Paramedics revive a man overdosing in downtown Chilliwack in 2017. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Changes to ‘Welfare Wednesday’ model must be careful, thought out: report

Splitting up payments leads to drop in drug use but spike in police interaction

“Welfare Wednesday” might one day be a thing of the past, according to researchers from the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, who are advocating for a more flexible approach.

In a report released Monday, the centre examined three models: paying out government assistance once a month but on staggered days for different people, paying out assistance twice a month on staggered days, and a control group that continued to get its payments on the traditional last Wednesday of each month.

Traditionally, the risk of overdosing at supervised injection site Insite doubles the day of and the day after cheque day. In the community as a whole, past research has shown fatal overdoses spike 35-40 per cent in the five days after Welfare Wednesday.

Researchers had 194 participants, largely from the Downtown Eastside, who participated in the six month study.

They found both staggered cheque groups were about one-third as likely to increase their drug use around government cheque day, and about half as likely to do so when they received their payments.

But although drug used decreased, the report found violence, negative police interactions and non-fatal overdoses went up.

Study participants were enthused by a potential dip in overdoses but worried that staggering cheque days would make it tough for service providers like social workers to keep up with which clients needed help on which days.

Others were concerned that a change in assistance days might take away the urgency to increase payments, which many participants said were too low.

READ MORE: Should B.C. nix ‘Welfare Wednesday’ and stagger income assistance cheques?

READ MORE: B.C. welfare office criticized for leaving clients waiting outside in rain, snow


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