service Canada has not exceeded the correct amount to be deducted.

We proposed that the ministry review Martina’s file to ensure that Service Canada deducted the correct amount from her Employment Insurance cheques. The ministry agreed and determined that the correct amount had been deducted. The ministry contacted Martina and explained the results of its review.

As we were concerned about the information given to Martina when she contacted her local office, we consulted further with the ministry to ensure that local offices had accurate information for requests such as the one posed by Martina. The ministry contacted the supervisor of the local office to explain the ministry’s policy on reviews of Employment Insurance Assignments of Benefits and committed to providing additional training on the Financial and Administrative Services Branch’s review process.

Category Income and Benefits
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2012
Location The Lower Mainland