Persons Fleeing Abuse

Overview

The ministry is committed to demonstrating a renewed and serious commitment to protect applicants and recipients that are fleeing from abuse.

Persons who identify as fleeing from abuse must still meet the income and asset requirements of the BC Employment and Assistance program. However, it is important to ensure that when an applicant or recipient discloses they are fleeing abuse, the appropriate policies and exemptions are applied to ensure that:

  • The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert is applied to each contact on each case;
  • The immediate safety needs of the client are met, including the needs of any dependent children involved; and
  • The eligibility decision on assistance is expedited so the applicant/recipient does not remain in the abusive situation because of financial need.

New applicants are exempt from the work search, two-year financial independence requirement, and employment obligations for up to six months and proceed directly to Stage 2 of the intake process.

It is not necessary for abuse or domestic violence to be verified at this time for the specific policies to be applied, only that it be disclosed.  Abuse is not limited to physical violence, and can include psychological or emotional abuse, intimidation and stalking.  

Policy

Effective: September 21, 2016

The following guidelines are to be used:

Criterion

Guideline

The applicant or recipient states they are fleeing abuse from a spouse or relative.

The abuse experienced by the applicant or recipient may be one or more types of family violence defined in the Family Law Act. Family violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and emotional abuse.

Psychological or emotional abuse includes:

  • intimidation, harassment, coercion or threats, including threats respecting other persons, pets or property
  • unreasonable restrictions on, or prevention of, a family member's financial or personal autonomy
  • stalking or following of the family member, and
  • intentional damage to property

Where a child is involved, family violence includes direct or indirect exposure to family violence.

Applicants

When an applicant discloses they are fleeing abuse on the application or during the Stage 1 interview, the applicant is given critical priority and must be scheduled for an interview within one business day.  The applicant is exempt from the requirement to perform a work search and must immediately proceed to Stage 2 of the application. Staff must ensure in the interim the immediate needs of the applicant are met. [see Related Links – Immediate Needs – Policy – Requirements]

The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert must be applied to each contact on the case. [see Procedures – Applicants Disclosing as Persons Fleeing Abuse]

If minor dependants are involved, the Ministry of Children and Family Development must be contacted if there is reason to believe the children are at risk. [see Procedures – Applicants Disclosing as Persons Fleeing Abuse]

Note: These cases are not assessed for Hardship S (Immediate Needs); they are exempt from a work search.

[For general information regarding domestic violence services in BC, see Additional Resources.]

Recipients

When a recipient discloses they are fleeing abuse they must be given critical priority and must be scheduled for an interview within one business day.

No contact is to be made with the accused abusive partner/family member with regard to the recipient.

The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert must be applied to each contact on the case. [see Procedures – Current Assistance Recipients Disclosing as Persons Fleeing Abuse]

If minor dependants are involved, the Ministry of Children and Family Development must be contacted if there is reason to believe the children are at risk. [see Procedures – Current Assistance Recipients Disclosing as Persons Fleeing Abuse]

All applicants or recipients who have disclosed they are fleeing from abuse must be made aware of all the exemptions or supplements to which they may be entitled.

[For general information regarding domestic violence services in BC, see Additional Resources.]

Adding and Removing the Person Fleeing Abuse Alert

The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert is added to each contact on the case when the case is opened.  The abuse does not need to be verified by a third party, only disclosed.

The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert should only be removed when:
 

  • it is explicitly requested by the client; or
  • an EAW has spoken with the client and determined the client and their dependants are willing to have the Alert removed and are fully independent of the accused abuser

    and
     
  • a Supervisor has approved its removal.

For example when the client is ready and able to create an Employment Plan, either before or at the conclusion of the six-month exemption period from employment obligations, is an appropriate time to consider removing the Alert.

Family Composition – Residing Together

If the applicant or recipient has advised that they are “not residing” with the abusive spouse or family member but is living in a separate living space at the same address or property, as described in the Family Composition Policy, policies and policy exemptions for Persons Fleeing Abuse still apply. Any policy or exemptions listed below apply where appropriate.

[see Related Links – Family Composition  - Policy – Determination of Residing Together]

 

Policy for persons fleeing abuse is divided into four areas:
 

  • Exemptions for Persons Fleeing Abuse
  • Income and Assets / Hardship
  • Health and Safety Concerns
  • Supplements for Persons Fleeing Abuse

Effective: December 3, 2012

If a client reveals they are fleeing abuse, they are exempt from certain requirements that could be a barrier to them escaping the abuse and remaining independent of the abusive situation.

The abuse does not need to be verified in order for the exemptions to apply.  The exemptions should be applied immediately upon a client’s disclosure of fleeing abuse.  As defined in the Family Law Act, abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.

