Shomporko Online News Desk: Newly published documents on a little-used federal benefit for parents of crime victims reveal that despite a revamp of the program, more aid is being paid out, but the rate of denied applications remains constant.
Parents whose children were slain or went missing as a result of a likely criminal offense in Canada might receive up to $15,750 over 35 weeks under a scheme established by the previous Conservative government in 2012.
Following a critical evaluation of the benefit by a federal inspector in 2018, the Liberals revised the program, finding that administrative costs greatly outstripped the amounts provided to parents.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act detail how the changes have played out so far.
The average number of applications each year has risen to 31 from 11 in the wake of the 2018 changes, and amounts paid out climbed to almost $193,000 from just over $50,050, but still, only half of the requests are being approved.
Heidi Illingworth, the federal ombudsperson for victims of crime, said the low number of applicants speaks to a need for a follow-up review of the benefit despite the uptick in take-up and drop in administrative costs.
“We need to see some evidence that this is actually helping people,” Illingworth said.
The program has an annual budget of about $10 million after federal officials estimated about 1,000 families would need aid annually, but it has never once come close to spending that amount.
Children generally make up a small percentage of homicide victims in Canada and of those who go missing, few are taken by a stranger.
Illingworth said the government could look at expanding eligibility to help parents whose children are victims of crimes beyond homicide or being taken, such as sexual exploitation, or recognizing other forms of victimization that may require a parent to take time off.
The Liberal changes to the program were expected to have a “modest but important impact on the uptake of the grant” over time, officials noted in the documents.
In the last fiscal year, between April 2020 and this past March, 25 grants were issued with grants totaling about 390,000, up from the $349,920 in benefits in the preceding 12-month period. The grants were the most paid out for the program since 2015, and the operating costs the lowest over the same stretch.
Two years after the date of an incident that must have occurred in Canada, the benefit can be paid out. Parents are only eligible if they made at least $6,500 in the previous year and work no more than half of their normal workweek.
The government’s budget plan, which recently passed the House of Commons on Wednesday and is now in the hands of the Senate, has additional amendments to streamline and broaden access to the program, as well as doubling to 104 weeks the leave available to parents under the Canada Labour Code.
Source_The Canadian Press