That stinks: When gas payments don’t add up

Authority Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Marshall was receiving disability assistance from the Ministry of Social Development, which included a monthly allowance to help him pay for his shelter costs. Marshall found out that the ministry had not given him the correct shelter allowance over a six-month period. When determining the amount of shelter allowance a client may receive, the ministry considers the client’s costs for shelter, including rent and household utilities like hydro and natural gas for heating. Marshall realised that the ministry was not including his costs for hydro and gas when it calculated his shelter costs. As a result, Marshall was not getting the full amount of shelter allowance that he was entitled to receive.

Marshall asked the ministry for the shelter allowance he should have received if the ministry had considered his hydro and gas costs. The ministry agreed to give Marshall some additional money, but not the full amount he believed the ministry owed him. Marshall applied for reconsideration of the ministry’s decision and then appealed that decision to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal. The tribunal decided in Marshall’s favour. Marshall still had concerns, though, because the tribunal’s decision did not fully address his costs for natural gas. Marshall decided to call our office.

We reviewed the tribunal’s decision. The decision referred to four separate payments made to Marshall’s household gas account during the six-month period. The tribunal’s decision, however, did not refer to any evidence that indicated whether those payments were made by the ministry or by someone else.

We investigated whether the ministry followed a fair and reasonable procedure in determining Marshall’s utility costs for household gas during the six-month period. When we contacted the ministry, it confirmed that it issued the full amount of shelter allowance to Marshall for the first month of the period in question. We determined that the ministry paid three out of the four payments to Marshall’s household gas account over the next five months. The ministry records, however, confirmed that it did not make one of those payments of $100.

We asked the ministry whether it would consider compensating Marshall for that $100 payment. The ministry agreed to and issued a payment to Marshall in the amount of $100.

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