- It is easy to get on welfare
- Life on welfare is easy
- People on welfare don’t want to work
- Lots of people are defrauding the system
- It costs too much to fix poverty
Myth 1: It is easy to get welfare
To qualify for welfare a person has to be destitute. A single person is only allowed total assets of $1,500, and a single parent family only $2,500, so they have to use up their savings, pension, etc before accessing welfare. Only when a person is broke can they claim welfare.
To claim they have to bring a huge pile of documents and fill out a long form. Documents include: Record of Employment, current resume, proof of job search, 2 pieces of ID, most recent pay stubs (including holiday pay), Employment Insurance stubs, Income Tax Notice of Assessment or confirmation that taxes have not been filed, pension and CPP stubs, ICBC or WCB stubs & claim information, all bank information including all statements on all accounts, holdings, and lines of credit (whether held jointly or individually), other financial records for RESPs, bonds, RRSPs, trust funds, life insurance policy(s) showing cash surrender values, separation agreements/divorce decrees, court documents on Maintenance & Support Agreements, self-employment financial records, Sub-Contractor Financial Records, Child Tax/Family Bonus Statement, student loan/registration, vehicle registration, ‘VOID’ cheque, and a pile more documents to do with housing tenancy or ownership.
As Jagrup Brar, who is well educated, said:
“The application process was very complex and long. It could take up to four hours to complete the application. I also found that one must be well educated with good math skills to do it him/herself.”
Then a person has to wait three weeks to get welfare, when they are already destitute. The government recommends borrowing money from friends and family. This assumes you have that support and that they have the money. But how can a person on welfare ever pay back such a loan?
Myth 2: Life on welfare is easy
All the welfare and disability rates are below the poverty line. The maximum welfare rate for a single person it $610 a month for everything: food, shelter, clothes, soap and other personal hygiene, haircuts, bus pass and phone, which you need to contact the Ministry and to look for work.
The rates for families are not much better. The rates for people on disability is a bit better – a single person gets $900 a month, but they have much higher expenses due to their medical needs, and they may have to rely on disability income for the rest of their lives as they may never be able to work.
A person can’t live on these rates. Jagrup Brar lost weight, and you can’t go on loosing weight every month. He didn’t buy any clothes, he didn’t get a haircut, he didn’t buy toothpaste and so on. But he ran out of money, he had to rely on charity, and in some parts of BC there are no such charities.
Life on welfare is very hard and grinds you down. As Jagrup said after 14 days of living on the welfare rate:
“[it] is a struggle. I am only able to buy food for survival. I find myself hungry most of the time, and the majority of the time I am thinking about what time it is and when I will get to eat next. The food I eat is not nutritious enough, nor do I eat the amount that I should be eating.”
Myth 3: People on welfare don’t want to work
Jagrup Brar is the only person who has chosen to live on the welfare rates. People are forced onto welfare because they lost their job and couldn’t get another one. Or they have a serious illness or injury and can’t work. They have suffered abuse, violence or family break down. Those are the reasons people are on welfare. They want to work; they wish they could get a job. Statistics Canada reported that there are 4.4 unemployed people for every vacant position in BC. There are not enough jobs to go around.
There are over 95,000 people living on the rates for people with disabilities, and they face added barriers to getting a job. As Jagrup reported:
“I heard from people with disabilities that work opportunities are very limited for accommodating special needs. They told me it’s very difficult to get off welfare without adequate opportunities for employment. They felt the last person an employer wants to hire is someone with a disability.”
People on welfare who are expected to work do not qualify for training support which would help them upgrade or gain new skills so they can get a job. The welfare rules are a barrier to them getting work.
An employable person on welfare is not allowed to keep any money they earn in a part-time job; every cent of earnings is clawed back. This is a barrier to transitioning into work. Jagrup stated that:
“if a person wants to work, even part-time, to try and get off of welfare, whatever amount they earn is deducted from their welfare cheque. This leaves them running around in circles with little chance of ever getting off welfare.”
Myth 4: Lots of people are defrauding the system
It is claimed that lots of people are cheating the system. In fact many more people cheat on their taxes than fraudulently claim welfare. The BC government in 2002 conducted an investigation of 62,000 people on disability. Jagrup Brar quotes the Auditor General’s report on this, which found:
“The review, which cost government over $5 million, found 400 (0.6%) of the ministry’s 62,000 disabled clients were ineligible for continued assistance. This means the major cost savings the ministry expected the review to gain were not achieved. At the same time, the review created increased anxiety for many of the ministry’s disabled clients.”
Myth 5: It costs too much to fix poverty
Poverty in BC costs us all between $8 – 9 billion a year in crime, poor health, and lost economic opportunities. The cost of fixing it is less than half of that.. BC is a wealthy province so the money is there for that first investment. The tax cuts to the rich and corporations over the last 10 years have cost the government $3.4 billion a year.
An important benefit of raising the income of the poor is that they will spend the money in local shops in their communities and pay taxes on it. The money will stay in local communities. By tackling poverty we would save money as a province and we would have a much happier, safer and better place to live.
Seth Klein at the End Poverty in BC panel explained that:
“Poverty is conservatively costing all of us in BC between $8-9 billion a year. Inaction on poverty reduction is costing us dearly. And a comprehensive policy to end poverty is less than half that cost.”
As Jagrup has stated:
“We are a wealthy society and we can do better. And I think the people of BC want to do better.”