Groundbreaking study raises questions about welfare rules

A groundbreaking study released by the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives raises important new questions about the validity of harsh welfare rules.

The study follows real-life people on welfare in B.C. for two years, tracking them through periods of homelessness and desperation.

And it found that harsh rules forced welfare recipients into a day-to-day struggle for survival, scrambling for food, shelter, the basics -- simply because welfare rates push them into such deep poverty.

The study shows the political promise to get people off welfare and into jobs is empty: Many were cut off welfare even though they weren’t job-ready (some were too sick to work but got cut off anyway). Some found jobs but remained below the poverty line (the working poor). And some, especially women, turned to prostitution to get by.

Many remain inappropriately categorized in the basic “Expected to Work” welfare category for far too long – two years or more.

The study also makes a vital link between welfare and homelessness: Throughout the study, almost one third of participants reported having no fixed address at some point in the previous six months.

We live in an era where governments still trump reduced welfare caseloads – but we never really hear about the fate of those who left (or were push off) welfare.

This study forges new territory by asking that question and following real people during their very troubling struggles.

As Seth Klein, director of the B.C. CCPA, tells the Vancouver Sun: "It's all so stupid and pointless. None of these people are being served by being cut off nor is society served."

-- Trish Hennessy