British Columbia

B.C. kept thousands in funding from family caring for granddaughter with disabilities: report

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) kept thousands of dollars in funding from grandparents who needed the money to help care for their grandchild, a new report has found.

Ministry knew about 'problematic' loophole in 2019 but didn't fix it for years, ombudsperson says

The B.C. ombudsperson has found that federal money intended to help grandparents care for their grandchild living with disabilities wound up in provincial coffers through an 'unjust' funding model. (Richard Lyons/Shutterstock)

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) kept thousands of dollars in funding from grandparents who needed the money to help care for their grandchild, a new report has found.

The B.C. ombudsperson said the ministry failed to pass on $7,000 in federal financial aid to the grandparents, identified in the report Tuesday as the Taylors. The couple was eligible for the funding because their granddaughter lives with disabilities.

Through an "unjust" funding model, the money intended to help the Taylors ended up in the province's bank account.

"This case is disturbing on a couple of levels," Ombudsperson Jay Chalke wrote in a statement Tuesday.

"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."

In a written response to the report, Minister Mitzi Dean said the MCFD has already implemented all of the ombudsperson's recommendations.

"Ensuring children living with disabilities have access to fair and effective funding is a priority," Dean said.

Grandparents 'short-changed' for years: report

The Taylors started caring for their then-two-year-old granddaughter, identified as Jesse, in 2013. Jesse is Indigenous and lives with physical and mental disabilities.

The MCFD started giving the Taylors a little more than $1,000 each month in provincial funding to help support Jesse's care, according to the report.

The couple later learned they were eligible for additional federal funding because of Jesse's disabilities. They successfully applied for the Child Disability Benefit, which offers roughly $242 each month to caregivers of children and teenagers with severe disabilities.

The Taylors' application was approved, but they didn't get any of the money.

B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke at a news conference in Victoria on April 6, 2017. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Under federal legislation, the MCFD was still considered to be "maintaining" Jesse's care at the time because it was still giving the Taylors provincial funding. So, the federal Child Disability Benefit was paid out to support the province ⁠— not the grandparents.

The ministry kept the cash as general revenue and did not forward it to the Taylors.

"In failing to pass these benefits on to the Taylors, the ministry benefits from Jesse's disability designation," the report read.

Ministry already knew about problem

The Taylors complained to the ministry in 2019. A ministry staffer replied and agreed the situation "was problematic" but didn't fix it. Another follow-up response said the ministry couldn't make any changes until "appropriate consultation, reviews and approvals" were done.

The ombudsperson started investigating in 2020. The report said it's rare the ombudsperson begins an investigation and finds the subject of the complaint already knows about the problem but just hasn't solved it.

"The injustice of this case is accentuated by the fact that by the time that the Taylors complained to us, the ministry had already acknowledged this was a problem," Chalke wrote.

Altogether, the Taylors were eligible for more than $7,000 in regular benefits and one-time payments since 2019.

It wasn't until this February, more than two years after the Taylors' complaint, that the ministry informed eligible caregivers the province would begin providing a supplemental benefit to them, equivalent to the Child Disability Benefit, to address the issue. 

The payments will be retroactive to 2019, as recommended by the ombudsperson's office.

"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."