The following statement was issued today by Julie Bettney, Minister of Human Resources and Employment. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
National Child Benefit
Today I would like to address the House to clarify the purpose of the National Child Benefit.
On April 2, 1998 during a current affairs show entitled, "Community Matters", incorrect statements were made regarding the National Child Benefit Program. I must correct the public record for members of this House, the people who participated in the show and the public at large.
First and most importantly is the belief that some of our province's population are "losing out" with the implementation of the NCB. I assure you and all present today that there are no "losers" with this new program. Social assistance families will not experience any reduction in total combined income from provincial social assistance and the Canada Child Tax Benefit as a consequence of the introduction of the NCB. Along with a number of budgetary measures, including the additional programs and services introduced under the NCB Provincial Reinvestment Plan, social assistance families will actually benefit.
I think it is important to note that social assistance families will receive a 7 per cent increase over the next three years. Specific measures will also be introduced under the social assistance program to significantly increase the child care exemption, increase the earned income exemption, and extend drug card benefits for families leaving social assistance and moving to employment.
These measures together with other new programs and services introduced under the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan will significantly add to the support provided to low income families with children.
The NCB was never established to increase social assistance rates. Instead the NCB will work to reduce child poverty by focusing on early intervention with needy children and their families while supporting an attachment to the workforce. This will in the long term help to break the cycle of poverty by providing much needed programs for children, youth and families as well as ensuring that families will always be better off as a result of working. The NCB Provincial Reinvestment Fund allows the province to establish new programs and services which support this goal.
On March 26, 1998 the Department of Human Resources and Employment along with Health and Community Services announced that $10.15 million would be reinvested in new programs and services for our province=s children and families.
To quote the 1998 Budget Speech this province "will reinvest every last penny in programs and services for low income families" under the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan. This will greatly enhance our ability to meet the needs of families and children in this province as well as commence a strategic shift in programming toward early intervention. Research is mounting to support the benefits of early intervention services such as child care and this province has been significantly hampered in the resources that we have had available to dedicate to these programs.
The National Child Benefit has made it possible for Newfoundland and Labrador to have $10.15 million annually to improve and expand licensed child care, provide additional family resource centre project sites, develop a coordinated regional youth service network and provide initiatives under the social assistance program to assist families in making the transition to work. These initiatives reflect the findings of a number of recent public consultation processes with key social groups and advocates.
All these additional or improved services will ensure that our children in Newfoundland and Labrador have a strong start in life. To say this new program causes people of the province to "lose out" is extremely short sighted.
The National Child Benefit will be introduced in July 1998. Between now and July 1, the Department of Human Resources and Employment will make every effort to ensure that our clients have accurate information on the National Child Benefit. A series of cheque inserts will be included with social assistance cheques, a 1-800 information line will be established, and brochures and print information will also be made available to address clients concerns.
Today, however, the general information which needs to be corrected and confirmed is as follows;
Lastly, I wish to emphasize the long term goal of the National Child Benefit which is over time to have the Canada Child Tax Benefit Program become the primary source of income support for children in this country. This will mean that children in low income families regardless of where they reside in Canada will have a secure, uniform and dependable level of income support that doesn't fluctuate with changes to family earnings and circumstances. The federal government has announced additional commitments to the NCB totalling another $850 million commencing in July 1999. This brings the total federal commitment to $1.7 billion and moves us closer to this goal.
In conclusion I would like to say that reinvesting our money in children and families is something we should be doing as both a government and as members of our community. I am very proud to be a part of this initiative.
There are no losers when it comes to investing in children and their families.