October 10, 2000
(Human Resources and Employment)
Minister gives update on redesign initiatives
Julie Bettney, Minister of Human Resources and Employment, announced today the latest details on initiatives designed to improve service for income support clients.
The initiatives, which went into effect on October 1, include an extended drug card for singles and families without children, a new liquid assets policy, and a revised rate structure for singles over 29. On an annual basis, these supports are valued at $1.7 million.
"In May, when I first gave details on these new measures, I promised I would keep everyone updated on their implementation when the time arrived," said Minister Bettney. "I’m happy to report as of October 1 all three measures were successfully integrated into our income support program. All three offer additional support to clients and remove disincentives to join the workforce."
The introduction of a new income support rate structure for singles aged 29 and over, like the family benefit announced last year, is designed to create a more equitable, more simplified system.
All singles in this age group are eligible for one of two rates, based on whether they live on their own, or with relatives. The new structure eliminates the lower rates that do not meet clients’ needs.
The extension of drug card benefits to singles and families without children actively removes a major barrier to employment. For many clients, the loss of health benefits is a disincentive to taking employment. Families with children already receive extended drug card benefits when they move into the workforce.
The new equitable liquid assets policy increases the amount of money that employable income supports clients can retain. Singles can now keep $500 in savings while families can keep up to $1,500.
"These latest implementations join a long list of supports the department has introduced over the past few years," said Minister Bettney. "This is another important step for the department as we continue to redesign our supports and services to better meet clients’ needs."
Initiatives to date include the Newfoundland and Labrador Child and Family Benefits, extended drug card benefits for families with children, increased earnings exemptions, a $500 income tax exemption, Newfound JOBS, and an employment program in partnership with the Single Parent Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Media contact: Marcia Porter, Communications, (709) 729-4062.
EXPANDING THE EXTENDED DRUG CARD COVERAGE
The Department of Human Resources and Employment is committed to supporting clients in achieving self sufficiency. The department recognizes that for many clients, the loss of health benefits can be a barrier to employment. In 1998, the department introduced a three month extended drug card for all families with children who leave the income support program as a result of finding employment. In 1999 the department extended the drug card coverage to six months. Many advocacy groups and clients expressed concern that the extended drug card was not accessible to all clients. Single individuals and families without children, especially those with health problems and disabilities, felt that a loss of their drug benefits was a significant barrier to employment.
IMPROVED LIQUID ASSET LEVELS FOR ALL CLIENTS
This province’s Social Assistance Regulations formerly defined liquid assets as: "cash on hand or in the bank and readily marketable securities or investments". The limits did little to promote financial independence. Working families had to be destitute before they could apply for benefits, and once on the system, could not save resources in an effort to leave the system. The extremely low liquid asset rates allowed also discouraged clients from having a bank account. The former asset limits were also inconsistent with previously introduced income support regulation changes such as the $500 allowable income tax refunds and revised exemption levels.
SIMPLIFIED MORE EQUITABLE RATES FOR SINGLE CLIENTS OVER AGE 29
The new family benefits rate structure introduced in July 1999 eliminated the inequities in the basic benefit structure for families. The family benefits rate structure also radically simplified the rates provided to families, making it much easier for staff to determine eligibility. The department’s goal which was reached October 1, was to simplify benefits provided to singles and wherever possible eliminate inequities. Singles represent approximately 50 per cent of the current caseload in any given month. Eighty per cent of single clients are over 29 years of age. A demographic profile of clients in this age group shows that most singles are over 40 years of age, have attained limited education levels and have not had a significant attachment to the labour market in the past two years.
2000 10 10 2:20 p.m.