Kimberly Rogers Inquest -
Fri. Dec. 6, 2002 - Day 30
Margaret Little, professor of political science and women's studies at Queen's University, continued on the final day of evidence. She dealt with education: most women she had interviewed had not finished high school. Clearly the best way to move away from social assistance is to get further education. Therefore it doesn't make sense to have laws which do not allow post secondary education. People who only have part time and short term jobs on their resume have a more difficult time getting full time permanent jobs.
Dr. Little was asked about the stigma associated with the receipt of social assistance, which several other witnesses had brought up. She replied that stigma is a common theme in her research. The stereotyping of welfare recipients also leads to policies that don't make sense. A huge proportion of time and resources are devoted to catching fraud, when the research shows a welfare fraud conviction rate of only about 1% of caseload.
Dr. Little explained the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement, citing that as another example of unfair treatment of welfare recipients and their children. The operation of workfare is another area based on stereotyping. It is assumed that people have to be forced to look for work, attend mandatory workshops and be put into placements. However all of her research shows women strongly want to work; they will often get jobs even when it is not in their best economic interest; e.g. they lose the drug card.
The coroner ruled that Dr. Little was not to discuss the welfare fraud hotline ("snitch line").
Dr. Little gave examples of unfair treatment of recipients and their children by landlords teachers, doctors and even charities such as food banks.
Dr. Little's recommendations included: setting welfare rates to cover the costs of shelter, food, transportation; no lifetime ban or three month ban; there should be consultation with people on welfare, advocates, community groups when setting the rules; loans should not be considered income; post secondary education should be allowed.
In cross-examination, Chantal Tie for the CAEFS coalition referred to the just-released Auditor- General's report, particularly sections which dealt with the inaccuracy of overpayments recorded in the new computer system. Dr. Little stated that almost all women in her research had some kind of overpayment; they often did not understand why. It is not surprising therefore that the auditor found that overpayments were not well documented. The Ministry's figures on their web site concerning overpayments and fraud raise more questions than they answer.
The evidence at the Inquest is now concluded. Final submissions are to be made on December 11 and 12. It is expected that the jury may be giving their findings and recommendations on December 19.
Nancy Vander Plaats,
based on notes from Cindy Wilkey and JoAnne Frenchkowski.