06/11/2012 03:55 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. permits welfare, disability recipients to keep wages

The B.C. government rolled out some significant changes to welfare and disability benefits that will make it easier for recipients to earn some cash while collecting benefits.

The goal is help those on social assistance return the workforce and those with disabilities lead more independent lives, Premier Christy Clark said Monday morning.

"Our government is making balanced changes to remove barriers to employment for people who want to return to the workforce while providing adequate support for those most in need," said Clark, in a statement released by her office.

The changes for those on social assistance include:

- Allowing them to earn up to $200 a month while receiving benefits.

- Increasing work search requirements from three weeks to five.

- Enhancing job search support.

Individuals on disability assistance will be able to:

- Earn $800 a month without losing their benefits.

- Average their income over the year, up to $9,600, so they can work more at times when they are feeling well.

Other changes targeted at families on assistance included:

- Increasing the school startup supplement to $100 for every child aged 5-11 and $175 for every child 12 and over.

- Providing access to regular dental care for children.

- Allowing those on social assistance to keep their income tax refunds.

The changes will come into effect later this year, said Clark.

UVIC social policy Professor Michael Prince called it a fairly cautious move by Premier Clark, noting the changes did not include any increase in welfare or disability rates.

"It still, I think, indicates that she is still trying to figure out where the political winds left, right and center are blowing on issues like income reform, welfare and back-to- work initiatives, and just where is the public on this" said Prince.