Food from my Plate

Authority Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Edith’s medical condition made her eligible for a $40 monthly top-up to her income assistance from the ministry to help pay for the food supplements and vitamins she required. After about five years receiving the monthly top-up, Edith noticed that her total income assistance had dropped by a similar amount. When she contacted the ministry to ask about this reduction, she was assured repeatedly for almost two years that her monthly top-up was included in her income assistance.

Eventually one of Edith’s calls led ministry staff to confirm that she was correct that her monthly top-up had indeed been removed from her income assistance 22 months earlier. The ministry resumed the top-up and said they would send her a retroactive payment for twelve months of the entitlement they did not give her. Later, the ministry told Edith it would not pay her benefits retroactively.

Edith complained to us that the ministry stopped her top-up for no good reason, that it dismissed her when she asked about it and that it was being unfair in refusing to retroactively pay for what she had been eligible for all along.

We noted that the ministry’s policy required a periodic review of a client’s eligibility for a dietary top-up. Its procedure is to tell the client about the review and to review updated medical proof the client is required to provide. Should a decision be made to discontinue the top-up, the client is to receive written notice and to be informed of the right to appeal.

Our investigation confirmed that no one reviewed Edith’s eligibility and there was no formal decision; the top-up was simply discontinued. We learned that, in the ministry’s computer system, an end date was put on Edith’s file erroneously. Once the end date was reached, the dietary top-up simply disappeared from the cheque.

As a result of our investigation the ministry acknowledged that it did not follow its policy and procedures for reviewing diet supplements when Edith’s top-up was discontinued. Consequently the ministry agreed to provide Edith a retroactive payment of $880 for the 22 months that she did not receive the top-up because of its error. The ministry also agreed to contact Edith to acknowledge its error and to confirm she would be receiving the retroactive payment. 

Category Health, Local Government
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2015
Location The Lower Mainland