How do we reverse this?
**This featured case is one example of the concerns people have brought to us. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.
Paul’s mom, Qayla, called us because she disagreed with a large overpayment that Social Services was charging him. Paul had an acquired brain injury from an accident nearly 20 years earlier and Qayla was acting on his behalf.
Paul was on the Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) Program. In the spring of 2019, Social Services reviewed his file. It discovered that Qayla and a family friend had been depositing money into his bank account to help him out. Because he had not reported this money as income, Social Services determined that it had overpaid him more than $28,000 over the last four years.
Qayla told us she did not think this was fair because Social Services wasn’t giving Paul enough money to pay his bills, which was why she and the family friend had been helping him out. Instead of paying his bills for him, they put money in his account so he could manage his own affairs as much as possible. Qayla said that the money from the friend was a loan, not a gift. So, if Paul also had to pay that money back to Social Services, his debt would be double. As well, when Paul received money deposited to one bank account, he often transferred it to another bank account that he used to pay his bills. Qayla believed Social Services was tallying the money deposited to both accounts, thus counting it twice. She presented her information to Social Services. She explained why she thought Paul should be on the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) not TEA. Social Services agreed to put Paul on SAP and recalculated the overpayment to about $9,000. While Qayla appreciated the reduction, she still didn’t think he should have an overpayment at all and appealed, first to the Regional Appeal Committee and then to the Social Services Appeal Board (SSAB). She lost both appeals, then brought the matter to our Office.
We noticed that the SSAB had questioned why Paul had not been considered for the SAP or the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability Program (SAID) earlier and that it had commended Qayla and the Ministry for recalculating the amount, but it did not remove the overpayment. Social Services agreed with us that Paul had been on the wrong program for years because he had not told them he had an acquired brain injury, and this was probably due to the injury. If he had been on SAP or SAID, he would have received more money from Social Services and would have been able to pay his bills. Qayla told us she would then not have had to help him out with his finances. While Social Services did not think it was anyone’s fault that Paul ended up on the wrong program, it also could not find a way to remove Paul’s overpayment and still follow its usual rules. Given this unique situation, we suggested that it seek a Minister’s Order to reverse the overpayment. Social Services agreed and the Minister issued the order to reverse the remaining amount.