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BC Government’s failure to flow federal disability benefit through to caregivers unjust, Ombudsperson finds

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Victoria – In a report released today, the Ombudsperson finds the Ministry of Children and Family Development acted unjustly when it failed to pass on federal disability benefits to grandparents caring for their granddaughter, an Indigenous girl living with mental and physical challenges.

The report, Short-Changed, details the case of “The Taylors” who are grandparents caring for their granddaughter “Jesse”. The Taylors complained to the Ombudsperson after they did not receive the federal Child Disability Benefit despite being eligible. The Taylor’s caregiving arrangements meant that the Child Disability Benefit went into general provincial revenues rather than to the Taylors because, under federal legislation, the province was supporting the Taylors financially, even though the provincial funding the family was receiving was unrelated to Jesse’s disability. The Ombudsperson’s investigation found that it was unjust that the Ministry of Children and Family Development – which knew of this problem – had failed to find a way to pass the federal disability benefits through to the Taylors. The Taylors were eligible for over $7,000 since 2019.

“This case is disturbing on a couple of levels,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “Not only did the Taylors not receive money that they could have used for essential care needs for their granddaughter, the ministry knew there was a problem and took far too long to fix it. This investigation highlights the interplay between provincial and federal benefits and what can happen when these linkages break.”

The benefit the province kept was the federal Child Disability Benefit, which for the Taylors would have been a payment amount of $242.19 per month. Short-Changed traces the ministry’s acknowledgement in 2019 of the payment unfairness, the establishment of a working group to consider the issue and finally a move earlier this year to resolve the issue. On February 17, 2022, the Minister of Children and Family Development informed eligible caregivers that the province would begin to provide a supplemental benefit equivalent to the Child Disability Benefit to caregivers such as the Taylors and that such payments would be retroactive to 2019. “I am pleased that the ministry is now flowing an amount equivalent to the Child Disability Benefit through to these caregivers but, given the impact on children with disabilities and their caregivers I would have expected that when this problem was identified, the ministry would have remedied it immediately,” Chalke said. “For families caring for children with disabilities, every dollar matters and it’s not acceptable that the Taylors and families like them were short-changed at the time and are only this year being promised funds that they should have received years ago.”

The Ombudsperson makes four recommendations in the report:

  • providing ongoing funding to caregivers like the Taylors,
  • paying any outstanding benefits retroactively,
  • supporting any delegated agencies that have been applying similar practices; and,
  • reporting to the Ombudsperson on progress in remedying the inequities that result from the interaction of federal and provincial legislation for Child Disability Benefit-eligible children.

The ministry has accepted all of the recommendations in the report, and has begun implementing them. The Ombudsperson will monitor and report publicly on the ministry’s progress in implementing the recommendations.

To view the full report, please click here.