The B.C. government has unveiled a number of changes to income and disability assistance, in efforts to reduce barriers for those needing to access the programs.
The changes, which came into effect on Jan. 1, include no longer requiring seniors who receive welfare assistance to use Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits if they are younger than 65 years old.
The definition of what it means to be a spouse has also been amended, by increasing the amount of time two people can live together before their individual assistance is reduced to the lower partner’s rate, as well as allowing two people who have separated but are not yet legally divorced to access individual assistance.
The government has also introduced a pet damage deposit fund to help people find and maintain affordable housing.
Those needing assistance will also no longer be required to prove they have been financially independent for at least two consecutive years prior to applying for help.
Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call BC, said in a statement that this particular change will help youth aging out of the foster care system.
“It is equally important for other youth who do not have family support during this important time in their transition to adulthood,” Montani said.
The changes are part of the B.C.’s poverty reduction strategy, which carries the goal of reducing child poverty rates in half by 2024.