Feds redo child-benefit forms amid concerns ‘at-risk’ families missing payments

The max annual payment will increase to $6,639 for kids under age six, $5,602 per child aged six to 17

The federal government will roll out a simplified application form for the Canada Child Benefit this month — just as it gets a bump in value — after hearing about barriers for newcomers and Indigenous people who are eligible but don’t go through the paperwork needed to get it.

The decision comes months after the minister in charge, Jean-Yves Duclos, was briefed about mounting concerns that eligibility rules and the application itself for the Trudeau government’s signature child benefit may be barriers for some “at-risk” families.

While take-up rates are high, there are potentially thousands of eligible recipients who don’t receive the benefit because they are informal caregivers who aren’t recognized as legal guardians, or live on reserves and haven’t filed tax returns.

A briefing note prepared for Duclos late last year also highlighted a particularly problematic situation for Indigenous families whose children are released from provincial child-welfare systems. Provinces and territories flagged the transition “as a challenge for Indigenous Peoples” partly because “families do not typically re-apply” for the benefit in that situation.

The briefing note said that the application would be overhauled to address concerns that it was too difficult to understand for some families, particularly newcomers to Canada.

The government says the new form is to be published this month — just as the benefit goes up to keep up with increases in the cost of living — and outreach to 700 First Nations is ongoing to help families apply for benefits, including pamphlets translated into Indigenous languages.

“We recognize that some families, particularly Indigenous ones living on- and off-reserve, face particular challenges in accessing the CCB and other benefits,” said Valerie Glazer, a spokeswoman for Duclos.

“We understand that the CCB is a valuable tool to help families who need it most, and we’ll continue to work to ensure that everyone who qualifies for the CCB receives it.”

READ MORE: Thousands of Canadian families could miss out on planned bump to child benefit

On Saturday when the new benefit year begins, the maximum annual payment will increase to $6,639 for each child under age six, and $5,602 per child aged six to 17.

It’s the second time that there has been a benefit boost since the Liberals agreed last year to peg the value of payments to the rate of inflation ahead of schedule.

The benefit has been linked to a reduction of some 278,000 children living in poverty since its introduction in July 2016.

Federal spending on the benefit is forecast to rise from $24.3 billion this year to $26.1 billion by early 2024.

While the form is getting an overhaul, eligibility criteria appear unchanged.

Federal rules stipulate, among other things, that payments can only go to someone who lives with a child under age 18 and is primarily responsible for their care.

Informal caregivers who are not recognized as the child’s legal guardian “may struggle to prove they are primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of a child,” officials told Duclos in the briefing note.

His department planned to look at the eligibility criteria to find ways for families most at risk of living in poverty to receive the benefit, including “easier access for informal caregivers.”

“While the eligibility criteria for the CCB were designed to provide support to Canadian families who need help the most, there may be opportunities to address some of the issues raised by stakeholders,” reads the briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law.

Employment and Social Development Canada said in an email that changes aren’t being made in eligibility rules for asylum seekers. Refugee claimants can only receive the benefit if they receive positive rulings on their asylum requests — a process that can take 20 months.

Outside estimates suggest it would cost $30 million a year to provide these families with the child benefit, but federal officials noted for Duclos that claimants can get other social assistance and housing help.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Talking about dementia is different when your own family is involved

Wilkinson shares a special story about his own father

Province begins restricting water use on Koksilah River

Fish under threat due to low water flows

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience the ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Vancouver Island senior found safe with help from six search and rescue teams

Wayne Strilesky found safe in thick brush in north Nanaimo

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Most Read