Human Resources, Labour and Employment
Health and Community Services
April 26, 2007
A Vision of Opportunity with New Actions to Address Poverty
The Williams Government is forging ahead with an aggressive and sustained approach to tackling poverty, with additional measures in Budget 2007 to increase benefits and expand programs and services for persons with disabilities, families with low income, adults, women vulnerable to poverty, youth and seniors in the province.
Budget 2007 provides a further $28.9 million in addition to a current annual investment of over $62 million to reduce, alleviate and prevent poverty in the province. This $91 million commitment this year to the Poverty Reduction Strategy supports a broad mix of policy and programs to support the goals and objectives of the strategy, including improved access to services, a stronger social safety net, improved earned incomes, a strong focus on the needs of children and families, and a better educated population. Reducing poverty restores the balance of opportunity for everyone. Newfoundland and Labrador is only the second jurisdiction in Canada to move forward with an integrated and long-term poverty reduction strategy.
"These additional poverty reduction measures reflect the Provincial Government’s continued and unwavering commitment to improve the quality of life for our more vulnerable citizens and in turn further secure the long-term prosperity of our province," said the Honourable Shawn Skinner, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and lead minister responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy. "Citizens, the Provincial Government and the community have worked hard in a spirit of partnership to define what is needed and to decisively act in tackling poverty. We are proud to be national leaders in poverty reduction."
These poverty reduction initiatives are in addition to the enhancements to the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program announced earlier this week. These enhancements will mean individual families will have their annual out-of-pocket drug costs capped based on their net family income.
Helping Persons with Disabilities
A key objective under the Poverty Reduction Strategy is to increase supports to enable persons with disabilities to participate fully in society. Budget 2007 includes $9.8 million to improve benefits, access to services and employment supports.
Currently, adults with disabilities who live with non-relatives receive compensation on a monthly basis for basic board and lodging and a supplement for disability-related costs. However, adults with disabilities residing with their own family members (parents or siblings) only receive funding for basic board and lodging expenses and no compensation for additional expenses arising from being cared for as an adult with a disability, such as food, clothing and furniture.
In order to address this inequity, the province will invest $8 million in Budget 2007 to provide comparable board and lodging supplements for adults with disabilities residing with their own family members. That means a single adult with a disability who lives with relatives and is receiving of the maximum family board and lodging income support rate will receive the same board and lodging supplement as those living with non-relatives– an increase of up to $362 a month or $4,344 annually."
"This significant investment will help ensure equity between relative and non-relative care, while supporting persons with disabilities to remain at home with their families and participate in their communities," said the Houourable Ross Wiseman, Minister of Health and Community Services.
In addition, $1.5 million is provided to increase the labour market participation of persons with disabilities, increase access to student summer employment opportunities and provide disability-related supports in the workplace.
A further $300,000 will be provided to expand the Provincial Government’s Opening Doors Program to Crown corporations. Opening Doors provides opportunities for persons with disabilities to work within the public service.
Helping Low Income Families
Strengthening the social safety net and improving a person’s quality of life furthers his/her integration and inclusion into society. Reducing the cost for families with children in school, expanding dental coverage, and increasing community-based supports help low income families succeed.
Budget 2007 includes $17 million to support low income families. This includes $12.8 million to cover the cost of text books for the Grades 9 to Level III prescribed curriculum. As a result, parents will no longer have to purchase text books, providing consistency throughout the K-12 system.
"I am pleased that we are able to follow up last year’s elimination of school fees with this year’s commitment to cover the cost of these textbooks for the prescribed curriculum," said the Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. "This initiative is in keeping with the Provincial Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy by specifically assisting low-income families, as well as ensuring that the resources children need for school are equally accessible to all, regardless of a family’s income."
"Through an increased investment in the children’s dental health program last year, the Provincial Government eliminated the costs for basic dental services for children ages 12 and under, without private coverage, thereby ensuring that children have access to quality dental care, regardless of their financial situation.
Budget 2007 includes $2.3 million to further enhance dental services for children between the ages of 13 and 17 by offering dental coverage for children in low incomes families and providing sealants for children. The program will come into effect in September 2007.
Building on the Healthy Beginnings Program that is currently provided by public health nurses, a need has been identified to provide an enhanced home visiting model that will give additional support for parenting and early childhood development.
Budget 2007 provides $500,000 to develop the enhanced home visiting model through research, demonstration sites, and training and evaluation. The program, when fully implemented, will support parenting and early childhood development to facilitate attachment, strengthen parent-child relationships, and enhance healthy child outcomes. The goal is to develop a plan for expansion of the model to all areas of the province.
Other initiatives include:
As a result of these initiatives, for example, a family of two adults and two children (high school) with one adult working full-time, and the other working part-time and earning $21,000 a year, is directly financially better off by about $960 annually– given they have free high school text books, qualify for the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Tax Benefit, and have basic dental coverage for their teenagers.
Helping Women Vulnerable to Poverty
The Williams Government continues to act on its vision to advance the social and economic status of women in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is particularly the case in regard to women vulnerable to poverty. As part of Budget 2007, the Provincial Government is providing $585,000 to support several key initiatives. This includes:
"I have heard from women's organizations and Aboriginal women over the past 18 months on the needs that exist in communities across Newfoundland and Labrador," said Minister Burke. "The voices of women have been heard in the development of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and will continue to be heard in the delivery and evaluation of the success of our initiatives."
Helping Youth, Seniors and Adults
The Poverty Reduction Strategy includes a mix of measures to address the different needs of persons at various stages in life. Budget 2007 includes $1.4 million to help youth, seniors and adults experiencing poverty.
"The Poverty Reduction Strategy is about helping persons of low income improve their quality of life by providing a series of financial incentives to enable them to succeed and more reasonably bear the costs of meeting their basic needs," said Minister Skinner. "Budget 2007 significantly builds on our government’s commitment to provide necessary supports to people to help them achieve self-reliance and independence."
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