A client of the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program complained about an AISH Appeal Panel decision he believed created an apprehension of bias. This bias was found in the panel’s written decision. The most significant example of bias was a sentence claiming the client displayed “considerable hostility” toward the panel. In response to our findings, the provincial chair for AISH Appeal Panels committed to provide training to panel members to ensure future hearings are unbiased.

The client also argued an overpayment due to a program error should be forgiven. The power to forgive or waive collection of an overpayment is delegated by the Minister to the Executive Director of the AISH program. The issue was resolved when the complainant was invited to submit an application to the Executive Director to forgive the overpayment. In addition, we found a factual mistake was presented by the program to the AISH Appeal Panel and we recommended the mistake be corrected prior to consideration by the Executive Director.

The investigation resolved another important issue. For some time, the Ombudsman has pointed out AISH clients are not told when they are assessed an overpayment that they may present reasons to the Executive Director why they should not repay. This failure to consistently notify clients of this right for a review is unfair, as all clients should have the same opportunity. The program has developed a new template letter to inform clients of their right to request a waiver to repay an overpayment.