The government provides welfare benefits to those in financial need. If the government denies you welfare or reduces your benefits, there are steps you can take to challenge the decision.
Understand your legal rights
Many reasons might cause you to seek financial help from the BC government — a lack of available jobs, a family breakup, an illness or disability. The government provides welfare benefits to pay for shelter and daily living costs to those who qualify. These benefits include income assistance, disability assistance, and hardship assistance. The government also pays supplements for certain things, such as unexpected needs and dental expenses.
These government benefits are managed by the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction. The Ministry may decide to refuse, reduce or stop your monthly welfare benefits or a supplement. You have the right to challenge their decision.
To challenge a Ministry decision:
- If you disagree with a Ministry decision, you can ask for a reconsideration. This is an internal review by the Ministry.
- If you disagree with the reconsideration decision, you can appeal to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal. The tribunal is an independent body similar to a court.
- If you disagree with the decision of the tribunal, you can go to court to ask for a judicial review of that decision.
This information explains each of these stages.
Deal with the problem
As soon as you find out the Ministry made a decision you don’t agree with, ask the Ministry to give you their decision and the reasons for their decision in writing. Ask what law or policy they based their decision on. Also ask for copies of everything they used to make the decision. You have a right to this information.
If you disagree with the Ministry’s decision, ask for a reconsideration. You can submit your request online at myselfserve.gov.bc.ca. Or you can get a request for reconsideration form from the Ministry.
The deadline to ask for a reconsideration is 20 business days from the day the Ministry gives you their decision. You must meet this deadline.
Include all your information with your request
Attach all your information to the request form. It’s important to give as much information and evidence as you can. If you decide to appeal further, you may be limited to the information you use in your original request for reconsideration.
If you need more time to give the Ministry other documents, such as records or letters that support your request, you can ask the Ministry for 10 to 20 extra business days. Write on the request form that you need more time when you give it to the Ministry.
You can ask for a supplement
If you are challenging a decision to cut off your benefits or a supplement, you can ask the Ministry for a repayable supplement while you are waiting for the result. However, be aware you will need to sign an agreement to repay this money if you lose your challenge.
The reconsideration decision
A government officer will review your request and make a new decision about your matter. The new decision will be mailed to you.
If you disagree with the reconsideration decision, you can appeal to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal. The tribunal is an independent body similar to a court.
You have seven days to appeal
You must complete a notice of appeal form and send it to the tribunal within seven business days of when you receive the Ministry’s reconsideration decision.
The tribunal hearing
You can ask the tribunal to hold your hearing in person, by phone, or in writing. You have the right for a lawyer, friend, witness or other person to come to the hearing with you.
The tribunal will send you an appeal record with a copy of all the information the Ministry decision-maker considered in making the reconsideration decision.
You can’t present new evidence at the hearing, but you can explain the evidence already on file and give evidence to support the information on file. And you can question the Ministry.
The Ministry presents its case at the hearing. As part of this, it can question you.
The tribunal’s decision
The tribunal decides if the decision you are appealing was reasonably supported by the evidence, and if the Ministry reasonably applied the law to the facts.
If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision, you can ask the court to review it. You can file a petition for a judicial review in the BC Supreme Court. There are deadlines to file a judicial review, so it’s important to act quickly.
An advocate can help you assess the chances of bringing a judicial review. The Community Legal Assistance Society and the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre have lawyers who may be able to help with judicial review of some tribunal decisions.
If you are not satisfied with a tribunal decision, you have two options in addition to bringing a judicial review.
Complain to the tribunal chair
If you have a concern about the conduct of an appeal or any interaction with the tribunal, you can make a written complaint to the tribunal chair. You can contact the tribunal online, by email at email@example.com, or by toll-free phone at 1-866-557-0035.
Complain to the ombudsperson
if you think you were treated unfairly, you can complain to the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson investigates complaints about administrative unfairness. You can submit your complaint online or contact the ombudsperson by toll-free phone at 1-800-567-3247.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is responsible for welfare in BC.
Toll-free: Call Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in January 2018
Time to read: 5 minutes