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February 6, 2004

Government Backs Down over Heartless Policy
but won't release numbers

It is a good thing that the Campbell government backed off from its threat to kick thousands of people off welfare. It is not a good thing that they put thousands of vulnerable people through needless anxiety just like they did when they forced people to reapply for disability benefits.

The government spin is that welfare rights advocates needlessly raised anxiety by drawing attention to the rule that would see people kicked off if they had been on assistance for periods of two or more years out of the last five years. "See", they say, "it is only 37 people and maybe no one, who will be kicked off on April 1st." What they don't say is that at the last minute government added a new 25th reason for exempting people from the arbitrary time limit. The new exemption is "People who have an employment plan, are complying with their plan, are actively looking for work, but have not been successful in finding employment." Everyone on assistance has completed an employment plan because it is a requirement in the initial application. It has always been a requirement that employable people look for work. In other words, rule 25 exempts everyone and the two year rule was a cruel exercise that caused needless anxiety for people who are already down on their luck.

I requested information from the Ministry of Human resources on the number of people who are excluded from the two year rule by reason for each of the 25 excuses; in other words, how many people are excused because they are pregnant, and how many people are excused because of the last minute rule 25? The government that promised to be open and honest put the request in the hands of its freedom of information staff. That means that it will be a struggle that will take months before any data are released, and it is possible that we will never see the numbers. So much for open and honest!

 

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2004 David D. Schreck. All Rights Reserved.