Financial Assistance in British Columbia

It isn’t an easy job, being a single mother. While your married counterparts are enjoying the luxury of being stay at home moms, you have to go out to work as well as raise the kids. And that means you also have to find and pay a child minder, find the cash for travel costs to get to work and somehow pick up the shopping on your way home. Then you’ve got to cook, clean, help the kids with their homework and pay all the bills. No wonder your social life has vanished without trace and you collapse, worried and exhausted into bed every night.

If this sounds like your life, you need a helping hand. If some of your financial worries could be taken away, what a difference it could make to your life! The good news is that that helping hand is actually there, in British Columbia. All you need now is the knowledge of where to find it and how to get it.

What follows is a break down of the help that you might be entitled to in your province. Some of the assistance is federal, so it applies to you wherever you live in Canada. Other help is dependent on your being a resident of British Columbia.

Most of the assistance noted here is family related, but there may be other benefits that you’re entitled to. Take a look at the Benefits Canada site:

Then the second link is to the website of Service Canada:

 

EDUCATION AND SPECIAL NEEDS

In this section you’ll find a list of benefits and help connected to education and special needs.

 

Family Support. (Provincial)

This is a provincial general ‘umbrella’ program for residents of British Columbia. The assistance comes through the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). It provides help for anyone who has children with special needs, and covers the programs listed below in addition to offering specialized help in certain circumstances.  You can find full information on the link below, but the areas covered are also detailed individually.

 

British Columbia At Home Program (Provincial)

This provincial program is part of the family support scheme. If you’ve got kids who suffer from severe disabilities, it could be just the thing you need to get that invaluable help and support. Here’s what is offered:

  • Help with paying for respite care so you can get a well deserved break. However much you love your kids, it’s important to keep yourself healthy and happy so you can carry on doing a great job of being a mom. Looking after severely disabled children takes a lot out of you. So, you need a little time off occasionally, just to be you! The respite care can be in your own home, or in an approved center or other agreed place.
  • The program also helps pay for equipment needed to cope with your child’s disabilities and everyday needs. It covers medical plans, transport requirements, medical supplies and medications among other things.

You may have to have these expenses approved before you incur them, so check it out. Also, ask if you are eligible for both types of assistance or just one. To be eligible, you need to have a child who is dependent on help to dress, eat, to go to the toilet and to wash. He or she has to live with you and you must be the official parent or guardian of the child. The needs will be assessed by a representative from ‘ At Home’.  Some conditions will automatically qualify with no need for assessment.

You can get your application form here:

Or, you can pop along to your local MCFD office and pick one up.

 

School Age Therapy Program (Provincial)

Also under the Education and Special Needs banner comes the School Age Therapy program. This provides occupational therapy and physiotherapy for students of school age who have developmental or learning disabilities and need the extra help to fully access education. It’s aimed at helping them to achieve their potential and make the most of their education. Therapists attend the child’s school to work alongside teachers and support staff with the child. Sessions can also take place in your home.

Your child will be eligible if he or she has developmental/educational special needs, or is deemed at risk of having such needs.

The program is also from the MCFD, and you can apply through your school district.

 

Early Intervention Therapy Program (Provincial)

This program aims to prevent developmental and similar problems among pre school age children from developing through a system of early intervention, as the name implies. Children who display signs of problems or potential problems are eligible. The services can take place in your home or in a preschool if appropriate, and include the following:

  • Assessment
  • Screening
  • Referral
  • Family education and support
  • Service Planning
  • Therapies (Physio, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, speech therapy and similar as appropriate)
  • Consultation
  • Monitoring
  • Transition planning (preparation for school or planning for for further help if necessary)

 

You can apply though your local MCFD office…here’s how to find it:

 

Aboriginal Head Start (Federal)

The Aboriginal Head Start program for urban and northern communities is a federal program to help First Nation, Inuit and Métis children who live off reserve. (If you live on reserve, follow this link to find services for you and your family  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/famil/develop/ahsor-papa_intro-eng.php )

Based in the community, the program comes through the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and is a federal program.  It offers help to children who are eligible in areas like preparation for school, Aboriginal language and culture, health and nutrition,  parenting and social involvement.

There’s no charge for eligible children. To apply, just ask at your local PHAC office.

