I Owe How Much?

**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.

Adela* is a working single parent with two children. A few years ago, she received Social Assistance, then switched to the Provincial Training Allowance while attending classes, and then got a job. During much of that time, she also received Child Care Subsidy payments. She had also had a partner and they had lived together off and on. After she was employed they lived together as a family, but her partner then passed away.

After his death, the Ministry of Social Services received an anonymous tip that Adela had been living common law for three years while receiving benefits. They reassessed her eligibility for the Child Care Subsidy and calculated an overpayment based on that anonymous tip. They sent her a letter stating that she had been overpaid by $12,800 and must pay it back.

They also shared this information with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour, which prompted a recalculation of the Provincial Training Allowance, putting her into an overpayment situation with them as well. They also removed her debt reduction and Student Loan remission amounts.

Adela called Social Services to explain that yes, she had a partner while receiving benefits, but he only lived with her for part of that time and she did not think it was fair that the recalculation assumed she was living with him the whole time. She did not have any proof of this and the ministry did not change their assessment. She was placed on a payment plan and had to start paying the money back. She then contacted our office. We investigated the matter and found that both ministries had accepted the anonymous tip without question or verification. It had come in the form of an anonymously-delivered information package, which included a letter from a lawyer’s office that Adela claimed was not accurate. We worked with Adela to provide proof of when she was living common law and when she was living as a single parent. The ministries accepted this information and reassessed her eligibility for the Child Care Subsidy during that time and recalculated her overpayment, which changed from $12,800 to $4,700. The Provincial Training Allowance was also recalculated and the overpayment was reduced, and she became eligible for the appropriate debt reduction and Student Loan remission amounts.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.