Welfare Facts

Number of People on Welfare

In June 2011, 183,814 people in BC lived on welfare. This is 1 in 25 people in BC. There were 90,227 people on Temporary Assistance Welfare and a further 93,587 people on Disability Assistance in June 2011. This is an increase of 48,000 since 2007.

(from Ministry of Social Development, BC Employment and Assistance http://www.hsd.gov.bc.ca/research/)

Welfare Rates

The welfare rate for a single person is $610 to cover everything including: housing, food, personal hygiene, clothing, household supplies and, as they are required to look for work, a phone or pay phone and transit.

That $610 a month includes $375 for housing and $235 for support, for a total annual income of $7320, compared to the poverty line of $19,342.

A one parent family with 2 children receives $1036 a month, including $660 for housing and $376 for support, for a total annual income of $12,432, compared to the poverty line of $29,314.

A single person with Persistent Multiple Barriers receives $658 a month, including $375 for housing and $283 for support, for a total annual income of $7896, compared to the poverty line of $19,342.


  • Since 2002, lone parents are not allowed to keep any child support money they received from ex-partners.
  • Until 2002, employable single parents were entitled to keep $200 in earnings a month, but now they are not allowed to keep any.
  • A single person has every cent they earned clawed back.


  • In 2003 the government closed 36 welfare offices making it harder for people, especially in smaller communities, to access welfare and the offices.
  • To receive welfare a person has to be virtually destitute. A single person is allowed total assets of $1,500 and cash assets of less than $150. Couples and single parent families can only have assts of $2,500 and cash of $250.
  • Once a person applies for welfare they have to wait 3 weeks before they receive any money.
  • If a person owns a car worth more that $5000 they are not eligible for welfare.
  • To receive welfare most people have to have been financially independent for at least two consecutive years before applying.

Emery Barnes

In February, 1986 Emery Barnes, MLA for Vancouver Centre, spent a month on welfare. At the end he said the welfare for a single person should be $700. Today that would be $1,300 a month.

Download a detailed fact sheet about welfare in BC.

Useful reports:


Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada

Cost of Eating in BC, Dietitians of Canada

Hunger Count, 2011, Food Banks Canada


Upscale, the downside of gentrification, Carnegie Community Action Project


Still Left Behind, SPARC

2011 BC Child Poverty Report Card, First Call

Cost of Poverty in BC, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

23 thoughts on “Welfare Facts

  1. I think the people in Government should All have to be on the Welfare system for 1 year. Not 1 month. Maybe just maybe they would make the right decision on the peoples financial situation they are in.

    • Yes,perhaps one year maybe two and each time they try to make extra money let the system cut him back and he’ll know what its like to be in ‘prison’ welfare.They have you locked into a certain amount each month and if you go over,its gone.Good thinking!

    • i feel the walfare help the worng people it should real look over the people that needs the help. instead helping the ones that on drugs and dont have familys its so heartbreaking because i have send money out tyo help this couple out to feed their children and have a place to see and they live in colorada and its cold right now i worry about this couple she having a baby lost his job and they cant get walfare at all. one child has prombles cant get the help they needed and its so sad that you people go and help the ones that dont need it at all breaks my heart and am a taxs payer i work and i just feel if you are going to help people help the ones you sghould be helping not ones that real dont need it.

  2. I love Bessie’s comment above – yes a year on welfare would certainly change their outlook. It’s ridiculously low rates that KEEP people on welfare. How do you get a job without a way to get there or money for a phone so employers can contact you? If you can’t keep any of the money, what’s the point if you are only able to get part time work which these days is a very real possibility. If most of your money goes on child care, again what’s the point. I know many people on social assistance and almost all live in a state of hopelessness. Social service workers act like it’s their money; many are rude; many have no compassion and many shouldn’t be in the job although they take home nice pay cheques.
    The social service workers should have to live on welfare for a year as well.
    It’s disgusting that so many children in this province live below the poverty line. The Liberals have put many people on social assistance; they’ve driven many people to suicide and they’ve made university and college so expensive that only the rich get to go.
    I hope that this coming election people get off their collective butts and remember what these heartless bastards have done to the most vunerable in this province and vote them gone!

