Backgrounder: Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered and Missing Children
Recommendations to the Government of Canada
On August 16, 2017 Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime released her systemic review of the Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children (PMMC) grant program established in 2013 by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The review was conducted to find out why more victims were not accessing the grant, especially in light of the financial burdens they so often face.
What is the PMMC?
On January 1, 2013 the Government of Canada introduced the PMMC grant. The purpose of the grant is to provide income support to parents and guardians who need to take time off work to cope with the death or disappearance of a child under 18, where the death or disappearance is the result of a probable Criminal Code offence.
Why a review?
Since the launch of the PMMC grant, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC) has heard from victims of crime who have had difficulty in applying for it. It was also evident that the grant was being underused. When it was introduced, the PMMC grant was expected to support up to 1,000 families annually. In April 2014, the media reported that the program was not meeting expectations, as only 12 applications had been received. From the time of the grant’s launch to the end of fiscal year 2015-16, actual grant payments to parents amounted to less than 1 per cent of available funds.
What did the review find?
The objective of the review was to identify factors which may play a role in preventing victims from accessing the PMMC grant program and make recommendations to the federal government on how to overcome those factors and increase victims’ access to the grant.
OFOVC’s review found that, from the time of the launch of the grant to the end of fiscal year 2015-16, actual grant payments to parents totaled $223,300 out of the available $33 million, or less than 1 per cent of available funds. Program administration costs have been about 14 times higher than the grant amounts that have been paid.
Overall, the review found that the PMMC grant process was onerous and difficult for victims to understand, that the eligibility criteria did not correspond with the circumstances of many victims of crime, that there was not enough flexibility, and that it needed to more inclusive in its reach.
The review concludes that the grant program should adopt a more victim-centred approach, demonstrating sensitivity to victims’ needs, minimizing inconvenience to victims and simplifying the application process.
Specifically the Ombudsman made 15 recommendations to enhance the PMMC grant program, focused in three key areas:
- Enhance the application process and victim assistance. For example, improve online information to make it clearer and easier to understand, simplify the grant application process, and ensure that all staff interacting with victims who inquire about, or apply for, the grant are trained in a victim-centred service delivery approach.
- Increase program flexibility and broaden the eligibility requirements. For example, allow claimants to access the payment when needed and not solely within the 52-week period immediately following the crime, raise the 18-year old age limit of the child victim, and make additional surviving family members eligible.
- Explore possible barriers to uptake and, looking forward, explore options to better support victims of crime. For example, explore whether any populations are facing barriers to accessing the grant, and explore creation of an Employment Insurance category to support victims of crime.