5 Myths About Welfare

  1. It is easy to get on welfare
  2. Life on welfare is easy
  3. People on welfare don’t want to work
  4. Lots of people are defrauding the system
  5. 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.”

12 thoughts on “5 Myths About Welfare

  1. Jagrup, I applaud you in this effort to bring to the fore the plight of our fellow men and women caught up in the frustrating web of welfare. It seems that the harder we struggle to get free and on our own feet, the harder that the authorities try to keep us entrapped. This is an untenable position for government (who are our servants) the the beaurocracy that it supports.
    I ask myself ‘Are the government reading this?’ The answer comes back, ‘Probably not’. Our governments have managed to distance themselves from the people that they are hired to govern. If any manager in any company did this to their customersm, they would be fired. (Unless they were working for a bank and looking forwards to an immoral pension or bonus at our expense.) There is something horribly wrong with our system that allows such payouts, yet can claw back pennies from those who a fighting poverty and most in need.

  2. Jagrup may be correct about the myths of welfare but he showed little imagination in the way he tackled the challenge of living on a welfare check. it can be done assuming one is reasonably healthy.
    the more we expect of government the less we will do for ourselves.
    how effective our government agencies anyway. for every dollar that goes into general revenues perhaps as much as 80% goes into the pockets of bureaucrats who administer the programs.
    big government is the problem not the solution.
    empower traditional organizations to take on the challenge. they are much more effective.

  3. why doesn’t jagup come to powell river to speak or a team of you folks ; the roujours about the local office are sensitive…..make it a media event ; embarass the provincial and municipal governmenbts so that more is done about the high child povertyrate and problems in the communtiy that never get dealt with because the powers that be are hung up on archaic war lord mentality….please inform powell river about how it should be for the disabled also instead of the old fashioned prejudices. don’t assume that 1930s eugenics mentality isn’t aliv e and well on the sunshine coast. i’ll do what i can but frankly i can’t walk after my own experience beingdenied over and over again in blc in a bout of fleeing violence…eg denied glasses , ususal supplements and medical care due to violence. thanks for any advocacy. jan

  4. After my E.I. expired and still unable to find suitable work in my field of expertise and what savings i had managed to tuck away, it was easy to see more financial trouble ahead. I applied for welfare in advance of calamity taking up residence in my life. I could write a book on the incompetence, red tape and just plain bull-shit that ensued but ill keep this as brief as possible for the sake of ranting. They lost my file..and i had to begin the whole process again! Accompanied with more blunders and red tape….i made the severity of my situation known to welfare…as a direct result of these’ delays’ i was evicted. I have been sleeping in my car for coming up 7 weeks now and still havnt received assistance! I was supposed to get a cheque today… but its ” team” day and there is no one in the office until tomorrow. So maybe tomorrow i can sleep somewhere warm and safe. Ive never been on ,welfare. I,ve wor:ked my whole life and am an engineer as my occupation. Ive lost 35 pounds. My cheque should be $610…$375 allocated for rent and the balance..$235 for other. Because they took until the 16th of the month to call me for my assessment interview , they are pro-rating the $235. So basically ill be getting about half of that…$115. Because of their incompetence im getting screwed. Meanwhile ive managed to get deeper and deeper in the hole. If i would have received assistance at the appropriate time to begin with…i wouldnt even be homeless in the first place!!! Like i said, there are alot more delays, mistakes and f*#* arounds that took place that arent even mentioned but contributed to my desolate situation…you get the idea. I would like you to tell me in what universe that any of this is ok? I am homeless because of welfare!! Hungry cold and tired…and most of all…angry like ive never been. You wonder why people commit robberies? Sell drugs? And oth poverty.mo.was…an upstanding, taxpaying professional citizen, of our society…with 2 small children to provide for!! And ive even i have played through my head more than a few times which crime would have the smallest risk with the greatest benefits!! This is complements of welfare!! I would like someone to contact me in return of thus message to acknowledge that i am a human that counts and is worth hearing please and thank you. I admire that you lived a month on $610.. but at the end if that month you were able to go home and back to your life….that has been taken from me and im on the edge that at this point, i can see no way off from it. Thank your for your time.
    Yours truly,