When a client is fleeing abuse, the food, shelter and medical needs of the client and their dependants should be determined and met as quickly as possible.  Applicants who identify as fleeing abuse are given critical priority and proceed directly to Stage 2 of the intake process within one business day. Staff must ensure in the interim the immediate needs of the applicant are met. [see Related Links – Immediate Needs – Policy – Requirements]

The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert must be applied to each contact on the case. [see Procedures – Current Assistance Recipients Disclosing as Persons Fleeing Abuse]

Persons fleeing abuse are exempt from:
 

  • Work Search Requirements
  • Two-Year Financial Independence Test
  • Employment-Related Obligations

They may also be exempt from:
 

  • Certain citizenship requirements

Work Search Requirements

An applicant must be exempt from the work search requirement if the applicant is fleeing an abusive spouse or relative.

Two-Year Financial Independence Test

Applicants are exempt from the two-year financial independence requirement if applicant(s) have, within the past six months, separated from an abusive spouse or fled an abusive relative with whom they resided, and as a result, their ability to work is impaired.

Exemption from Citizenship Requirements

Sole applicant or recipient family units may be exempt from citizenship requirements if, in addition to other criteria, the applicant or recipient has separated from an abusive spouse.  [see Related Links – Citizenship Requirements]

Employment-related Obligations: Employment Plans

The ministry expects employable clients to search for, accept and continue in employment.  However, clients are considered to have no employment obligations (NEO) if they have separated from an abusive spouse/relative within the previous six months.

After the six-month period, an Employment Plan should be developed that is appropriate to the client’s current circumstance, unless the client continues to be exempt from employment-related obligations for other reasons (e.g., they have a dependent child under three years of age). [see Related Links – Employment Program, Planning and Exemptions]

Employment-related Obligations: Specialized Population by the Employment Program of BC

If the client fleeing abuse is employable and wishes to seek employment it should be facilitated as an important step toward independence.  Persons fleeing abuse are identified as a Specialized Population by the Employment Program of BC and therefore entitled to alternative service delivery arrangements to access employment services in order to meet their unique needs and increase the likelihood of outcomes being achieved. [see Related Links – Employment Program of BC]

 

Income and Assets Hardship

Effective: September 1, 2015

When an applicant or recipient fleeing abuse has assets or income tied to the abusive spouse or relative, policies may apply to allow the income or assets not to be considered for purposes of determining eligibility.  [see Related Links – Income Treatment and Exemptions and Assets and Exemptions]

Eligibility for Assistance

Income
Any income held by the abusive spouse or relative should not be considered in the calculation of eligibility unless it is money the applicant or recipient is receiving directly (e.g.,  spousal support).

Assets
If a person fleeing abuse has assets, and retrieving them and converting them to cash would cause a health or safety risk, those assets should be considered unavailable and should not be used in the determination of eligibility.  The decision as to whether the asset is convertible is the responsibility of the EAW to make based on information provided by the applicant or recipient. [see Assets and Exemptions – Policy – Eligibility]

Jointly Owned Assets
When it is determined that an asset that is jointly owned cannot be disposed of because the other owner will not co-operate or contacting them would cause a safety issue, the Supervisor may deem the asset not available. This decision is valid for a six-month period and may be extended for a maximum of two years.

Example: If the applicant has a joint savings account with the abusive spouse/relative, and accessing it would pose a health or safety risk, it is to be considered not available.

[see Related Links – Assets and Exemptions – Policy – Types of Assets]

Hardship
If an applicant is not eligible for income or disability assistance, they must be evaluated for hardship assistance as appropriate. 

Example: if an applicant is ineligible because of their assets and they have dependent children, they may be eligible for hardship assistance under Assets in Excess.  If they are not eligible for any assistance, they must be referred to the appropriate community resources. [see Related Links – Eligibility for Hardship Assistance]

Note: In certain circumstances Hardship assistance may not be repayable for Persons Fleeing Abuse.  [see Related Links – Eligibility for Hardship Assistance – Policy – Non-Repayable Hardship Assistance]

Effective: September 1, 2015

When an applicant is fleeing abuse, or is in the process of formally separating from an abusive spouse/family member, contact with the applicant’s spouse/family member for information about the applicant should be suspended by the ministry if it is likely to raise a health or safety concern.  The health and safety of clients takes precedence over pursuit of payments, information, or proof of identity and income that the abusive spouse/relative may possess.
 

  • When there are health and safety concerns due to disclosed or identified abuse, staff must ensure they are following appropriate procedures and policies pertaining to:Family Maintenance Services
  • Sponsorship Undertakings

[For more information regarding family maintenance services, see Related Links – Family Maintenance Services]

Sponsorship Undertaking Default

Where there is a possibility of any health and/or safety concerns, no contact is to be made with the sponsor, including by letter.  Income assistance or disability assistance may be issued if all other eligibility criteria are met. [see Related Links – Sponsorship Undertaking Default]

Effective: September 21, 2016

Certain supplements, not exclusive to persons fleeing abuse, are intended to aid them in gaining security, safety and independence.

An applicant or recipient who does not reside with the abusive spouse or family member but resides in a separate living space at the same address or property is eligible for Supplements for Person(s) Fleeing Abuse.

Applicants and recipients may be eligible for the following supplements and should be proactively assessed once fleeing abuse has been disclosed:
 

  • Moving Costs
  • Additional Security Deposit Supplement

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of supplements, merely a list of those that have fleeing abuse as specific criteria.  Persons fleeing abuse are eligible for any supplements for which they meet the eligibility criteria.

