NLIS 41
March 21, 2001
(Human Resources and Employment)

 

BACKGROUNDER
Social Assistance Review

  • Human Resources and Employment is reviewing its Social Assistance Legislation that was originally drafted in 1977.
  • The Social Assistance Act no longer reflects the objectives of the income support program, which includes easing the transition from social assistance to work while providing stable supports to people.
  • A broad province-wide public consultation process is now under way and involves focus group sessions with clients, advocacy groups, youth, and staff. Sessions are being held in all regions and are scheduled to be completed in April.
  • To ensure that views of all stakeholders are reflected, a full report will be made available following the consultations. Results from this report will help inform the drafting of new legislation, to be tabled in the fall 2002.
  • This review is about seeking input from key stakeholders on ways to improve the social assistance program, to support the employment efforts of clients and remove barriers to employment.
  • Workfare is not being considered. HRE is looking for input into ways to support the employment goals of clients and ensure their full labour market participation, where appropriate. For example, youth face significant barriers. About 45 per cent of new entrants to the social assistance program in 2001 were under 29 years of age.
  • A discussion paper, Investing in People: New Directions for Social Assistance Legislation is available on the departmentís website at www.gov.nl.ca/hre, or can be picked up at any HRE district office. You can call toll-free at 1-800-563-6600, or in St. Johnís at 729-6600.
  • The legislative review marks the culmination of significant efforts to improve the responsiveness of the social assistance program since 1998. A range of initiatives include:
    • Introduction of the Earned Income Supplement as part of the Single Parent Employment Support Program (SESP). Single parents in the program receive an earned income supplement of up to $290 monthly.
    • Improved earnings exemption, permitting clients to retain more of their earnings without a reduction in their social assistance benefits. ($150 monthly/families: $75 monthly/singles).
    • Higher level of liquid assets for social assistance applicants, giving them a financial cushion to assist their return to the labour market. ($1,500/families: $500/singles).
    • The benefit amounts of social assistance clients are not reduced if they are providing room and board to a relative.
    • Provision of a six-month extended drug card for clients returning to employment.
    • Coverage of private child care services, where licensed child care is unavailable, has been increased to $325 monthly for the first child and $125 for each additional child.
    • Clients are permitted to retain the first $500 of an income tax refund.
    • Registered Education Savings Plans are no longer considered in determining social assistance eligibility.
    • Introduction of a Coastal Labrador allowance ($150/monthly) for all social assistance families living in coastal Labrador communities.
    • Provision for Support Trusts to be established by families on behalf of adults with disabilities, without reduction in the level of social assistance benefits.
    • Implementation of a seven per cent social assistance rate increase between 1998-2001.

Media contact: Paul Power, Communications, (709) 729-4062.

2002 03 21                             3:10 p.m.


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