 

RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) (Federal)

The Canada RESP is a way of saving for your child’s future education. It’s really worth trying to put in place, because once you’ve got an RESP set up for your child, he or she also becomes eligible to receive extra help and other benefits. You, your family and friends can all contribute to the fund, which has a lifetime limit of 50,000$. And, it can run for up to 36 years, so your child doesn’t have to rush to finish his or her studies! The cash from this fund can be used to help finance any of your child’s educational costs, including full or part time courses, apprenticeships, college courses or university degrees. And tax is only payable on monies that are disbursed from the fund, not on contributions made or funds that remain held within the RESP. So, an RESP makes really sound financial sense.

To find what you need to know about choosing the best promoter for your RESP, follow the link below. Make sure that you choose the right promoter for your needs or you and your child could lose out on benefits in the future.

All you need to apply is a Social Insurance Number…both your child and the promoter need one of these.

You can find out more about an RESP and how to set one up on the link below:

This is a federal program and not tied to any one province.

 

Canada Education Savings Grant (Federal)

This federal grant program works with you RESP to give even more benefits.

It  pays out 20% on your RESP contributions to help you even further on the way to a great education for your child. If you’re a low to middle income family too, you can get an extra 10% or 20% on the first 500$ of contributions made every year added onto your CESG as described above. This can continue until your child is 17 years of age.

All kids of up to 17 are eligible to apply for this, as long as they meet the basic criteria of being Canadian citizens and have a RESP in place.

Again, choose your promoter with care. Not all are best suited to your needs.

 

Canada Learning Bond (Federal)

Yet another example of federal help for families is the Canada Learning Bond. This one can also help you pay educational costs through savings schemes. It is a federal incentive program, aimed at making it straightforward  for struggling families to get more out of the RESP scheme. It will contribute 500$ into your child’s RESP, whatever your level of contributions (even if you aren’t able to make any!). From then on, up until your child reaches 15 years of age, 100$ is deposited into the RESP. If the costs of setting up the RESP are a concern, an additional 25$ can be put forward to help with that too.

To be eligible for the Canada Learning Bond:

  • Your child must have been born after 31st of December 2003.
  • You need to be receiving your National Child Benefit Supplement.

When you open your RESP, as before, be sure to check that the promoter you choose offers this option or you won’ be able to take advantage of this bond.

 

PARENTING and FAMILY BENEFITS

 

Natal Supplements (Provincial)

Natal supplements of 45$ per month are payable to British Columbian moms who are pregnant or have young children (under 7 months), and who already receive Income Assistance. You can find out how to apply for this by getting in touch with your case worker at British Columbia Employment and Assistance:

 

 Nobody’s Perfect (Federal)

There’s a federal program called ‘Nobody’s Perfect’:

It is aimed at you if you are a single mom, have a low income or you are experiencing other difficulties and feeling isolated and low. Group meetings help you not just to meet others in a similar situation as you, but also gives you access to expert advice on topics like health, nutrition and developing good parenting skills. You can go along if your child is under 5.

Find out more about ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ and how to apply here at the appropriate office for your locality:

 

Canada Child Tax Benefit (Federal)

Canada Child Tax Benefit is a federal program, so it isn’t confined to single moms or parents in Alberta. You can get it wherever you are in Canada, as with all the federal programs outlined here.

This benefit is paid monthly, and it is completely tax free. It’s available to anyone who has a child under the age of 18 living with them, and who is the main carer for that child. You also must be a Canadian citizen or a legal resident of Canada.

The amount of the benefit depends on your situation, and comes in two parts: the National Child Benefit Supplement and the Child Disability Benefit. Of course, the second part will only be applicable if your child has a disability.

You might be wondering how to find out if you are eligible.  Eligibility rules are comlex but it’s a good idea to apply anyway. If you are entitled to the benefits you will be informed.  Make your application as soon as you have given birth to your child, or when a child you are looking after moves into your home, or immediately you receive official confirmation of your Canadian residency.

You can apply in several ways…so choose the one that is best for you. In fact, if you signed up and agreed to the automatic benefits service, you can apply through that. Want to know more about this service? Check out here:

Or, you can apply online:

If you want to make a paper application, this is the link fto follow:

 

Child Disability Benefit (Federal)

If you’ve got a seriously disabled child, you can get more help through the Child Disability Benefit. The disability can be physical or mental, but it does need to be classed as serious (and likely to last for at least a year) to confer eligibility.