    • actually as a social worker, we tried to stop the government from changing their hiring requirements years ago… they used to need a social service worker diploma to work in welfare now they only need grade 12, and thats it! so the problem is not only the money they recieve, but the whole system. the training we receive to be able to respond to people compassionately cannot be underestimated. they also have what is called a “pod” system where nobody has one worker anymore, they just go to the window and see whomever is available; that breaks down relationships and people have to tell their story over and over to many workers who just met them for the first time. so without their own worker people have no idea of their unique circumstances.

  3. I’d like to be able to earn my way out of this poverty trap. I’d like to be able to earn more money that is not deducted from my disability benefit. I have a proven record of spending my earnings while on disability on tuition and other self improvement processes.

    I am not allowed to be free to invest in my own rehabilitation.

  4. If Jagrup Brar was really applying for welfare plan for real he would have to wait 3 weeks to get his money. How would he face this challenge without any money for 3 weeks?

    • YES. That is true .
      Although the Welfare number of 610 is not enough … So many people say the worst part was three weeks with no money paid..Welfare says you can have a $150 for the three weeks but in reality so many people say the only reason they go to welfare is because they have $0 nothing left… .

  5. he sad reality is that the B.C. Liberals, and many of their supporters, don’t care. I have always believed that:
    1) Those on Income assistance/welfare should receive enough money to be able to live decently and afford products & services which adequately enable them to gain skills/education and/or seek employment. I can’t imagine a resident of the Lower Mainland being able to do this for less than $1,500
    2) Income assistance should be available to all B.C. residents, regardless of citizenship status or period of residency, and should be guaranteed for no less than 2 years.
    3) Recipients of such aid should have immediate & ongoing access to an advocate who has the power to intervene when he/she feels that the recipient’s social/case worker is bullying that recipient.
    4) Any earnings during the initial 2 year period should be reported, yet, not clawed back by the Ministry.

  6. I was astonished to see that the ministry claws back any earnings a person makes using their own ingenuity. It would be less heartless for the ministry to work with the recipient with advice and consultation to see how this money could be made to grow for the benefit of the recipient, with the aim of eventually getting him/her off of welfare and back into the mainstream. Surely government and civil servants are employed by us to help us, not hinder us.

  7. I am very pleased with this experiment as Social Assistance rates in BC definitely need to be increased. I am employed as a Social Worker and come across folks every day who are trying to live on SA and are not able to make ends meet. Most ask for assistance with budgeting assuming that it is their actions that is the problem….. but as we can see in this experiment Mr. Brar is far from able to make ends meet due to no fault of his own. Fair SA rates is a human rights issue!

    In my opinion we all as citizens of BC need to give our heads a shake and take responsibility to provide our neighbours with the opportunity for a good life. This means supporting social programs, initiatives and advocating for a fair system. We need to stop blindly blaming government while complaining about high taxes and expect anything to change. If we care about making a change to our social system we have to recognize that it will cost money in the form of tax dollars! We cannot have our cake and eat it too, we must get out of the trap of expecting government to care and pay if we are not also willing to do this!

    As a side note (to respond to the post by liz) from my experience it seems that a lot of ppl misplace their dissatisfaction with the system and social assistance in general on to front line staff at the Ministry. Many Ministry staff that I know are very committed to improving the lives of their clients. For example in my community we recently had our 2nd annual social service day put on using fund raised dollars from staff and community partners that aims to pamper and provide for those less fortunate, this project was spearheaded by a ministry worker who wanted to give back.

  8. I appreciate everyone’s comments. ‘Info’ made a very good point above.
    There is no incentive for disabled people on assistance to find even part time work. If you make anything over the $500 allowed it is clawed back dollar for $ on your next check. What incentive is that to do anything.
    From my experience (30 years) in the system, there is no bridge to get off the system and on your own. You are either ON or OFF, there is NO path to independence.
    There are many PWD’s who have skills they would be more than happy to pursue given the chance.

