Social Assistance In British Columbia

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Social Assistance In British Columbia

Written by Mark Gregorski
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood

Social Assistance In British Columbia

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Government Assistance

Social assistance programs have played a critical role in alleviating poverty in Canada since the Second World War. After the economic hardship faced by Canadians during the Great Depression, it was apparent that personal and financial aid provided by churches and charities was insufficient to meet peoples’ needs – additional support was required.

Today, both the federal government and provincial governments provide various social assistance programs designed to help people who are struggling financially. Most of these programs offer financial aid to help individuals pay for the essentials, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care. 

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Does British Columbia Have A Social Assistance Program?

British Columbia runs various social assistance programs, one of which is income assistance. The purpose of income assistance is to provide financial relief to individuals who face difficulty paying for their basic needs. You may be eligible for income assistance if:

  • You’re currently not working. 
  • You’re not able to work.
  • You’re not earning enough to pay for basic living expenses.
  • You’re in need of food, shelter, medical services, or other necessities but have no means of paying for them.

Income assistance is administered by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

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Conditions Of The BC Social Assistance Program

If you receive income assistance payments, you must adhere to two conditions to remain in the program:

  1. Complete an employment plan: If you’re able to work, you must show that you’re actively working to secure employment adequate to support yourself. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to abstain from searching for work while receiving income assistance payments. To be exempt from this requirement, you must present your case to the ministry and explain why you’re not in a position to seek employment.
  1. Submit a monthly report: The monthly report, also known as the “cheque stub,” is due by the fifth of each month. This report is a legal document that verifies that you’re still in need of income assistance. The ministry will examine your report’s details to determine if you’re still eligible for income assistance payments. You can complete the report online through your My Self Serve account or using a paper copy, which you can submit to a nearby ministry office or your local Service BC office.
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How Much Can You Receive Through The BC Social Assistance Program?

The amount you can expect to receive in income assistance is based on your current circumstance and the number of members in your family. Using the May 2021 income assistance payment as an example, you could receive:

  • $935.00 if you’re single.
  • $1,427.22 if both you and your spouse are on income assistance and have no children.
  • $1,270.58 if you’re single and have one child.
  • $1,611.06 if both you and your spouse are on income assistance and have one child.
  • Medical services coverage
  • Pharmacare prescription coverage

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As of January 1, 2021, the earnings exemption for income assistance recipients is:

  • $500.00 for single individuals or couples without children
  • $750.00 for families with children
  • $900.00 for families who have a child with a disability.
  • $900.00 for single individuals or families where at least one adult falls under the Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers category.

In addition to the monthly base amount, you may qualify for additional funds to cover other expenses. These supplementary benefits are classified under two categories: general and health. Each benefit under both categories has its unique eligibility criteria. You’ll have to contact the ministry to find out if you qualify.

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General Supplements Include:

  • Bus pass – a discounted bus pass, available to low-income seniors and those designated as Persons with Disabilities.
  • Clothing – if you live in a special care facility, you may receive extra money to purchase clothing.
  • Crisis supplement – this is an extra payment intended to help with unexpected emergencies requiring an immediate cash outlay.
  • Moving, transportation, and living costs – you may be eligible to receive money to cover transportation costs incurred for important reasons, such as starting a new job or attending a court hearing.
  • School start-up – you may get extra funds to cover school supplies for your children.
  • Security deposit – if you rent your living space, you may receive funds to help pay for the security deposit. You’re required to repay this benefit.

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Health Supplements Include:

  • Dental – this benefit helps to pay for basic dental coverage.
  • Extended medical therapies – you may be eligible to receive extra money to help pay for such services as acupuncture, massage therapy, podiatry, and physical therapy.
  • Hearing instruments – this extra payment help covers hearing instruments’ cost and any associated supplies and repairs.
  • Natal supplement – if you’re pregnant or have a child less than seven months old, you may qualify for an additional $45 per month.
  • Nutritional supplement – this benefit provides additional money for up to three months to cover the cost of dietary supplements essential to help you recover from surgeries, diseases, and medical treatment.

For a complete list of general and health supplements, visit the Government of British Columbia website and view the income assistance page.

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British Columbia Income Assistance Payment Dates

Income assistance payments are issued each month. Below is the schedule for 2021 payments.

Payment DatePeriod Covered
January 20, 2021February 2021
February 17, 2021March 2021
March 24, 2021April 2021
April 21, 2021May 2021
May 19, 2021June 2021
June 23, 2021July 2021
July 21, 2021August 2021
August 25, 2021September, 2021
September 22, 2021October 2021
October 20, 2021November 2021
November 17, 2021December 2021
December 15, 2021January 2022

Are You Eligible For The Social Assistance Program In BC?

To become eligible for income assistance, you must meet a series of criteria. Below are some of the main factors the ministry assesses when evaluating your eligibility:

Pursuing Income Or Other Means Of Support

You must be able to show that you’ve made reasonable attempts to acquire income through other means. Possible income sources include Canada Pension Plan, Student Financial Assistance, and WorkSafe BC. Cash in bank accounts and any assets that can be converted into cash are also considered – you must show that you’ve exhausted these resources as well.

If you refuse to pursue other income sources accessible to you, you may fail to qualify for income assistance.

Work Search And Participating In An Employment Program

Suppose you’re currently unemployed but are capable of working. In that case, you must pursue employment-related opportunities and put in the effort to obtain a suitable job. Failing to search for work could jeopardize your eligibility for income assistance.

Disability Assistance

To qualify for disability assistance, you must prove that you require financial aid and have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from performing basic, day-to-day activities. You must also meet the ministry’s criteria for the Persons with Disabilities designation.

How To Apply For BC Social Assistance Program

The most efficient way to apply for income assistance is online by using a My Self Serve account. My Self Serve is an online account where you can view personal messages and submit necessary reports and documents. You can also complete the application process by calling 1-866-866-0800 or visiting your local ministry office or Service BC center.

You’ll need to supply various personal details as part of the application process, such as: 

Final Thoughts

British Columbia’s income assistance program is a valuable financial resource for those who lack an income or earn an income too low to cover basic living costs. While other government-benefit programs can offer financial aid during difficult times, such as EI, these tend to provide only temporary aid. With income assistance, you get the benefit of regular monthly payments for an extended period, allowing you to improve your present situation gradually, without the stress of running out of money. You may also qualify for a wide range of supplementary benefits, making income assistance one of the province’s most versatile social assistance programs. By using it wisely, you can work effectively toward becoming self-sufficient.


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