Benefits for Children in Care Incomplete and Unfair

TORONTO, May 17 /CNW/ - A new report says children not living with their parents are denied financial benefits that other children get.

Not so Easy to Navigate, a report written by social policy experts John Stapleton and Anne Tweddle for the Laidlaw Foundation, reveals that the most vulnerable children in Ontario - those living in state care - don't benefit from federal programs like the Canada Learning Bond and Canada Education Savings Grant the same way that children living with their families do. The report recommends that the federal government fund the matching payments that they do not allow at the present. The cost would be $8 million in Ontario.

Parents with children living at home often use their federal child benefits to open RESPs for their children, triggering contributions from the federal Canada Learning Bond and Canada Education Savings Grant. When a child goes into the care of a Children's Aid Society (CAS), the basic child benefits are transferred to the CAS to help cover the cost of raising the child.

"Because of the way the system is designed, only children under the age of 6 can have these funds used to establish an Educational Grant or RESP. Older children may receive provincial supports for post-secondary education but they don't get the same benefit from the Federal programs. It's complicated and inequitable." says John Stapleton, co-author of the report.

The report shows that two entirely different sets of child benefits are paid in Ontario: one set to children living with their parents and another set for children living in state care.

"It's hard enough for most parents to navigate the maze of child and educational benefits available to them. It is doubly hard to wade through the morass of benefits paid under two different systems, especially when a child's parents run into difficulties.

Laidlaw Foundation Executive Director Nathan Gilbert said "We think that governments need to work together to place children in care on at least an equal footing with other children. It is unacceptable that our most vulnerable children have less access to educational benefits. It is unfair and it does not make sense."

Young people taken into state care report that the most difficult issue they face when leaving care is the lack of emotional, financial and educational support. A change in federal policy would enable all children in care to save for a post-secondary education.

Nearly 18,000 children in Ontario are in the care of Children's Aid Societies. Often they move in and out of care. Children cannot be expected to understand the range of benefits available, let alone apply for any of them.

The report also recommends that governments do a better job of explaining and delivering these programs and make changes to improve the financial situation of youth leaving care.

There are two companion pieces to the report: a fact sheet that outlines benefits for children who are in the care of a Children's Aid Society and a brochure on what every mother in Ontario should know about collecting child benefits of up to $8,400 and more every year.

Tags: children in care, youth in care, income security, education, RESP, Open Policy Ontario, Laidlaw Foundation

SOURCE LAIDLAW FOUNDATION

For further information: For further information: John Stapleton, jsbb@rogers.com, (416) 988-5936; or Denis Lefebvre, dlefebvre@laidlawfdn.org, (416) 964-3614 x 303; URL: http://www.laidlawfdn.org/not-so-easy-navigate

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