In keeping with the season

Authority Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Erika called us the week before Christmas. She wasn’t sure where to turn for help. Erika was living on her own with a five-month-old baby, no money, little food and only enough baby formula to last a week.

Erika had applied for income assistance early in November, but near the end of the month she let the ministry know that her need had become urgent because she did not have enough money for rent and was running low on food and formula. The ministry had scheduled an eligibility assessment for the first week of December, but that date came and went with no assessment. Erika still had not heard back about her income assistance application when she contacted us.

Erika explained that she had continued to contact the ministry but had not been able to pin down a date on which her application would finally be completed.

After talking with Erika we notified the ministry that we were investigating whether the ministry had unreasonably delayed completing Erika’s application for income assistance. We also looked at whether the ministry’s own service standards were being met: Erika was a young, single mother with a small baby and extremely limited resources. Her case should have been prioritized.

In response to our investigation, the ministry placed Erika on a priority list and promised she would be contacted within two business days to complete the application process. Additionally, given that it was Friday, the local ministry office issued Erika emergency funds to ensure she would be able to purchase food and necessities for herself and her baby until the application was completed the following week.

We contacted the ministry to follow up and ensure action had been taken. We learned that a staff member who had dropped into the local office on their day off agreed to hand-deliver the funds to Erika on their way home, since Erika had no transportation and lived far away from the office.

The following week, we talked to Erika again. She said that her income assistance application was approved and she received her first cheque.

Category Income and Benefits
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2014
Location Vancouver Island / Sunshine Coast