  9. A guaranteed livable income would prevent people from having their lives shortened and made miserable from poverty and poverty-related ill health. There is a well-documented connection between income and health. People say that a guaranteed livable income or basic income (formerly known as guaranteed annual income) is “too costly”. However, the direct and indirect costs of poverty are so high as to be incalculable. It is also impossible to quantify human misery and lost years of life. It is also impossible to quantify the health benefits that would accrue from the peace of mind of having stable economic security. Or the benefits from people having more time for things like family and community care, growing and preparing healthy foods, and other health-promoting, disease-preventing activities. See more information, articles and links at http://www.livableincome.org

  10. The “cycle” of living on Social Assistance is one that when you go to in seeking support you already know that there is a good chance you won’t get off any time soon. Not due to laziness or unwillingness, it is predominately due to circumstances that led you to Assistance in the first place; perhaps it is mental illness, tragedy in one’s family, loss of employment, leaving an abusive situation; the choices are significant and substantial.

    I am on PWD being diagnosed with BPD and I had to fight to just receive the benefits I do. It didn’t matter that I had a history with the system, it didn’t matter that the various medical reports indicated my problems. It turns out that unless you “word” your documents in a language that the government wants you to have it worded in, chances are you will be denied. I only learned this after I went to the Persons with Disability office and sought out an Advocate to help me. Only then did my appeal become accepted! This also goes for regular benefits as well. The problem is, no one going in to inquire about Disability benefits or Regular benefits even know this! Imagine being on your last dollar, desperate, scared, and unsure of what to do? It’s your first time, you walk into the Assistance Office, you see many people and you have to pull a number and have no idea how long you will wait. All you know is you are hoping that you will have if nothing else a temporary solution to your desperation. Imagine if you will, finding out that it could be weeks before you see any support? How do you think you would feel? Then to find out it is $610 for a single person? It just isn’t realistic in today’s economy. While Social Assistance isn’t meant to be a forever means of income, for many it is, but the cost of living doesn’t change, it will always go up. Do you realize that we are the 2nd most expensive country to live in?

    Why must the stigma of being on Assistance be negative? Why can it not be encouraging and a sign of hope? That people do want you to succeed but recognize that life’s events and situations sometimes are diverse and that a simple meeting with someone could give you that sense of regained possibilities?

    I struggle like so many others, I do not know if I will ever be able to go to work even if I could earn $500 a month, the minute I go over that I will be docked $ for $. If I were to receive continued support while going through the probation period for any part time or full time employment for say a 3 month period, I know for me, it would give me the confidence that I won’t be falling into the abyss of darkness, “if” anything were to happen. The minute you gain employment you are deemed “workable” therefore you don’t need assistance. This does NOT answer for the many who have mental illness and have multiple barriers, who truly want to work, but struggle day after day and would have to reply all over again.

    Where is the incentive to support people to become employable? Sure you can retrain them, but what about having therapists that could support individuals as they are being retrained. A lot of times a person cannot change the way they have done something unless it is pointed out to them, in a safe and non judgmental way. To have a person in their court, who does believe in them, and doesn’t just shove them out the door with no backing.

    Cutting back services and income to people will not decrease the demand of people who have become unemployed, or unemployable. What will help change is the support system that can be made available to them, if the government would just allow that to happen. Until then, no amount of changes, and taking a way of support is going to help anyone, not even the system.

    Mental illness should not be seen as a stigma, the system shouldn’t be seen as negative in supporting someone; if anything it should be seen as a starting point to regaining a sense of self with the goal of returning to the employment force.

  11. Something that doesn’t show on these pages is the average length of time that people remain on welfare. I looked at the government website and saw that the ministry leaves out this information. Before the Liberals imposed their shocking requirements, average lengths of time on welfare varied depending on the state of the economy, but were only a matter of months, clearly just until people could get back on their feet. In those days social assistance really worked. People only used it in times of crisis. How Christy Clark can not only tolerate the current situation but increase the waiting time is just beyond me.

