Return to work training funds utilized well on West Shore

WorkLink helping people get unstuck from ‘welfare trap’

The B.C. government’s new training and employment program for single parents has enrolled more than 1,300 people since it began Sept. 1. The program covers tuition, daycare and transportation costs for up to a year of on-the-job training, or education towards in-demand jobs, for single parents receiving social assistance or disability payments. The benefits can continue for up to the first year of employment, including extension of government-paid dental and other health benefits. It replaces the previous system, often referred to as the welfare trap, where single parents would lose their assistance payments and benefits if they went back to school to train for a job. West Shore residents can access the program through the WorkLink Employment Society in Langford. “People in the West Shore have been utilizing it … There’s a lot of excitement and interest in the program,” said WorkLink case manager Jo Zlotnik. “Anything that gives someone an opportunity to become unstuck is very beneficial.” Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell called the results of the program’s first four months “a very good sign,” particularly since about 400 of the voluntary participants are not in the ministry’s “expected to work” category because their children are under the age of three. Of the 1,330 people signed up as of mid-December, 50 are already on the job in construction, retail, health and community service positions.

More than 90 per cent of participants are single mothers, reflecting the fact that women make up 90 per cent of the 16,000 single parents receiving income and disability assistance in B.C.

“When they come into a WorkBC office, there is an assessment that takes place to determine the best path for that individual,” Stilwell said in an interview. “The case managers look at aptitude and background as well as what’s going on in the local job market, and try to figure out how to individually map the supports that are needed for that person. It’s a very flexible program.”

When the single parent program was launched, Stilwell described it as “one of the most significant social program shifts this government has ever introduced.” It came with a financial commitment of $24.5 million over five years.

The ministry cites research showing children who grow up in an income-assistance family are up to three times more likely to become dependent on income assistance themselves later in life.

– with files from Arnold Lim

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