  5. Think of this, Tired, depressed, waiting in line at a welfare office, hungry, and getting hungrier by the minute, hours go by, you are finally at the desk, then they say” Fill this form out and get me these specific papers and or certificates” Another hour and a half go by, no where to go and or stay, very hungry, make it to the desk again, then you hear, ok you need to make an appointment for NEXT WEEK SOMETIME, thats if a worker is available. So, now lost, scared , hungry, cold (It’s night time by now) What do I do? You think to your self, is this what I get when I am in need of some help? This is my first experience going into a welfare office.

  6. My 4 children (20 somethings) have only ever had minimum wage jobs.They go to work everyday. They rent places within their budget. My daughter rented a larger place and took in roommates. They have never been on welfare.
    Youngest son, lost his job. He ended moving, and sharing an apt with 5 other guys in the city. Found a job within a week. His job (restaurant kitchen helper) actually provides one meal a day.
    The trouble is, most people don’t want to work when they are on welfare.We need to make it difficult to entice them off of it. How many times have you heard…If i make too much , they claw it (welfare benfits) back? They are always trying to play the system.
    I think it would be better to bring the mental institutions, or at least grop homes They would be cared for, and the streets would be safer.

  7. In case someone is interested.
    Other comments on this website include the bad condition of the rooming houses.Too high of rent for what is provided. Well, if the government can think they do better than us private landlords..go for it.
    I’d be surprised if the facts are true. Having one bathroom for 11 people to share.having one shower for 120 others? I’d bet the residential tenancy act wouldn’t permit this (or the building code). Having a fridge that doesn’t work? Did you bother to tell the manager?Complain to the residential tenancy board? Follow any of the rules? Actually clean the bathroom, to make it better..or your own floor?
    anyways, I always try to give to positive suggestions, if i am going to fault someone, so here it goes… …

    Let’s assume, someone actually rented a place with a fridge and stove.
    My son shares an apt with 5 others. There is a fridge and stove.
    After looking thru the local flyers, this is what I have come across this week, this is how I would spend $108
    At the end of this month there will be some things leftover. Next month you can add some others, and eventually you will get a pantry built up.

    1.99- 5 lbs sugar
    2.99-teabags (60)
    .59- box mac & cheese
    $2.28-2 tubs margarine@ 1.14
    10.99- 10kg flour
    2.49- rolled oats
    1.00-yeast (bulk )
    1.00-cornstarch (bulk)
    1.00-baking pwd (bulk)
    2.00- 2 pkgs pasta @1.00

    1.25-pasta sauce
    .75- can tomatoes
    .75-kidney beans
    1.38-2 cans tomato soup @ .69
    .99- can corn
    .69- can baked beans
    .99- can cream of chicken soup
    .59- can vegetable
    2.99- miracle whip

    1.00- 4pk pudding cups
    1.00-4 pk yogurt
    4.00- 500ml half & half cream @1.00
    4.44- 500g cheese block

    3.50-15 lbs potatoes
    2.00- 3 lbs carrots
    2.00-3 lbs onions
    .59- 1 lb cabbage
    2.49- frozen broccoli
    4.00- 2 L juice @ 1.00
    1.50-2 lbs green peppers
    1.50- 4 pk fresh tomatoes
    .99- 1 lb bananas

    4.00- 3 cans tuna
    1.00- can ham
    1.00- weiners
    1.00-pkg bologna
    4.29-26pc fish sticks
    6.00-eggs 2 doz
    13.00- assortd reduced meats

    1.00-baking soda (bulk)
    2.00-spices/S & P
    1.00-cooking oil-dollar store
    1.00-ketchup-dollar store
    1.00-lemon juice- dollar store

    What would I make
    pasta dishes
    tuna casseroles
    beans & weiners
    tuna burgers
    ham dinner
    fish and veggs
    hearty soups
    corn chowder
    baked potatoes
    scalloped potatoes

    french toast

    cinnamon buns

  8. Yes, lets not forget the percent of the $610 put aside for cigarettes, alcohol, pot(other drugs).
    I’m sure in a large number of cases, that comes first before food, which could explain why it is hard to buy food with 610 a month.
    The Canadian Welfare has perks which include free dental coverage. The working class have to pay with or without coverage.
    These are the reasons welfare needs to go.

