January 7, 2002
(Human Resources and Employment)
Review of Social Assistance Act under way
Gerald Smith, Minister of Human Resources and Employment, announced today the beginning of a review process which will help in updating the department's Social Assistance Act and Regulations. This is the first review of the legislation in its entirety since 1977.
Much has changed since the Social Assistance Act was drafted in the 1970s. The Department of Human Resources and Employment has a broader mandate with respect to employment programming than did the former Department of Social Services. In recent years, the department has changed considerably in how it delivers social assistance, while also developing programs designed to make it easier for people to prepare for, find and maintain employment.
"Our legislation now needs to reflect and support the two key areas of the department: provision of social assistance in a stable and dignified manner to eligible individuals and families; and delivery of programs and services that support individuals to achieve their employment and career goals," said Minister Smith.
To support the review process, a discussion paper entitled, Investing in People: New Directions for Social Assistance Legislation is being released. The paper provides information on the current income support and employment and career programs and poses a number of questions for discussion. The public's input based on this paper will assist the department when drafting the new legislation.
"I believe it is important that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a say in how we develop programs and supports," said Minister Smith. "This review process provides the opportunity for all people in the province, in particular the clients of this department, to voice their opinions and concerns which will guide the development of the new legislation."
In conjunction with the release of the discussion paper, the department will consult with key stakeholders using a variety of methods. A general mail-out of the discussion paper to a range of community agencies has commenced with an invitation to provide comment by returning the questionnaire included with the paper. The regional steering committees of the Strategic Social Plan will be consulted. An opportunity to consult with a representative sample of community agencies at the regional level will also be provided. Clients will receive a notice about the review and discussion paper along with information on how to provide feedback in this month's social assistance cheque mailing. To ensure a more detailed understanding of client concerns, client focus groups will be organized on a selected basis. In addition, the discussion paper will be available to the public at all Human Resources and Employment District Offices as well as on the department's web site at
Consistent with the directions in the Strategic Social Plan, the Department of Human Resources and Employment has undertaken many improvements to the income support program over the past number of years. The extension of drug benefits for clients moving to employment, the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit program targeting not only social assistance families, but also low income working families, and the provision for Support Trust for persons with disabilities are examples of these improvements.
"It is important that our legislation reflect our new directions. This department will continue to ensure that dignified access to social assistance and other income support programs remains a priority," said Minister Smith. "Technology is providing us with new and better ways of delivering these programs and, in turn, allowing us to concentrate our staff resources on assisting clients to achieve independence and self-sufficiency, as defined by the client's specific circumstances. The discussion paper raises many important questions related to these new directions and it is important that we receive public feedback to ensure we are on the right track."
Following the consultation process, which should conclude early this spring, the information gathered will be used when drafting the new Social Assistance Act and Regulations. The new legislation is expected to be introduced in late 2002.
Those requiring further information on this review should contact a Department of Human Resources and Employment District Office or phone 1-800-563-6600 (toll-free) or (709) 729-6600 (St. John's area). You may also e-mail the department at
Media contact: Paul Power, Communications, (709) 729-4062.
Investing in People: New Directions for Social Assistance Legislation
- The current social assistance legislation was drafted in 1977 and focused on the administration of social assistance.
- A key objective of the Department of Human Resources and Employment is to focus on assisting people to prepare for, find and maintain employment. Legislation needs to be revised to reflect this goal.
- Current challenges in drafting new legislation which are outlined in the discussion paper,
Investing in People: New Directions for Social Assistance
Legislation, include changing cumbersome procedures for social assistance, making the link between income support and work, and providing for the best use of resources and programs to assist clients.
- Public input is being sought on topics like the scope of the legislation, social assistance, employment supports, employment barriers faced by disadvantaged groups, accountability and the appeals process.
This winter, the Department of Human Resources and Employment will consult with key stakeholders including community groups and advocates, as well as clients through a variety of methods. The discussions will be based on a discussion paper entitled,
Investing in People: New Directions for Social Assistance
Legislation. The paper asks for feedback on a number of key questions related to the programs and services delivered by the department. A questionnaire is included at the end of the paper along with a postage paid envelope so clients may easily return their response.
In addition to the consultations taking place across the province, input is being invited from all clients of Human Resources and Employment along with any other individuals with interest in the department and its services.
The new legislation is expected to be drafted and introduced in late 2002.
- Investing in People: New Directions for Social Assistance
Legislation, is available on the department's website (www.gov.nl.ca/hre), or can be picked up at any Human Resources and Employment district office or phone 1-800-563-6600 (toll-free) or (709) 729-6600 (St. John's area). You may also e-mail the department at
Department of Human Resources and Employment Redesign Initiatives
- In 1999, the Department of Human Resources and Employment introduced the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit (NLCB). Previously, low income families facing barriers to employment were financially worse off accepting employment due to the loss of benefits for the children. The NLCB is provided in conjunction with the Canada Child Tax Benefit to all families whose income is less than $21,744. The NLCB is intended to reduce barriers to employment by providing stable benefits for children as parents move out of the income support program. Regardless of employment status, families have access to an income support benefit for their children if they are a low income family. The NLCB operates outside the Social Assistance Program. Approximately 21,000 families a year receive the
Previously, income support clients who left the program also lost their drug card coverage which was a major disincentive to leave the system to pursue employment. Now, clients have a six month extended drug card coverage if they leave income support for employment reasons.
Last year, 2,400 income support clients received a range of employment supports through NewfoundJobs. This fiscal year, 2001-2002, the department will spend $3 million on the program. Since 1998, the department has assisted 239 single parents through the Single Parent Employment Program.
Last year, the Supported Employment Program enabled 700 adults with developmental delays find and maintain employment in their communities.
Since 1998, the Linkages Employment Program has helped approximately 500 youth across the province.
Coverage for private child care services, where licensed child care is unavailable, has been increased which helps clients in accepting and maintaining employment.
- Applicants for social assistance are now permitted to retain a higher level of liquid assets, giving them a financial cushion to aid their return to the labour market.
- Families who are successful in finding employment are now able to retain up to $150 per month of earnings ($75 per month for singles) before social assistance benefits are reduced.
In the fall of 2001, government approved the necessary regulatory changes recommended by the Departments of Human Resources and Employment and Health and Community Services to exempt support trusts when determining eligibility for social assistance and supportive services for people living with a disability.
In the fall of 2001, the Mother Baby Nutritional Supplement was introduced. The $45 monthly benefit is available to low-income pregnant women and families with children under the age of one whose family net income is less than $21,744 annually. This matches the maximum income parameter for the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit (NLCB). An additional 600-800 people will now be able to access the benefit.
2002 01 07