Denied Assistance: Closing the Front Door on Welfare in BC

The number of people receiving welfare in BC has been on the decline since 1995. Despite this, in 2002, the provincial government introduced dramatic policy changes designed to further shrink the welfare “caseload.” Some of these changes were unprecedented in Canada. Many of them dealt with how people access welfare—the eligibility rules and application processes that people must navigate in order to receive assistance.

The government has declared its policies a success. According to the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance, the reduced caseload is a result of moving people from “dependency” on welfare to jobs and self-sufficiency.

This study set out to test the government’s claim. It is the first evaluation of its kind. It sought to find out why the number of people receiving welfare has dropped so steeply, what the experiences have been of those seeking assistance, and what has happened to some of those denied help.  The study draws on previously undisclosed data obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. This statistical evidence was combined with 42 in-depth interviews conducted in Vancouver and Victoria with individuals seeking welfare, community workers and advocates, and Ministry workers.

Their compelling stories are told throughout this report.

Denied Assistance -PDF(1996)