Three human rights advocacy organizations are calling on the Province to end its practice of clawing back 100% of child support payments made to families receiving income assistance. The groups are asking the leaders of BC’s four major political parties to commit to implementing an exemption that would allow children to keep up to $300 in child support if their party forms government after the May election.
“Children have a right to support from their parents, but the provincial government is depriving children in low income single-parent families – some of the most vulnerable children in the province - of their right to child support by deducting that money from their family’s income assistance,” says Kendra Milne, a lawyer with the Community Legal Assistance Society who specializes in poverty issues. “Meager social assistance rates place these lone-parent families well below the poverty line, and government policy preventing them from receiving child support helps keep them there. This untenable situation must be immediately addressed.”
Child support payments paid by one parent to the other are clawed back dollar for dollar from families receiving income assistance. The claw back essentially forces payors – usually fathers, who may themselvesbe low income – to give their money to the government rather than in support or benefit of their children. Compounding the unfairness, provincial income assistance provides only minimal support to families with children; most of the financial support recipients receive for their children comes from the federal National Child Benefit program, not the Ministry of Social Development.
“BC’s child poverty crisis is well known” says Adrienne Montani, Provincial Coordinator of First Call, which publishes an annual report card on child poverty in the province. “119,000 children in BC – one out of every seven kids – are living in poverty, and many of those children live in families headed by lone-parent mothers, who have the highest rates of poverty in the province. The amount the government claws back amounts to less than 1% of the Ministry’s total budget for income assistance, but would make a significant difference to families living below the poverty line.”
“Mothers are more likely to be custodial parents and receive child support on behalf of their children than fathers,” says Laura Track, Legal Director at West Coast LEAF. “They’re also more likely to be economically disadvantaged by the breakdown of a relationship, to face barriers balancing paid work with child care responsibilities, and to be forced to turn to social assistance for support. Children live in poverty primarily because their mothers live in poverty, which makes these claw backs a women’s issue as well.”
For more information:
Staff Lawyer, Community Legal Assistance Society
Provincial Coordinator First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition
Legal Director, West Coast LEAF
604-684-8772 ext. 214