British Columbia Family and Social Support – Services and Government Programs

The government of British Columbia offers family and social support services that target low-income individuals, seniors, people with disabilities, and parents.

Support for Adolescents and Youth

Assistance is available to help children who are victim of abuse, those living in foster family or care, and kids with special needs such as complex health problems, FASD, autism, etc. The Provincial Youth Concurrent Disorders Program offers outpatient psychiatric consultations to adolescents and young people aged 12 – 24 as well as individual therapy, referrals to community resources, limited treatment, and assessments. The program targets youth with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Support and Services for Foster Caregivers

Foster caregivers undergo training on topics such as managing change and transitions, cultural competence, child/birth family ties, care for indigenous children, and more. They are also eligible to receive financial assistance for children that need respite or relief, specialized, regular, or restricted care. Children with emotional or behavioral problems or physical or mental disabilities require specialized care. Foster caregivers are also offered financial assistance to purchase insurance such as automobile and homeowner/tenant insurance and coverage under the Master Insurance Program.

Assistance for Childcare

Funding for childcare is offered under the Young Parent Program and through the Affordable Childcare Benefit. Parents under 25 are eligible to apply for funding provided that they are in need of protection, Convention refugees, permanent residents, or Canadian citizens residing in British Columbia. Only parents with children born before or on their 20th birthday are eligible to receive assistance provided that their child attends an approved and licensed facility. Approved childcare facilities are required to assist parents with one or more of the following: referrals, transportation, counseling and housing supports, food and meals, and health and nutrition supports and training. Nutrition supports can be in the form of onsite visits by dental professionals, public health nurses, or registered nutritionists.

Assistance for childcare is also offered through the Affordable Childcare Benefit based on factors such as form of care, family size, and income level. Parents are asked to explain why they need childcare, whether they have a medical condition, are unemployed and looking for work, take part in an employment program, attend school, or are self-employed or working. Income level is also taken into account, including income and adjustments and deductions. Income criteria do not apply to families looking after children other than their own under a placement by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Financial Assistance for Families

Financial support is available in the form of the B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit and Child Opportunity Benefit. Families with underage children are entitled to receive a tax-free monthly payment through the Child Opportunity Benefit. Parents with a net income not exceeding $80,000 a year are also eligible but the payment is reduced by 4 percent. Families with an income over $80,000 qualify as well but the payment is further reduced by 4 percent. Parents submit an application and additional documents, if required, by mail, through their online account, or through birth registration. Other forms of assistance that are available to families include the Sales Tax Credit, Climate Action Tax Credit, Basic Tax Credit, and Families with Children Property Tax Deferral Program.

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Impact from COVID on Low-Income Families in British Columbia

Low-income families in British Columbia are among the worst affected and struggling with financial difficulties. With hundreds of businesses shutting down, some 400,000 people lost their jobs, making even food security a serious issue for many. Those who are employed typically have jobs they can’t work from home such as care home aid, grocery store clerk, and cleaner. This means they are at a higher risk of being infected with the new coronavirus.

Facts and Figures

Over 500,000 people in British Columbia live beyond the poverty line despite the fact that the majority of them are working. In fact, the province has the highest percentage of working poor in Canada, with an average annual income of around $15,000. A study by First Call also shows that about 20 percent of children in British Columbia live in poverty, with parents struggling to provide basics such as shelter, clothing, and food.

Impact from Covid-19 on Low-Income Earners

A provincial coronavirus study that involved over 349,000 participants shows that low-income earners and ethnic minorities are the worst affected. The study reveals that Black, West Asians, and Latin Americans are more likely to experience financial difficulties as a result of being unemployed. Those with an annual income below $60,000 also find it more difficult to make ends meet. Persons of South Asian, multi-ethnic, Korean, and Japanese origin also share that they have a more limited access to healthcare.

Finance Minister Carole James recently stated that some groups have been more impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Unlike 2008 when the finance and real estate sectors were the hardest hit, the service sector has been the most affected in 2020. Minister Carole James stressed on the fact that an overwhelming number or 90 percent of lost jobs are in the service industry and sectors such as hospitality and accommodation, food services, and retail. Those who lost their jobs are predominantly low-income workers, especially vulnerable groups such as women and young people. Women make for 2/3 of workers that were laid off in the service sector while youth unemployment already stands at 29 percent.

Government Assistance

Canadians who are affected by the coronavirus pandemic and are either self-employed or working are eligible to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in the amount of $2,000 over a 4-week period. Persons who chose to voluntarily quit their job do not qualify as well as those who are already recipients of the EI or CERB benefits. Persons with an income of $5,000 or higher over the last 12 months are eligible if their income is in the form of parental or maternity leave, self-employment income, or employment income. Canadians also qualify for a monthly $300 supplement if they are on the BC Senior’s Supplement, Comforts allowance, or Hardship, Disability, or Income assistance. This is provided that they are not entitled to receive recovery benefits, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or Employment Insurance. New measures that have been recently introduced are the Canada Recovery Sickness and Caregiving Benefits and Canada Recovery Benefit. The latter offers income support of $1,000 over a period of 2 weeks. Canadians are eligible to reapply over a period of 26 weeks.

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