April 18, 2019 6:52 pm
Updated: April 19, 2019 12:36 pm

Saskatchewan ombudsman says an income assistance rule is not fair

Saskatchewan ombudsman Mary McFadyen discusses her annual report.

Sean Lerat-Stetner/Global News

Social services benefits are typically tied to income, but what if money being counted as income never reaches you?

Saskatchewan’s ombudsman, Mary McFadyen, considered a legislated rule for income assistance and child support unfair in her annual report.

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Two single parents who receive benefits from the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and rental supplements, brought forward complaints on how their benefit levels were calculated against sporadic child support payments.

READ MORE: Sask. public interest & disclosure commissioner troubled by lack of complaints

Under SAP, they were both required to enter an agreement that allowed the government to collect and keep their child support payments, and that money would go into the province’s general revenue fund.

In exchange, they would receive consistent monthly SAP benefits and their child support funds would not be counted as income.

One month, the government collected lump sum child support benefits as arrears from the two parent’s ex-partners. This money went straight into provincial coffers.

READ MORE: High social services call volumes a growing concern: Sask. ombudsman

However, this lump sum was counted as income for both single parents, adversely affecting their rental housing supplements.

“Even though the law says that is not fair. That’s not the intent of these programs, and that should not be included as income was our recommendation,” McFadyen said.

“It’s not going into the hands of the person, it’s totally unfair.”

Social Services Minister Paul Merriman said he will be meeting with his officials after Easter to look at finding a solution to this issue.

“We’re always looking for input from the ombudsman on any of our practices, as we do with the provincial auditor, to see if there’s something out there that there’s a gap in our practice, or looks good on paper but is not working functionally for our clients,” Merriman said.

There is no concrete timeline on when this issue will be resolved.

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