Feds redo child-benefit forms amid concerns ‘at-risk’ families missing payments

The max annual payment will increase to $6,639 for kids under age six, $5,602 per child aged six to 17

The federal government will roll out a simplified application form for the Canada Child Benefit this month — just as it gets a bump in value — after hearing about barriers for newcomers and Indigenous people who are eligible but don’t go through the paperwork needed to get it.

The decision comes months after the minister in charge, Jean-Yves Duclos, was briefed about mounting concerns that eligibility rules and the application itself for the Trudeau government’s signature child benefit may be barriers for some “at-risk” families.

While take-up rates are high, there are potentially thousands of eligible recipients who don’t receive the benefit because they are informal caregivers who aren’t recognized as legal guardians, or live on reserves and haven’t filed tax returns.

A briefing note prepared for Duclos late last year also highlighted a particularly problematic situation for Indigenous families whose children are released from provincial child-welfare systems. Provinces and territories flagged the transition “as a challenge for Indigenous Peoples” partly because “families do not typically re-apply” for the benefit in that situation.

The briefing note said that the application would be overhauled to address concerns that it was too difficult to understand for some families, particularly newcomers to Canada.

The government says the new form is to be published this month — just as the benefit goes up to keep up with increases in the cost of living — and outreach to 700 First Nations is ongoing to help families apply for benefits, including pamphlets translated into Indigenous languages.

“We recognize that some families, particularly Indigenous ones living on- and off-reserve, face particular challenges in accessing the CCB and other benefits,” said Valerie Glazer, a spokeswoman for Duclos.

“We understand that the CCB is a valuable tool to help families who need it most, and we’ll continue to work to ensure that everyone who qualifies for the CCB receives it.”

READ MORE: Thousands of Canadian families could miss out on planned bump to child benefit

On Saturday when the new benefit year begins, the maximum annual payment will increase to $6,639 for each child under age six, and $5,602 per child aged six to 17.

It’s the second time that there has been a benefit boost since the Liberals agreed last year to peg the value of payments to the rate of inflation ahead of schedule.

The benefit has been linked to a reduction of some 278,000 children living in poverty since its introduction in July 2016.

Federal spending on the benefit is forecast to rise from $24.3 billion this year to $26.1 billion by early 2024.

While the form is getting an overhaul, eligibility criteria appear unchanged.

Federal rules stipulate, among other things, that payments can only go to someone who lives with a child under age 18 and is primarily responsible for their care.

Informal caregivers who are not recognized as the child’s legal guardian “may struggle to prove they are primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of a child,” officials told Duclos in the briefing note.

His department planned to look at the eligibility criteria to find ways for families most at risk of living in poverty to receive the benefit, including “easier access for informal caregivers.”

“While the eligibility criteria for the CCB were designed to provide support to Canadian families who need help the most, there may be opportunities to address some of the issues raised by stakeholders,” reads the briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law.

Employment and Social Development Canada said in an email that changes aren’t being made in eligibility rules for asylum seekers. Refugee claimants can only receive the benefit if they receive positive rulings on their asylum requests — a process that can take 20 months.

Outside estimates suggest it would cost $30 million a year to provide these families with the child benefit, but federal officials noted for Duclos that claimants can get other social assistance and housing help.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Week of snow storms finally fades

Six snowstorms in seven days pours on more than 40 cm

VIDEO: Time’s running out for Montreal Alumni tickets in Hope

Habs will face off against Hope hockey players on Saturday afternoon

5 to 10 cm of snow still coming to Fraser Valley: Environment Canada

Hard to say when the freezing rain will turn to regular rainfall, Environment Canada says

Peking Acrobats bring extraordinary exhibition of agility, athleticism and grace to Chilliwack

They will perform in beautiful costumes with dazzling special effects and live musicians

EDITORIAL: Honouring Kent’s history

Former editor Grace Kennedy reflects on the special edition for the 125th anniversary

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

Convicted Fraser Valley con man facing 39 charges in Vancouver area

Donald Quinnell got four years prison in 2015, again facing fraud, theft, stolen credit card charges

Police seize nearly 50 kilos of drugs in Surrey

Police say this has taken perhaps millions of deadly doses of fentanyl and other drugs off the streets

Young child seriously injured in suspected drunk driving crash in Delta

“This needs to stop,” says Insp. Ciaran Feenan, head of the Delta Police Department’s patrol section

Elderly man in serious condition after being hit by bus in Burnaby

RCMP believe man, 82, was not at a crosswalk at the time

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Most Read