Then, on September 16,1996, Manitoba passed Bill 36. Many welfare advocates have expressed concern that under this new legislation, clients will continue to see their welfare benefits shrink, and that regulations will become even more restrictive and discretionary than under previous legislations
For example, certain basic needs items (food, clothing, and specific medical treatments) have now been included under one main heading: Things and services that are essential to health and well-being (Bill 36, Section 2, p. 4). Some advocates are worried that clients will no longer be able to access each service individually and that workers will have "absolute discretion in deciding what is necessary for a client" (NAPO News Nov., 1996, No. 55, p. 1)
Perhaps the most significant changes to come out of Bill 36 are the "obligations for employment" clause and the "employability enhancement measures" (sometimes referred to as "Workfare"). Under this new clause, people who have been deemed "employable" are required to develop an employment history and personal job plan, and to engage in an active job search. This could mean as many as 25 job searches per week, depending on what community the person lives in and what a particular case worker feels is reasonable.
Those who fail to meet these obligations can be penalized:
Single parents with children under six are exempt from these employment expectations "if they have not received assistance, including basic assistance, while participating in training or other activities to improve their eligibility," (Administrative Manual, Section 11, p. 6. italics, mine).
12 Notes taken from interviews with various welfare experts, September, 1997
13 These obligations do not apply to the disabled, the elderly, and persons in authorized crisis facilities (Manitoba Legislative Assembly. Administrative Manual for Employment And Income Assistance Act, June, 1996, Section 11, p. 5).
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