Welfare woes: trying to stem the ‘cheque effect’
published on March 1, 2018 by Anna James in The Columbia Valley Pioneer
Victoria police chief suggests staggering welfare payments, others say solution not that simple
Jim is broke and itching for March 21 – the next “welfare Wednesday,” streetspeak for when monthly social assistance cheques arrive.
Jim’s money never lasts long; two days to dissolve $710, “going out, seeing friends, paying debts,” he says.
The “cheque effect” is a universal problem marked by the consequences that instant funds create for illicit drug users, the mentally ill and homeless. While welfare provides relief for many, including substance users, it’s a headache for emergency services.
“We’ve identified a trend. Around this time, call-outs for illicit drug behaviour and social order crimes spike,” says Victoria police Chief Const. Del Manak. “Officers know in advance it’s going to a very busy, demanding night.”
While he could not offer any official statistics linking an increase in crime to Welfare Wednesday, Manak says it’s evidenced in the stories of front line workers.
The chief expressed his concerns in a Feb. 22 letter to Shelia Taylor, deputy minister of social development and poverty reduction.
“At the very least, I want to talk about the current process – why is income assistance received on one particular day? Are you aware that this causes problems for police and other responders?” he wrote, noting that additional officers are assigned to those busier periods.
Manak’s letter queried whether the ministry has considered other payment models, such as staggering the issue date of welfare cheques, a popular concept but one with few real-life examples.
Lindsey Richardson, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, is a principle investigator in a study on the “cheque effect.”View the full article