Two government ministries that provide services to British Columbia’s most vulnerable residents were responsible for a 10-year peak in complaints to the provincial advocate, says a report released Monday.
Ombudsperson Jay Chalke’s annual report said his office received 8,400 complaints over the past year from people seeking fair and reasonable treatment by provincial and local governments.
The majority of the complaints were aimed at the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Chalke’s report said.
Chalke said at a news conference the Social Development Ministry received the most complaints at 625.
However, he said he’s hoping the introduction of a poverty reduction strategy later this year will address fairness issues.
“We receive more complaints about the Ministry of Social Development than any other public body under our jurisdiction,” he said. “The good news is their complaint numbers have been coming down, but the bad news is their volume remains high and is still the highest of any public body.”
Social Development Minister Shane Simpson delayed the New Democrat government’s promised introduction of a poverty reduction strategy last March after making its plan a key election promise.
Simpson has said that B.C. has the highest poverty rate in Canada with an estimated 678,000 people living in poverty, including 118,000 children.
“I’m hoping as the government puts its poverty reduction strategy into place later this year that the service issues brought to our office every day about the ministry are addressed,” said Chalke.
The report includes several individual cases of people having trouble with government bodies, including the Social Development Ministry.
It highlights a situation where a man complained after his monthly government rental supplement of $500 went to a landlord even though he had moved from the apartment and it left him with only $138 for food.
Chalke said there are recommendations from his office dating back to 2009 to reduce regulations for people with disabilities or those with barriers to employment, but they have yet to be implemented by the province.
No one from the ministry was immediately available for comment.