Stop clawing back child support payments from social assistance recipients

Posted on September 14, 2015 in Social Security Policy Context

TheStar,com – Opinion/Editorials – Ontario claws back child support payments from parents living on social assistance. The practice hurts the children. It must stop.
Sep 14 2015.   Editorial

Anupam Kakkar would dearly love to help support his two children. But under Ontario’s arcane and outdated laws his children see none of the $645 he makes in monthly payments to their mother.

Instead, as reported by the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten last week, the money is clawed back by the province because his ex is on social assistance.

That condemns his children to a life of poverty. Under the Ontario Works program a family of three receives only $1,217 a month. Under Ontario Disability Support they get $1,801. To put that in perspective, Statistics Canada set its “low income measure” — the poverty line — for a family of three at almost $3,000 a month back in 2012.

Clawing back child support payments when families are already living in such dire circumstances is unacceptable. Ontario needs to change its rules. Especially in light of a recently launched $1.9-billion class action suit that says the province’s treatment of parents like Kakkar violates Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

First, the province should consider the example of British Columbia. Last February that province became the first to make child support payments fully exempt for families receiving income and disability assistance.

In other words, if Kakkar’s ex and children were living in B.C. they would be allowed to keep the $645, on top of the social assistance they already receive.

Failing that sensible approach, the Ontario government could adopt a proposal recommended by the anti-poverty organization Campaign 2000 last year. That would see child support payments treated as if they were income earned on top of social assistance. That means Kakkar’s ex and children would receive the first $200 of his payments without penalty, and 50 cents on the dollar for the rest of the amount. That would add an extra $422 a month onto their social assistance income – a veritable lifeline.

And in most cases it wouldn’t even cost the Ontario government that much in lost potential income. The average child support payment for two children living on social assistance is only $300 per month.

Contrast that cost to the financial benefits of lifting children out of poverty. As Anita Khanna of Campaign 2000 explains, eradicating child poverty sets the stage for success later in life by improving overall health and educational attainment.

And that saves governments money. Treating the symptoms of poverty, such as urgent health care, mental health concerns, shelter costs and the criminal justice system, costs Canada an estimated $72 billion to $86 billion per year.

The good news: the Wynne government says it is committed to reforming social assistance in Ontario and will look at the way that an individual’s income is calculated, including child support payments.

Surely allowing parents to hold onto at least a portion of child support payments to keep their children out of poverty is a good first step. It should be done immediately.

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One Response to “Stop clawing back child support payments from social assistance recipients”

  1. kiran says:

    Social assistance is a support system created to finically benefit those based upon their needs, income, food/clothing cost and the cost of shelter. Many benefit from child support since the cost of bring up child as drastically increased over the years. But this is no longer the case since major cut backs have begun to make its way toward child support. Child support income as drastically decrease for those who also receive social assistance.
    When it comes to the social welfare system or social assistance the one thing that always impacts it is capitalism. Capitalism is theory or a system that is based upon the rich getting richer while the middle class and lower class stay in the same area. A reading written by Mullay we are told that to achieve a better way of living we must obtain the life style of a Marxism system, which allows all to have the same access for all. If Marxism was applied to society today Anupam Kakkar would not have to worry that his children are not receiving an enough money to be able to function a suitable lifestyle.
    Child support and social assistance tend benefit others, this been shown in the past before these major cuts were made. Society today should be more focused upon how we are going to help keep young innocent children off the streets and how we can better our social welfare system. Both social assistance and child support systems were created to give others a better chance at life. In today’s society we should not be more focused upon Kylie Jenner’s hair colour but instead how we can make the social welfare system in a positive aspect that gives instead of slashing support systems. The article had mentioned many ways we can increase a social welfare in positive matter, it’s just about doing it.


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