December 7, 2001
(Human Resources and Employment)
Government committed to reducing child poverty in province
Gerald Smith, Minister of Human Resources and Employment, today stated
his strong objections to recent Opposition criticism concerning government’s
response to the issue of child poverty in the province. In doing so,
Minister Smith took the opportunity to reiterate government’s commitment
to addressing the issue as demonstrated by the significant range of
initiatives undertaken in recent years.
"Wednesday’s Resolution in the House of Assembly relating to this
issue was introduced by the Opposition and government not only welcomed the
opportunity to debate this issue but also voted to support the motion being
carried by the House," said Minister Smith. "During the debate,
the Opposition did acknowledge that government had introduced some very
worthwhile programs to address poverty, calling upon us to further expand
these efforts. Government is fully committed to ongoing action on the issue
of child poverty and will continue to make these programs a priority within
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recognizes that we need to be
concerned about the high rate of child poverty in this province. However,
the most recent statistics are for the year 1999. Since then the Government
of Newfoundland and Labrador has made significant progress with the
introduction of prevention and early intervention programs, which in time,
should be reflected in future statistics.
Minister Smith cited a number of areas of improvement which he believes
will have a direct impact on child poverty over time. These include:
The province has recorded strong employment growth on a year over
year basis for every month in 2001. Average monthly employment is up by
6,800 since the start of the year as compared to 2000, the highest since
the early 1990s.
- Along with an improving economy, the social assistance caseload is
the lowest it has been in almost a decade. There has also been a
decrease of the number of children on the social assistance caseload,
indicating improving income levels for families.
- Considerable emphasis has been placed on redesigning the social
assistance program to remove disincentives that prevent people from
participating in the labour market.
- In line with these improvements, government introduced the
Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit (NLCB) to extend benefits to low
income families and children including working families. Approximately
21,000 families a year now receive provincial child benefits as compared
to approximately 12,000 two years ago.
- In addition, extended drug card benefits, increased earnings
exemptions and increased private child care rates, are now part of the
redesigned income support program.
- Under the National Child Benefit reinvestment initiatives, this
province invests an additional $10 million of new monies annually in
supportive programs for families and children. In addition, in June,
government announced a $36.6 million, five year Early Childhood
Development Initiative, in cooperation with the federal government to
further increase the availability and range of these programs.
- These investments have contributed to a significant improvement in
the level and quality of services available to children and families.
- The number of available subsidies for licensed child care services
has increased substantially. The subsidy budget has gone from $4 million
in 1997-1998, to $6.2 million in 2000-2001, and to $7.2 million in
2001-2002. Development has commenced on infant child care and licensed
family child care.
- On December 3, government announced the details of an expanded
Mother Baby Nutrition Supplement that will cover families on social
assistance as well as low income working families, aimed at supporting
maternal and child health.
- Additional funding to Healthy Baby Clubs and creation of six new
Family Resource Centres in addition to enhancing existing family
- Further initiatives include early childhood literacy programs,
expansion of family resource centres (resulting in 74 centres across the
province), healthy baby clubs, increased child care support, and early
intervention services for children with developmental disabilities and
children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- The province provided the School Children’s Food Foundation with
an initial endowment of $1.0 million. This level of funding was to
provide the foundation with core funding for a five-year period. An
additional $1.0 million was provided to the foundation in 1998 to
service the needs of Labrador.
"While government recognizes we still have much work to do to
eradicate poverty, we have made significant progress," said Minister Smith. "The programs
we have introduced are consistent with the commitments made in the Strategic Social Plan and the
Strategy for Jobs and Growth. Government is committed to continued progress."
Media contact: Paul Power, Communications, (709) 729-4062.
2001 12 07