British Columbia

Maternity EI, disability assistance clawback hurting B.C. family

A Maple Ridge family with a husband on disability and a wife who will be on maternity leave are wondering how they will make ends meet with the province clawing back their financial assistance.

Under current B.C. rules, families cannot get both types of social assistance

When Katie Aldred goes on maternity leave, the province told her that the amount she receives in employment insurance for maternity leave will be deducted from her husband's disability assistance. (CBC)

A Maple Ridge family with a husband on disability and a wife who will be on maternity leave are wondering how they will make ends meet with the province clawing back their financial assistance. 

Under current B.C. government rules, families cannot get both disability and employment insurance for maternity leave.

Luke Dickenson's family receives $1,490 a month in disability assistance for issues he has faced since childhood, and an extra $1,000 a month from the government where his spouse Katie Aldred is employed. When Aldred goes on maternity leave from her job, the province told them that the amount she receives in employment insurance for maternity leave will be deducted from Dickenson's disability assistance.

The low-income family says once the clawback kicks in, they will be left with $165 a month after paying their rent.

They say their family will not be able to make ends meet and the extras will have to be cut.

"Those sort of things will have to come out of the budget in order to pay for extra food and clothes," Aldred says. 

Government won't remove clawback

Minister of Social Development Michelle Stilwell says she feels for the family, but won't remove the clawback.

"Income assistance is the assistance of last resort. Everyone is expected to exhaust all other financial means, that being said the province has a substantial financial safety net in place for their time of need," she says. 

The government says 150 people have been affected by these rules in the past year with a total deduction of  $443,000 in benefits.

The NDP wants the government to reconsider its policy. 

"It's a minimal amount [that] can be changed with a stroke of a pen and would make a huge difference in the lives of people like Katie and Luke," says social development opposition critic Michelle Mungall.

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