Changing ‘Welfare Wednesday’ Could Save Lives. Why Haven’t We Done It?

Changing ‘Welfare Wednesday’ Could Save Lives. Why Haven’t We Done It?

Overdose deaths spike after cheque day, but policymakers fear unintended consequences of changes.

Jen St. Denis, October 16, 2023, The Tyee

It’s a fact that’s shown up in toxic drug death data for decades: deaths spike in the days following “Welfare Wednesday.” That’s the day in the middle of the month when people living in poverty get their cheque for an entire month’s worth of income assistance from the provincial government.

The BC Centre on Substance Use has estimated that between 2009 and 2013, 77 avoidable deaths could be attributed to the cheque policy. Both income assistance and disability benefits are distributed once per month, on the same day.

BC Coroners Service data shows that in 2018, deaths were 37 per cent higher in the days after people received their income assistance cheques. By 2022, the average number of deaths during cheque week were 44 per cent higher than in other weeks.

“There’s no reason it has to be done like this,” said Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident and community advocate.

“This is simply cruelty by policy.”

Click here to read the article in full.