November 19, 2002
(Human Resources and Employment)
Income and Employment Support
Act introduced in House of Assembly
Ralph Wiseman, Minister of Human Resources
and Employment, today tabled a bill entitled the Income and Employment
Support Act in the House of Assembly. The new act would replace the
outdated Social Assistance Act which has not been reviewed in its
entirety since 1977.
Minister Wiseman said: "After almost a
year of planning, community consultations and review we have produced a bill
which provides a legal framework better reflecting the departmentís
programs and services. While the current Social Assistance Act
focuses primarily on passive income support measures, the Income and
Employment Support Act reflects the two key responsibilities of the
department: provision of income support 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."
"This is a bill of firsts. Components
such as a preamble, explicit service principles, and provisions for regular
reviews of both income support rates and of the legislation are seen here
for the first time. The bill also makes provision for the appeal of
employment support services in the same manner as appeals were provided for
in income support decisions. Provision has been made to appoint a client or
former client to the appeals board. Authority has been included to provide
for innovative approaches as, for example, flexible income support. This is
an act which draws basic principles from an extensive consultation process
with the persons and organizations most closely affected by our programs.
This proposed act will ensure that our income support and employment
programs remain consistent with the changing needs and priorities of the
people we serve."
In January 2002, the Department of Human
Resources and Employment commenced the first ever public consultation on
this major social program by releasing Investing in People: New
Directions for Social Assistance Legislation. This contained information
on the current income support and employment and career programs and posed
questions for discussion. Public response from across the province was
obtained through focus groups, telephone calls, e-mails, letters and briefs.
The findings of this review were released as a Report of a Consultation
on the Social Assistance Act in August 2002. The department used these
findings to help in drafting the Income
and Employment Support Act.
Minister Wiseman added: "This feedback
from the community guided in the drafting of this legislation so that it
both reflects the current directions for programs and services of my
department and embodies particular approaches to income and employment
support programs that were recommended during our consultation process.
"The Income and Employment Support
Act is a great example of how the Government of Newfoundland and
Labrador is leading the way in social policy. As with governmentís
Strategic Social Plan, emphasis has been placed on being responsive to the
overall needs and concerns of the people of this province. In turn, the
proposed bill also ensures we continue to move forward in our priority of
assisting and supporting people as they prepare for, attain and maintain
employment while providing equitable supports for those who are unable to
Media contact: Simon N. Lono, Communications,
Consultation and Consultation Report
On January 7, 2002, the Minister of Human
Resources and Employment announced a review of the Social Assistance Act
and released a discussion guide, Investing in People.
Investing in People
was available to the public at district and provincial offices and on the
internet. The guide was also made available on audio tape. About 650
stakeholders were sent the discussion paper with an invitation to supply
feedback, with the remainder distributed through district and provincial
offices. A cheque insert advised clients of the review in mid-January.
50 sessions province-wide were conducted with
community agencies, clients, staff, youth, Strategic Social Plan Steering
Committees, and other government departments.
- Responses included:
- Internet responses: 23
- Hits to Legislative Review website: 1,100
- E-mail responses: 10
- Letters: 51
- Workbooks: 58
- Toll-free telephone: 106 total calls (20
responses to discussion paper or questions about the review, 86 requests
for the document)
- Presentations: 3
- Briefs/Community Group Submissions: 26
- Regional Strategic Social Plan sessions:
- Client Focus Group participants: 64
- Community Focus Group participants: 125
from 75 organizations.
The intent of the review was to seek feedback
regarding the drafting of new legislation that better reflects the
departmentís current goals and vision. The views presented during the
consultation process reflected a wide range of opinions. People most closely
affected by Human Resources and Employmentís programs identified their
major areas of concerns and priorities. A summary of the key messages from
the consultation process can be found in the Report of a Consultation on
the Social Assistance Act (pages 14-20).
The key messages included:
Adequacy of the Income Support Program
The consultation process confirmed that
there continue to be significant barriers for clients who wish to leave
the social assistance program for employment. Participants stressed the
need to "make work pay" before many people could make the move
from social assistance to work.
Participants stressed the need for the
department to have a broad, long-term vision based on assisting clients to
participate fully in their communities, not simply alleviating financial
distress. Linkages with related services and community agencies were
identified as important to address the root causes of poverty.
Meeting the Needs of Persons with
Equal rights for persons with disabilities
was identified as key, as was the promotion of inclusive and accessible
benefits, programs and services. The issue of transportation and the need
to address disability related expenses associated with going to work were
among the issues raised.
Provision of Income Support With Dignity
Easier access to information about
programs, services and benefits was a concern raised by participants with
general support for less intrusive and more dignified ways of delivering
social assistance. Participants cited concerns about the quality of
services and identified a need for departmental workers to be sensitive to
individual client needs; clients must have a safe and secure means of
giving feedback about service and programs.
Mandatory or Voluntary Participation in
Employment and Career Planning
Participants had diverse opinions on the
issue of whether clients should have the option of choosing to participate
in employment and career planning as a requirement of receiving social
assistance. Strong arguments were put forward on both sides of this issue.