Moving Costs

A Moving, Transportation and Living Costs Supplement may be provided if moving costs are required to move to another area in British Columbia to avoid an imminent threat to the physical safety of any person in the family unit. [see Related Links – Moving, Transportation, and Living Costs]

Imminent threat to the physical safety refers to an immediate need for assistance with moving costs where, without moving, the person is at risk for harm. For persons fleeing abuse, the imminent nature of the threat may continue even after leaving their home. Risk of abuse may continue while living in temporary housing (for example, a transition house or emergency shelter) so assistance with moving costs may be considered to move from temporary housing to more permanent housing.

Additional Security Deposit Supplement

Recipients who have two or more outstanding security deposits (issued after April 1, 2002), but require an additional security deposit, may be eligible for an additional deposit if they are fleeing abuse.

Procedures

Effective: March 27, 2013

If an applicant for assistance discloses they are fleeing abuse on the Application for Assistance or during the Application Stage 1, the application service request (SR) is flagged as critical priority and these steps are to be followed:
 

  1. Supervisors must ensure critically flagged application SR’s have been immediately actioned within one business day, and the applicant is scheduled for an expedited interview within one business day.
  2. Staff must document the details of the applicant’s fleeing abuse situation in the case Notes, however, they do not need to verify the circumstances with a third party (e.g. a police or medical report).
  3. If the Fleeing Abuse indicator was selected in error or the applicant does not meet the criteria for Fleeing Abuse (e.g. fleeing from someone who is not a spouse or relative) the application SR priority must be updated to reflect the nature of the application (i.e. 1-Immediate Needs, 2-High, 3–Standard).

If the application SR remains as priority 0-Critical:
 

  1. The application is flagged for the START team prior to the Stage 2 intake appointment.  The review will be prioritized and occur within one business day.
  2. The applicant is assessed for immediate medical attention, safe shelter, and/or food and is made aware of all the exemptions and supplements to which they are entitled even if the abuse has not been verified by a third party.
  3. The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert is applied to each contact on the case, including dependants.
  4. Staff must update the caseload field in the system to the corresponding Fleeing Abuse indicator:  FA + first digit of the client’s Service Office ( e.g.: FA1, FA2, etc.)
  5. The applicant is exempt from the work search, two-year financial independence. requirement, and employment obligations for up to six months and proceeds directly to Stage 2 of the application process.
  6. If the applicant has dependants, the Ministry of Children and Family Development is contacted if there is reason to believe the dependants are at risk (child protection concerns). [see Related Links – Protection of Children]

Note: These procedures do not replace the current procedures for reporting child abuse. 

Effective: March 27, 2013

If a current recipient of assistance discloses to a ministry staff member either by phone, in person, by mail as a person fleeing abuse, these steps are to be followed:
 

  1. Recipient is given critical priority and is scheduled for an eligibility interview to establish an independent case within one business day.
  2. Staff must document the details of the applicant’s fleeing abuse situation in the case Notes, however, they do not need to verify the circumstances with a third party (e.g. a police or medical report).
  3. The applicant is assessed for immediate medical attention, safe shelter, and/or food and is made aware of all the exemptions and supplements to which they are entitled even if the abuse has not been verified by a third party.
  4. The Person Fleeing Abuse Alert is applied to the contact(s) on the case, including dependent children.
  5. Staff must update the caseload field in the system to the corresponding Fleeing Abuse indicator:  FA + first digit of the client’s Service Office ( e.g.: FA1, FA2, etc.)
  6. No contact is to be made with the accused abusive spouse or relative.
  7. If the applicant has minor dependants, the Ministry of Children and Family Development is contacted if there is reason to believe the dependants are at risk. [see Related Links – Protection of Children]

Note: These procedures do not replace the current procedures for reporting child abuse. 

Effective: December 3, 2012

If a new contact is to be added to a case that has a Persons Fleeing Abuse Alert, staff should assess the circumstances of the contact to be added before applying the Alert to the new contact. For example, if the person fleeing abuse has reconciled with their partner/spouse or family member the Alert should not be added for this person.

Effective: December 3, 2012

A Person Fleeing Abuse Alert may be removed if it is requested by the client or an EAW has consulted the client and determined the client and their dependants are fully independent of the accused abuser, and a Supervisor has approved its removal. Therefore, Person Fleeing Abuse Alerts are only to be removed by a Supervisor or by an EAW with a Supervisor’s approval. The client must always be consulted before the alert is removed and they must always agree to have the alert removed. At this point, or at the conclusion of the six-month period, a review of previously applied exemptions is conducted to ensure they are still applicable.

Authorities and Responsibilities

Effective: December 3, 2012

Position

Authority

Employment and Assistance Worker (EAW)
  • Applies a Person Fleeing Abuse Alert to Contacts on a Case
  • Removes  Person Fleeing Abuse Alerts on Contacts on a Case with the approval of a Supervisor
Supervisor
  • Applies a Person Fleeing Abuse Alert to Contacts on a Case
  • Authorizes removal of  Person Fleeing Abuse Alerts on Contacts on a Case