If your disabled child is under 18 and you are the main carer for that child, this will pay you up to 2,740$ a year.  To apply, first you will need a certificate from your doctor. You need to complete a form, as does your doctor. This is the form you’ll need:

It’s best to make sure you have completed and filed your tax return before you apply for the disability benefit or you could find there is a delay in processing your application. This is then sent to the Canada Revenue Agency for approval. Once approved, your payments can begin, and these are paid monthly. They’re tax free too.

 

Canada Universal Child Care Benefit (Federal)

Universal Child Care Benefit is another federal benefit, so it’s payable to all Canadian families resident in Canada with a child or children under the age of 6 (born after the 1st July 2006), irrespective of income levels or financial situation. You can use it for anything connected to the care of your child or children, so if you need child care or school equipment for your child, this is very useful. It is taxable, but single moms will be taxed as two parent families. It offers 100$ per month. You may not even need to apply, as if you already get Canada Tax Benefit your application for UCCB will be made automatically. If not, this is what to do:

Get online at the website of the Canada Revenue Agency:

Or, get along to your local Service Canada Centre:

 

British Columbia Family Bonus (Provincial)

This is a tax free monthly payment for low to medium low income families in British Columbia. It acts as a local supplement to the Canada Child Tax Benefit. There are two parts to the benefit:

  • Basic Family Bonus. This pays up to 111$ per child. (It’s paid per month, and is combined with your Canada Child Tax Benefit). It is calculated on your net family income.
  • British Columbia Earned Income Benefit. This one is for families who bring in over 3,750$.

Calculations for the benefits are made on your income  tax returns, so make sure they are done and filed on time.  You are eligible if you receive Child Tax Benefits. The benefit will be added automatically to this, so there’s no need to worry about how to apply.

 

Child Care Subsidy (Provincial)

As the name suggests, this benefit is there to help finance child care for parents in British Columbia. The amount payable depends on individual circumstances, so it may cover all or part of the costs of child care. It is, of course, of great help to single moms. To get it, you need to be:

  •  Officially resident in British Columbia,
  • Have established your citizenship (or permanent residency or protected status) of Canada
  • Have a  provable and acceptable reason for needing child care (ie, you go out to work, attend college etc.)
  • Assessed to show you have  clear financial need for the assistance.

You can check out your financial eligibility here with this online calculator tool:

 

Child Rearing Drop Out Provision (Federal)

You probably already know that on your retirement from work (or if you have to stop work due to disability) you will become entitled to your basic benefits from the Canada Pension Plan. And, when you’re gone, your kids can benefit from this.  But did you also know that if you have to drop out of work (thus normally decreasing your pension entitlement) because you have children to raise, you can take advantage of the Child Rearing Drop Out Provision to offset these losses. You can apply for CRDP at the same time as you apply for your CPP, but be aware it takes about 6 months before you’ll start receiving your benefits.

Your  CRDP is payable for any months when you either received your National Child Benefit payments or were eligible for the Canada Child Tax Benefit. Your earnings have to have been less than normal during this time due to you having had to stop working or work fewer hours in order to care for your children. (Children need to have been seven years of age or less to count.) Finally, to qualify, your child has to have been born after the 31st of December 1958.

To find out more, here’s the link.

To make your application online, click here:

And, this link will take you to a site that details your nearest Service Canada Office where you can pop in to grab an application kit.

 

Canada Pension Plan Children’s Benefits (Federal)

If your parents are now deceased or have become disabled, you could be eligible for Children’s Benefits as long as your parents made sufficent contributions during their lifetimes/working lives. CPP Children’s Benefits give you an extra monthly pay out of an amount ascertained by the level of their previous contributions. You can have a look at the charts to see what those levels and pay out amounts could be here:

As long as your parents did make sufficient contributions, you’ll be eligible if you are between 18 and 25 and attending full time school or college at an approved educational institution, or if you’re under 18. Here’s how to apply:

Full information is available on the following link:

 

Employment Insurance (Federal)

Employment Insurance can cover you for the loss of your job for a number of reasons. It could be that you’ve been laid off due to job cuts, become sick or disabled, or just if you can’t find a job in spite of trying your best. As long as your unemployment isn’t your fault, you should be able to claim if you have this cover.

