Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Caregiver Benefit for Parents of Ill Children Misunderstood, Federal Review Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Caregiver Benefit for Parents of Ill Children Misunderstood, Federal Review Says

Article excerpt

Caregiver benefit misunderstood, review says

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OTTAWA - An evaluation of a federal benefit to help parents take time off work to care for critically ill children says fewer people have used it than expected because they didn't know about it or didn't understand how it worked.

Annual applications for the benefit, delivered through the employment-insurance system, have been well below the 6,000 anticipated when the previous Conservative government introduced it in 2013.

The evaluation posted online details months-late applications, call-centre agents who didn't always understand all facets of the benefit themselves, and rejected applicants who tended to have lower levels of education and earnings that applicants who were successful.

The Liberals morphed the benefit into a new program, also delivered through the EI system, designed to be easier to apply for and receive.

Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees the program, says there were 4,900 claims for the new benefit between its introduction in December 2017 and December 2018.

The department has also worked since November 2017 to improve understanding of the new benefit through social-media posts, online videos and rewriting a federal website.

The old benefit provided up to 35 weeks of EI payments, usually for parents of newborns who were born prematurely or with serious medical conditions. The second-most common reason for applying for EI help was to care for a child with cancer.

Between June 2013 and December 2017, just more than 15,300 people received the benefit out of about 19,500 applicants -- an approval rate of about 78 per cent. Evaluators couldn't figure out typical reasons for rejections because an explanation was missing in most cases.

In December 2017, the Liberals introduced the EI family caregiver benefit for children, which works much the same way as the previous benefit. …

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