Stilwell made the promise less than 24 hours after Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog raised the issue in the legislature.
Krog cited the case of a four-year-old constituent, Brennan Smith, who was born shortly after his father drowned at a log boom near Port Mellon in 2011.
The boy receives a monthly benefit of $286.72 from WorkSafe B.C., but the government deducts that same amount, “nickel for nickel,” from his mother’s social assistance cheque, reducing it to $642, Krog said.
Stilwell told reporters that she was unaware of the clawback and has asked officials in her ministry to end the practice.
“I have directed my staff to make the regulatory change,” she said. “I would say that it will be on a ‘go-forward’ basis. So that change will be made and we will ensure that future families will benefit in this way.”
Stilwell said the WorkSafe B.C. benefit was somehow overlooked when the government ended the clawback of child support payments and the Canadian Pension Plan orphan’s benefit last September.
She also criticized the NDP for raising the issue in the legislature instead of coming to her first. “This was not brought to me,” she said in the legislature. “If it was, I could have been more proactive.”
Michelle Mungall, the NDP’s critic on social development issues, countered that MLAs use the legislature on a daily basis to advocate on behalf of constituents.
“It’s sad for the state of democracy that this government thinks that that’s somehow wrong to do,” she said. “The minister should be ashamed to make that suggestion.”
Outside the house, Mungall called on Stilwell to act quickly to change the policy.
“We need to see this right away so that this family and other families don’t suffer any more,” she said.
Mungall questioned how the government could have missed the WorkSafe B.C. clawback when it was changing other policies.
“The minister needs to account for why they ignored this one,” she said. “Now that it’s come to light … they’re scrambling to catch up with something they should have done long before.”
The ministry has yet to release figures on how many children were affected by the clawback of WorkSafe B.C. benefits.