Moving ‘Welfare Wednesday’ to a different day has unintended consequences

June 6, 2021

Cheque issue day has long been tied to spikes in overdoses, taxing first responders and emergency rooms. According to the B.C. Coroners Service, fatal overdoses increase by 35 to 40 per cent in the five days after income assistance payments.

But new research shows that the issue isn’t so simple. Results of the ‘Cheque Day’ study were recently published in The Lancet, April 2021. The authors conclude, “Seeking to respond to long-standing calls for social and structural interventions to address the drivers of drug-related harm, this study provides evidence of the effects of changing income assistance payment schedules. Our complex findings call for a more nuanced understanding of how individuals will respond to social and structural change, and the need to consider measures that mitigate the unintended effects of policy reform.”

Lindsey Richardson is a researcher with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use and an associate professor at the University of British Columbia. The study on the effects of changing assistance cheque schedules for people who use drugs began in 2015, but completion was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This study was in part funded by a Wall Solutions Initiative grant from the Peter Wall Insittute.