  9. I made a post on 25 Feb 2013, and it still hasn’t been posted. Obviously you don’t want my comment, because it doesn’t coincide with this article.
    If we would stop saying things aren’t possible, but instead show people that they are, maybe our country would be in a better financial state.
    Many of us live on $25pp a week groceries. We aren’t on welfare.With the other bills we have, to keep a roof over our heads, and bodies clothed, that is how much we have willingly allotted for food.
    It may be a challenge, but it is possible.

  10. Pingback: When Christians Despise the Poor | Liz Boltz Ranfeld

  11. It’s time to dispel the Welfare myth. Welfare recipients don’t get enough to call it “Taking advantage of the system” I’ve never once seen a person on welfare making an extra smooth $1 million on the side. The society needs to solve the problem without government intervention. How about those corporations tax fraud? More than 70 percent of small businesses making $1-10 million a year do not file their taxes properly. If you are a large corporation, the tax loop holes are off the rocker. Compare that to a measly $500 welfare check, even if that person makes cash on the side, its never permanent. Poverty and Homelessness in our entire country, like most other western countries, can easily be eradicated. First world countries are the most shameful in this regard. We can understand impoverished countries having poor enforcement and illegal activities ensuing from such corruptions but how do we hold responsibility to the management of wealth in our country and its provinces? People on welfare are not all uneducated and deal drugs. They would rather work and have a 35k a year income (per person per family or single persons) from which they can cover their living expenses and have some savings to better themselves. Instead, they find minimum wage and unstable employment which is not only more stressful, but barely past the border of Welfare city. Do people actually know what minimum wage should be? Its the ignorance of the population which is the result of all of this mess. Minimum wage according to inflation should be hovering around the $20/hr mark. Someone show me where this is happening? Our western first world society should be ashamed of putting our citizens out on the street. I will publicly go as far as to say that I am a recipient of social assistance. I would like someone to come tell me that I have not tried to better myself by finding employment. The problem is not only limited employment, but 90 percent of employment seems to be a “Who you know” affair. I literally send out 150 resumes per month. Yes I do get job offers, which will net me maybe $100 more per month than on welfare. We don’t have a “sit around do nothing all day mentality”. Some of us would like to find employment that doesn’t require us to be slaves for an indeterminate amount of time. Jobs paying $10/hr consist of an interview process that treats one like a criminal. They assume the person is not intelligent and therefore must be poor in mind and finances and will go through the trouble to degrade themselves for $10/hr for something that has no stability. It is worst than slavery. The system makes it so you either keep spiraling down till you are homeless, or you work $10/hr for a month, then find another $10/hr job. How does a person move forward? Make a better life? Isn’t it in some better interest of the government to provide a healthy environment for new tax payers to be born and employ themselves in an environment where they earn enough to make a comfortable living while paying tax into the system without much complaint? Who would pay a higher tax and be consistently willing to pay tax? A person making $10/hr or someone earning $30/hr? Even with the loop holes in the system, the system can still win and actually create more money for the entire society if more people are given gainful employment. The more comfortable a person is, the more likely they are to participate in a process than someone whose next thought is where their next meal is coming from. I am on welfare. I am educated. I need a job. I am willing to move for it. I am willing to work for it. But I also need to make sure that I will not lose this job so I can continue being a productive part of society. Corruption starts at home, and people who try to do something, only fail because there are many others who don’t want it done. We all have to want to end this misery for it to truly end. In this country, there is no reason for anyone to be poor.

  12. These food storage meals are familiar meals that most families eat on a regular basis anyways but with much more preparation time required.
    You can even make dehydrated food at home if you have the right equipment.
    If these things happen to you, you will be glad that you had some emergency food stored in your cupboard
    or basement.

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