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Human Resources, Labour and Employment
December 14, 2009

First Progress Report Shows Significant Results in Province’s Fight Against Poverty

Newfoundland and Labrador has realized significant improvement in the overall level of poverty since 2003. In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador has moved from being a province with one of the highest levels of poverty in Canada to the province with the third lowest level.

Today, the Honourable Susan Sullivan, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and lead Minister for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, released Empowering People - Engaging Community - Enabling Success: First Progress Report on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. This document demonstrates that through the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Williams Government is meeting its commitment to prevent, reduce and alleviate poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Minister Sullivan officially released the Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report today at an event hosted by Penelope Rowe, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Services Council, at the Buckmaster Community Centre in St. John’s. Joining Minister Sullivan was John Rook, Chair of the National Council on Welfare, an advisory body on matters of concern to low-income Canadians.

“Reducing poverty restores the balance of opportunity for all,” said Minister Sullivan. “I am very pleased to release our first progress report on the achievements made through the Poverty Reduction Strategy to improve the quality of life and social inclusion of individuals and families living in or vulnerable to poverty in our province. Through the progress report, it is evident that Newfoundland and Labrador is well along in its journey toward being the province with the lowest poverty rates in Canada by 2014.”

The progress report demonstrates that by all available measures of low income, Newfoundland and Labrador has realized significant improvement in the overall level of poverty since 2003.

According to Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) – the most commonly used measure of low income in Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador shows significant improvement in the incidence, depth and persistence of poverty:

  • The incidence of low-income decreased from 12.2 per cent in 2003 (63,000 persons) to 6.5 per cent in 2007 (33,000 persons); a decrease of 30,000 people over this time period. Newfoundland and Labrador has the third lowest level per capita in the country of persons living with low incomes.
  • The depth of poverty, or the average low-income gap (i.e. the average amount low income people fall below the LICO) decreased from $5,500 in 2003 to $4,900 in 2007 and is now the lowest in the country.
  • The Income Support caseload has decreased substantially from 36,700 in 2003 to 31,323 in 2008. Over 4,000 Income Support clients started employment between 2006 and 2008.

“The vision and commitment of Newfoundland and Labrador to combating poverty in a comprehensive, holistic fashion has been nothing less than inspirational,” said Mr. Rook. “If every province and territory sought to match or exceed what Newfoundland and Labrador has already done and intends to do, there would be that much more reason for confidence that poverty can be drastically reduced and eventually eliminated in Canada.”

“Every Newfoundlander and Labradorian should be extremely proud of this accomplishment,” said Minister Sullivan. “While more work remains to be done, I am confident that the measures put in place through the strategy and noted throughout this progress report represent a solid foundation upon which to build further momentum and success. By continuing to work together, government and the community will improve access to services, strengthen our social safety net, improve earned incomes, and provide for a better educated population. I am fully confident that we will achieve our shared vision of being the province with the lowest level of poverty by 2014.”

The provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy originated from a 2003 Blueprint commitment. It was formally launched in 2006 with an investment of $32 million in support of 20 initiatives. Today the Poverty Reduction Strategy is comprised of over 80 initiatives with an investment this fiscal year of over $132 million.

Empowering People - Engaging Community - Enabling Success: First Progress Report on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Poverty Reduction Strategy can be accessed at www.hrle.gov.nl.ca/hrle/publications/poverty/PRSProgessReport.pdf

To request a print copy, please email povertyreduction@gov.nl.ca or call 1-866-883-6600.

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Media contacts:

Jennifer Collingwood
Director of Communications
Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment
709-729-0753, 690-2498
jennifercollingwood@gov.nl.ca
John Rook
Chair, National Council on Welfare
613-957-2961
 

BACKGROUNDER
Highlights of the Poverty Reduction Strategy between 2006 and 2009

  • Provided adults with disabilities living with family the same board and lodging supplement as those living with non-relatives;

  • Expanded eligibility for the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to include low-income residents with the addition of the Access Plan and the Assurance Plan (protection against the financial burden of eligible high cost drugs);

  • Increased access to the Special Child Welfare Allowance Program to help families offset some of the associated costs they incur at home when looking after a child with a developmental and/or physical disability;

  • Expanded the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Plan to enable 13-17 year olds in low-income families to receive the same coverage as children and youth in families that receive income support;

  • Committed to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour by July 2010;

  • Increased labour market participation for persons with disabilities;

  • Enhanced employment incentives by expanding the period of time to 30 days that income support clients can receive benefits while transitioning to work;

  • Enhanced benefits for income support clients for health services such as eye exams, eyeglasses, dentures, and the special diet allowance;

  • Expanded to more areas of the province and increased the overall level of support for the Community Youth Network;

  • Provided free text books for all students from K-12;

  • Increased the instructional grant provided to schools, thereby eliminating school fees;

  • Lowered the rental rate for Newfoundland Labrador Housing tenants with employment earnings and for those aged 55 and older;

  • Implemented an Affordable Housing Program for both seniors and persons with disabilities;

  • Increased funding for the Kids Eat Smart Foundation to expand the initiative to more schools;

  • Published a Guide to Provincial Government Programs and Services for Individuals and Families;

  • Provided a Job Start benefit of $125 for single people and $250 for families to assist with making the transition from Income Support to employment;

  • Established a Supportive Living Community Partnership Program;

  • Established a provincial homelessness fund; and,

  • Expanded the Adult Basic Education Program.

2009 12 14                              10:10 a.m.


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