Me and social services… part II

Lets see, I have through various media called out the Premier, DOE, HRM, HRSB, and and DTCH in the last while. Now lets at Department of Community Services (DCS) to the list…

Following this email, posted here , that was sent to the Minister of DCS back in March…. I got this today:

On Apr 19, 2007, at 10:27 AM, Janet Rathbun wrote:

Dear Mr. Mason:

Thank you for your e-mail of March 31, 2007, to the Honourable Judy Streatch, regarding the family who received an insurance claim and their eligibility for income assistance. As Director of Income Assistance, the Minister has requested that I respond to you on her behalf.

While I cannot speak to individual cases due to confidentiality, I can address how the Department would consider funds received from damage awards or insurance settlements. The Employment Support and Income Assistance program considers all sources of unearned income when determining eligibility for assistance, unless the compensation payment has been specifically exempted by regulation, such as Hepatitis C or HIV settlements.

When income assistance recipients receive a lump sum payment, the Department looks at how the income could be used for basic needs or a reasonable disposal of the asset. Up to $1,000 could be considered as an asset and the remainder of the funds may be used for food, clothing, personal needs, shelter, and furniture, in addition to any other reasonable purchases. As part of this process, we do ask for receipts or proof of the purchases.

It is a very unfortunate situation for any individual or family when they have experienced a tragic incident such as fire, flood or other disaster. Our staff try to assist in lessening the impact and work with the families towards recovery and a reasonable plan to meet both their immediate needs and longer term solutions.

Again, thank you for the concerns you have expressed and your comments.

Sincerely,

Janet Rathbun
Director, Income Assistance

To which I responded:

Thank you for your reply.

My concern is that insurance settlements are not income. You say the Department “considers all sources of unearned income when determining eligibility for assistance” so does that mean the Department acknowledges that this type of income is unearned, but it still counts against eligibility for assistance?

When the “the Department looks at how the income could be used for basic needs or a reasonable disposal of the asset” does “looks” mean considers it income? My concern in my letter to the Minister is it should not matter how money received in this way is spent, as it is not income.

The example is this:
If a $35K house burns down, and a $20K settlement is paid, the family has lost, in business or accounting terms, $15K.

I am trying to ascertain if this money, the $20K, would be treated as income.

I want to be totally clear about how the regulations your department work in this regard, and if you can provide specific references I would appreciate it. I understand staff do not make the rules so much as operate under them, I just want to understnad them.

I need all the information I can get to understand this issue, so that my next letter to the Minister and Cabinet can be entirely clear on how the Ministerial and Governor-In-Council regulations could be changed to better accommodate this type of tragic circumstance, as they have in regulation around Hep C and HIV settlements.

Thank you,

Waye

I shall literally keep you posted.

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