The British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) withheld thousands of dollars in funding from grandparents who needed money to help care for their grandchild, according to a new report.
The BC ombudsman said the department failed to pass on $7,000 in federal financial assistance to the grandparents, identified in Tuesday’s report as the Taylors. The couple were eligible for funding because their granddaughter lives with a disability.
Thanks to an “unfair” funding model, the money intended to help the Taylors ended up in the province’s bank account.
“This case is disturbing on many levels,” mediator Jay Chalke wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
“Not only did the Taylors not receive any money they could have used for essential care for their granddaughter, but the department knew there was a problem and took far too long to resolve it. .”
Grandparents ‘wronged’ for years: report
The Taylors began caring for their then two-year-old granddaughter, identified as Jesse, in 2013. Jesse is Indigenous and lives with physical and mental disabilities.
The MCFD began giving the Taylors just over $1,000 a month in provincial funding to help support Jesse’s care, according to the report.
The couple later learned they were eligible for additional federal funding due to Jesse’s disabilities. They successfully applied for the Child Disability Benefit, which provides around $242 a month to carers of severely disabled children and teens.
The Taylors’ application was approved, but they did not receive any money.
Under federal law, the MCFD was still considered “supporting” Jesse’s care at the time, as it still provided provincial funding to the Taylors. So the federal child disability benefit was paid to support the province —not the grandparents.
The department kept the money as general revenue and did not pass it on to the Taylors.
“By failing to pass on these benefits to the Taylors, the department benefits from Jesse’s disability designation,” the report said.
The ministry was already aware of the problem
The Taylors complained to the ministry in 2019. A ministry staffer responded and agreed the situation “was problematic” but did not resolve it. Another follow-up response said the ministry could not make any changes until “appropriate consultation, reviews and approvals” had been completed.
The ombudsman began investigating in 2020. The report says it’s rare for the ombudsman to open an investigation and find that the subject of the complaint already knows about the problem but simply hasn’t resolved it.
“The injustice of this case is compounded by the fact that by the time the Taylors complained to us, the department had already acknowledged this was an issue,” Chalke wrote.
In total, the Taylors were entitled to more than $7,000 in regular benefits and one-time payments since 2019.
It wasn’t until last February, more than two years after the Taylors’ complaint, that the ministry informed eligible caregivers that the province would begin paying them an additional benefit, equivalent to the Child Disability Benefit, to address the problem.
Payments will be retroactive to 2019, as recommended by the Ombudsman’s office.
“I am pleased that the Department is now paying an equivalent amount of Child Disability Benefit to these carers, but given the impact on children with disabilities and their carers, I would have expected that when this issue was identified, the department would address it immediately,” Chalke said.
“For families caring for children with disabilities, every dollar counts, and it is not acceptable that the Taylors and families like them were wronged back then and are only, this year, being promised funds they should have received years ago.”