For Immediate Release | BCPIAC
In a decision dated June 23, 2015, then Ombudsperson, Kim Carter, denied the request of nine social service agencies from across the province for a systemic investigation into service reductions at the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation that shut out many eligible people from accessing income assistance. The complaint, filed by the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC), a law office in Vancouver, in May 2015, alleged that the government has created insurmountable barriers that deprive people of critical income support to which they are legally entitled.
The alleged barriers set out in the complaint included office closures and significant reductions in office hours, channelling calls to under-resourced centralized call centres that serve the whole province and have lengthy wait times, and the creation of a complicated, 90-screen online application process. The complaint also pointed out that most income assistance recipients do not have phones or internet access, and many are not computer literate, so the Ministry’s changes do not make sense for the users of its services.
Our clients are disappointed that there will be no systemic investigation into the serious barriers to access to welfare that they witness on a daily basis.
Ms. Carter, who is no longer in the position of Ombudsperson, set out in her decision that the Ombudsperson’s office would continue to welcome individual complaints relating to the service delivery issues raised in the complaint. Ms. Carter advised that focusing on a systemic complaint would take resources away from the many individual complaints their office receives from vulnerable individuals trying to access the welfare ministry.
As of July 1, 2015, Kim Carter, is no longer in the position of Ombudsperson for BC. Jay Chalke is the new Ombudsperson.
“Our clients are disappointed that there will be no systemic investigation into the serious barriers to access to welfare that they witness on a daily basis. We are currently exploring options as to how to address these critical concerns about access to basic income supports,” said Lobat Sadrehashemi of BCPIAC.