The insurance pays around 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum payout of 468$ a week. You can claim for 14 to 45 weeks, but it’s dependant on how many insurable working hours you accrued in the previous 52 week period. It’s also worth noting that if you manage to get back into work before you’ve used up all the benefit, you can keep the rest to use in the future should you meet with more employment problems. It is also important to keep a provable record of your attempts to find work during your period on the benefits.

So, are you eligible? You are if you have:

  • Paid your Employment Insurance premiums
  • Have become unemployed through circumstances not under your control and not your fault.
  • Have received no pay for work nor been in work for seven consecutive days or more during the pervious year
  • Have accrued enough insurance hours to qualify during the last year or since the beginning of  your last EI claim.

You can apply online …see the link below:

Or you can go to a Service Canada Centre.

 

Employment Insurance Family Supplement (Federal)

 

This one’s an extra feature of the Employment Insurance as explained above. It offers you even more benefits if you are a carer who has a low income, and you lose your employment leaving you really struggling. It’s really worth having as it pays up to a massive 80% of your insurable earnings, so if you’re eligible ( you need to receive Canada Child Tax and have an income of below 25,921$ ), it can really help.And, you don’t even have to worry about filling in forms to apply for the supplement as it will simply be added to your existing EI if you meet the criteria.

 

DIVORCE, SEPARATION and MAINTENANCE ASSISTANCE

In this final section you can find assistance with matters concerning divorce, separation and maintenance.

 

Family Justice Counsellors (Provincial)

You can get access to assistance from a network of trained, qualified mediators to help you and your ex partner to resolve the difficult issues of custody, access, child support and guardianship. The counsellors can only offer counselling  and practical advice rather than legal advice, but they can refer you to qualified sources for legal advice as and when it becomes necessary. The service aims to remove the need for disruptive and damaging court battles through mediation. However, if your case is already in court, they are also able to help guide you through the processes and offer support when the going gets tough.

The service comes free of charge, but participants are requested to follow the steps and processes suggested in order to get the best from the system and avoid wasting this valuable resource.  For example, you will be asked to attend a ‘Parenting after Separation’ class. ( http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/family-justice/help/pas/index.htm ) which will help you to understand the issues you are likely to come up against over the next few months. Don’t worry, there’s no charge for the classes, all you have to do is attend. You can call your local family Justice Centre to put this program into action.

 

Family Maintenance (Provincial)

Family Maintenance is a program that comes to you through the Ministry of Social Development. Using the Child Support Guidelines, it will aid you to make sure that you get the official order for the maintenance payments to which you are entitled. It’s here to help those whose ex partner has not stepped up to the mark to provide the payments for your children, after divorce or separation. If you are having poblems with this, you can take your issues to the British Columbia Employment and Assistance office (BCEA)who will take over your claim for you.

This is how it works: You are assigned a caseworker who will negotiate your maintenance order for you, dealing with your ex partner, his representatives and all the relevant authorities. He or she can also refer you for counselling if appropriate.

When your order is granted, your payments will be handled by the Ministry of Attorney General’s Family Maintenance Enforcement Program.

To make use of this service, all you have to do is sign up to the BCEA. You can find out more and get details of how to sign up here:

 

 

 

Family Maintenance Enforcement (Provincial)

If you are having problems getting your ex to pay up, if he isn’t paying regularly or isn’t paying as much as he should, or even just to hand over the problem to the authorities so you don’t have the constant stress of dealing with it, this is the program for you.

The service will automatically come into play if you are already receiving British Columbia Income Assistance. If not, you can ask, as long as you live in British Columbia and possess a validated support order from any country or province that has an agreement with British Columbia.  You can affiliate to this program whether you are the person who pays the maintenance or the person who receives it to ensure fair play.

To apply, go along to your provincial courthouse …find yours here:

or to your nearest FMEP office:

http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/family-justice/help/fmep/information.htm

So, as you can see, there is a lot of help available. Of course, you may only be eligible for parts of the above programs and services, but if the need is there British Columbia and Canada have programs to meet that need.