Single parents on social assistance will no longer lose their benefits when they go back to school, and will receive additional money for tuition, transportation and child care to complete their studies under a program announced Wednesday by the B.C. government.
Starting in September, the full costs of child care will continue to be paid for a year after the completion of skills training, and government-paid dental and other health benefits will also continue for a year to give people a chance to get back in the workforce.
Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell said the program will cover training programs up to a year in length, calling it "one of the most significant social program shifts this government has ever introduced."
Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said her ministry will cover daycare for any of the 16,000 single parents on income or disability assistance who want to be trained to join the workforce.
"We know that child care costs can be in excess of $1,200 [a month], depending where they are in the province," Cadieux said. "Sometimes it's less. We're just going to make sure that they're covered."
Surrey single mother Emi Yumura described her struggle to get back to work after leaving a "dysfunctional" relationship and ending up in a transition house with her two-year-old son. This kind of bridge support is what parents in her situation to get off welfare and get established in a job, Yumura said.
Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said her ministry is assembling a list of training programs that fit into the one-year window for jobs with good employment prospects.
Bond said the provincial program may be able to match up with the federal Canada Job Grant where participating employers pay for part of the training, to extend assistance beyond one year.
"While certainly we're looking at first-year costs and then continuing some of that support, part of my job is to make sure that we have employers that are prepared to step up, to be engaged with these individuals as well," Bond said.