Participants expressed a desire for
increased focus on the needs and concerns of youth to ensure their
successful transition to employment. There was a divergence of opinion on
the issue of requiring youth to participate in active training and support
measures to prepare for the labour market as a condition of receiving
Priority for Employment and Career Supports
A majority stated that youth and social
assistance recipients should be a priority for employment and career
supports (as opposed to the general public) with other groups identified
for priority as single parents and persons with disabilities.
A significant consensus emerged on the
rights and responsibilities on the part of the department (privacy and
confidentiality, providing service with dignity, meeting basic needs,
access to information in plain language and alternate formats) and for the
client (providing accurate information, respect for staff, the pursuit of
Suggestions for improving the departmentís
appeals process included having a past or present client on the appeal
board, improving access to information about the appeals process, and
providing a client advocate for appellants.
Key Changes and Next Steps
Language has been updated and simplified to
reflect todayís society as well as the major goals and lines of business
of the Department of Human Resources and Employment.
Incorporation of provisions relating to both
Income Support and Employment and Career Services.
- Legislation reflects more accurately the
new directions and objectives of programs and services pursued by the
department in recent years. The holistic approach of combining income
support with employment and career service to assist people in preparing
for and maintaining employment is now, for the first time, outlined in
- The purpose of income support includes not
only the provision of basic social assistance, but recognizes the role of
income support programs in supporting such client groups as persons
needing supports to maintain attachment to the labour force, low income
working families and persons who are victims of violence.
- Employment support programs and services
have been defined to include a range of services to assist eligible
persons to access employment and training; the provision of grants to
community agencies to provide employment services; the provision of
funding to employers to offer employment experience and on-the-job
training; and recognizes the additional supports that may be required by
persons with disabilities for the inclusion and accommodation of their
Inclusion of a preamble and service
- The preamble sets out six overarching
statements relating to the rationale of the legislation, including general
social policy goals and specific statements on Income Support, Employment
Support, employment barriers for persons with disabilities, service
delivery and community partnerships. This links the legislation to the
broad social policy goals of the provinceís Strategic Social Plan.
- The service principles mandate
accountability through regular review of legislation; access to
individualized, timely service, considering applicantsí unique
circumstances and needs, as departmental resources permit; access to
legislation, policies and procedures; and provision of services to clients
according to standards of service. Most importantly, clients and potential
clients are now provided with a formal assurance of the service standards
they can expect from the department.
Mandated Regular Reviews
- Innovative provisions for income support
rate reviews every three years
- Reviews of the act and regulations every
- For the first time government is held
accountable for assessing on a regular basis whether the basic income
support rates and legislation adequately reflect the current and future
needs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Privacy and confidentiality provisions
important in the income and employment support context are included, such
as clientsí right to see their file and request corrections, and the
departmentís ability to verify information for eligibility assurance
- The bill is consistent with the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
- Provides clients with an understanding of
how information provided to the department is used.
- The requirement for client consent for
verification of information for eligibility purposes is now contained in
Integrated Appeals Procedures
- In addition to the appeal of income support
decisions, provision is now made for appeal of eligibility, suspension and
cancellation of employment support services.
- Inclusion of a client or former client as a
member of the appeal board.
- Inclusion of appropriate time lines
for hearing of internal reviews and appeals
- With the appeals provisions now
incorporated in the bill, clients now have one legislative source in which
to refer when there is a disagreement over a departmental decision.
Flexible Income Support
- For the first time provides the department
with the ability to support a clientís employment plan through the
flexible use of income support monies. It will enable income support to be
advanced, under certain conditions to be specified in regulations, to
assist the client with the resources needed to implement a personal plan
aimed at moving to self-reliance. This will only be done at the clientís
- Consent of the recipientís spouse or
cohabiting partner will usually be required, although the minister may, in
exceptional circumstances, dispense with the consent of the spouse or
Clear Underpayment/Overpayment Remedies
- Introduction of six year time frame for the
calculation of underpayments (currently six months), the calculation of
overpayments and starting an action to recover overpayments.
- Bill clearly specifies the methods the
department uses to recover overpayments so clients are more fully informed
and are aware of the areas of recourse available to them, if they are
subject to collection action.
Updated Penalty Provisions
- Imprisonment has been removed from the
- The maximum fine is increased from $200 to
- Bill repeals the Social Assistance Act
and the Social Services Appeal Board Act and now incorporates
- Repeals the Rehabilitation Act, with
aspects of that act relating to the department addressed by the bill.
- Appeals for Employability Assistance for
Persons with Disabilities (EAPD) matters formerly addressed by the Rehabilitation
Act, and administered by this department or the Department of Health
and Community Services, will be heard by the appeal board under the
- The Civil Legal Aid regulations, Social
Assistance regulations, and Home Support regulations are repealed
- In the coming months, the department will
be drawing on the results of the consultations and continuing to
communicate with community partners, as it drafts regulations and updates
policy to conform with this proposed act.
- Service standards will be developed.
- If the bill is assented to, it will be
proclaimed upon completion of this work .