Keeping a family together

Authority Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation
Details

Trevor’s former spouse Yvonne had been caring for their three children under an informal agreement. Yvonne needed to take a break due to some personal issues that were affecting her ability to care for their children. Trevor and Yvonne both agreed that Trevor would take over the full-time care of their children.

After his three children settled in, Trevor went to the ministry office hoping to add the children to his income assistance file. The ministry told him he needed to provide additional documentation, including a letter from Yvonne attesting to his guardianship.

Trevor returned to the ministry with all the requested information including a signed and witnessed letter from Yvonne stating that Trevor was the legal guardian for the children. The ministry would not accept Yvonne’s letter and instead demanded a sworn affidavit, signed by Trevor and Yvonne. By this time Yvonne was getting specialized care and was out of contact.

Trevor had been trying unsuccessfully to add his three children as dependents to his income assistance file for over a month when he came to us. He had been caring for them all in a one-bedroom apartment on $610, which is the monthly income assistance rate for a single person. Trevor had no money left for food and was concerned he wouldn’t be able to care for his children for another month. He said that ministry supervisors at his local office had been unable to meet with him when he had requested it.

When we notified the ministry of our investigation, we confirmed that there was no court order regarding guardianship of the children. We discussed our view that a recent ministry policy change meant that the letter submitted by the children’s mother was sufficient for Trevor to be considered the guardian of the children. The ministry confirmed that Trevor had submitted a letter from Yvonne two weeks previously and that her letter was in fact sufficient under the ministry’s updated policy.

As a result of our investigation, the supervisor of Trevor’s local office called him to apologize for how his request had been handled. An appointment was scheduled for the next business day to finalize the addition of Trevor’s three children as dependents. The ministry agreed to backdate the increase to Trevor’s income assistance to the date he submitted the letter from Yvonne. The ministry also committed to reconfirming its revised policy with staff.

Category Children and Youth
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2014
Location The Interior