  12. It’s just a design to pretend they are helping people.
    It’s a design to create social work jobs and show the general public that our country cares, it makes people feel good. There is no practical support for mentally ill or homeless people.
    People will always suffer, where as there are just as ill people that are profit driven and rewarded for new ways to destroy the environment and rip people off while offering nothing to society.
    Humanity is dangerously insane.

  13. I think it ridiculous that you have to do 11 hours of job searches each week,even if you are a single mom and full time student.I was getting daycare assistance once but they stopped it because I couldn’t keep up with the job search forms,And the child support agency wont make my son’s father help out with his daycare cost.Maybe if the government made more of these men pay up then single mom’s wont need as much welfare.

  14. A week ago my dear friend, on disability welfare and stuggling with mental illness and addiction, slipped through the enormous and gapping cracks in the system and committed suicide, God rest his troubled soul. Unable to support himself after breaking his back, welfare kept him on regular benefits for months until someone finally clued in and got him on disability, but it was too little and too late. He had been through the mental health system, he came out seemingly worse, less resiliant, unable to deal with life, and even more depressed, having been exposed to a health system woefully inadequate to help him deal with his situation. He lost all hope and in his terrible despair took his own life. He had no money, and no food, he was 8 days away from his next welfare disability cheque. The only difference between him and the 30 other people in four months who died on the streets of Victoria, BC recently…is that he paid his rent. Shame on you Government of British Columbia, for you have been charged with the responsibility of caring for those whom cannot care for themselves, and you have failed.

  15. There are PLENTY of people that come to cash their cheques at the bank I work at. I absolutely disgusted with the majority can certainly work. Or the BS excuses that “oh there’s no jobs in this town” I’m SICK of paying taxes so many can simply sit on their ASS!

  16. i have a question?… i am 18 in 7 days i have a six month old i get 334.64 a month for her n they told me at first when i turn 18 i can get my own welfare check i can not get a job because i have a baby that cant go to daycare yet and now welfare is telling me i do not have my gr 12 i can not get my own check but i have to go back to school in Sept witch was my plan. no seeing as im goin back to school i know i can get student welfare but i now realized i can not cuz my town daycare told me my daughter has to be 18 months before she can go there……. so i cant go to school cuz i cant get a friend to watch her for free and they wont pay anyone outside a daycare …… so what can i do?… n what are my rights?…… i have 334.64 a month n i can get her mostly what she needs but then i need to wait to get my bounce for the rest witch makes her suffer for atlest a week till i can get her more formula witch is 30 a can cuz shes lactose n there small cans ….. someone please help me!!!!!!!

  17. Wow I wished I found this as soon as it came out. I am currently 50years old have been on
    person with persistent barriers for many years and before that I was off and in the system most of my employable life . I am stuck between disability and where I am . I was diagnosed years ago with bipolar but at the time I got mad at the doc and walked out never to return went off of my meds the whole shibang. I spent most of my life in the middle of good and bad and am currently stuck I cannot work becasue the last job I had blue out my back and I cannot sit or stand for to long even sleeping i am lucky to get an average of 2-3 solid hours per night . there is allot I would love to say about my predicament but I know that it won’t help and to be honest it is hopeless out there at my age.
    I have been kind of sort of lucky becasue I have had to live with my Parents , how embarrassing but I have to because if I were to live with others I know that I will slip up and start to drink ( self medicate) get into trouble . there are allot of times I have to force myself out of bed and then I have a really hard time being around other people . way to many thing to say.
    the only thing is I am not sure how much longer I want to live, I do know there are people out there in worst ways then myself but I can feel the end is closing in very fast . the hopelessness, I cannot really blame anyone , there are Drug dealer the legit people out there tha tare very fortunate to have good family background and money and work l then there are people that are close to what I am just drifting trying to survive but you can only do this so long before there is nothing left anad you realize no matter what you believe be it god or destiny there is nothing.
    my only hope right now is that I can find a psyc and get re diagnosed go back on my meds get all the documentation so that hopefully I can get accepted for full disability maybe then I can have some hope.

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