Advanced Education and Skills
June 4, 2014

Supporting Strong Communities

Poverty Reduction Strategy Shows Progress towards Equality and Shared Prosperity

The Provincial Government reaffirmed its commitment today to reducing poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador with the release of the latest Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report.

“Our Poverty Reduction Strategy is bold and ambitious, regarded nationally as a model for others to follow. As a government, we are prouder of our accomplishments under this strategy than anything else we’ve done. Today, our economy is robust; more people are working than ever before and earning higher average wages than at any time in history. Others are going to school to secure a better job or advance in their chosen career, supported by a generous student aid package and ongoing tuition freeze at both Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic – this is just a part of the story of progress contained in this report, which we are pleased to release today.”
- The Honourable Tom Marshall, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

The following are highlights of the progress report:

  • A 50 per cent drop in the number of persons living with low incomes occurred from 2003 to 2011, according to Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-Offs;
  • Median Family Income increased by 26 per cent;
  • In 2013, about seven per cent of the province received Income Support, the lowest level ever recorded and a trend that is expected to continue; and
  • For students from low-income families beginning university, Newfoundland and Labrador remains the most affordable province on the Cost of Learning Index.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy is supported by an historic level of investment. This year over $170 million is being invested to support the strategy – the highest annual investment ever. Over $1 billion in new funding has been budgeted through the strategy since its launch in 2006 to implement a broad range of initiatives in support of its goals and objectives. With the completion of the latest progress report, work continues on the development of a new action plan and consultations that will guide future themes and directions in efforts to end poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Launched at the Froude Street Community Centre in St. John’s this morning, the progress report is also enriched with commentary and anecdotes from people whose lives have been changed – in some cases transformed – by an ambitious plan for shared prosperity. For a sampling of these stories, please see the attached backgrounder.

“Listening to the advice of people with lived experience has been essential to our progress towards poverty reduction in Newfoundland and Labrador. Together, we have made great strides along a challenging path. We are grateful for the generosity demonstrated by so many in the sharing of personal stories to inform the strategy and this report. The knowledge and experiences gathered from people who have experienced poverty first-hand, as well as community partners who work with and on behalf of people in challenging circumstances, has been instrumental in ensuring investments are being made in initiatives that make the most difference.”
- The Honourable Kevin O’Brien, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills

The Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report can be viewed at: http://www.aes.gov.nl.ca/poverty/index.html

QUICK FACTS:

  • The Provincial Government reaffirmed its commitment to reducing poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador with the release of the latest Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report.
  • This year over $170 million is being invested to support the strategy – the highest annual investment ever.
  • Over $1 billion in new funding has been budgeted through the strategy since its launch in 2006 to implement a broad range of initiatives in support of its goals and objectives.
  • A 50 per cent drop in the number of persons living with low incomes occurred from 2003 to 2011, according to Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-Offs, while Median Family Income increased 26 per cent.
  • In 2013, about seven per cent of the province received Income Support, the lowest level ever recorded and a trend that is expected to continue.

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Media contacts:

Milly Brown
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
709-729-3960
millybrown@gov.nl.ca
John Tompkins
Director of Communications
Department of Advanced Education and Skills
709-729-0753
jtompkins@gov.nl.ca

BACKGROUNDER
Personal Stories of Success

Listening to the advice of people with lived experience has been essential to the progress made in reducing poverty throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The generosity demonstrated by the sharing of information and personal stories that inform the strategy and this report is greatly appreciated. The following is a sample of those stories:

Supporting Inclusion
Bradley is deaf and has cerebral palsy and is proud to have been raised as culturally deaf. During his Independent Living Internship, a program provided by the Independent Living Resource Centre and funded through the Poverty Reduction Strategy, he was responsible for creating alternative formats of documents for individuals who read in Braille and large print. He also coordinated volunteers to create podcast files. The Independent Living Internship provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in different regions of the province and has had a positive impact on Bradley. Bradley is now employed as a Sales Associate in the Electronics Department at Target where he is responsible for customer sales and services as well as inventory control.

Nancy is a 39 year old mother who became physically disabled eight years ago. Previous to her disability, she worked in the heritage sector. Once she relied on a wheelchair for mobility, she found it increasingly difficult to access many of the buildings necessary to work in the heritage sector. During her Independent Living Internship she worked at Mariner Resource Opportunities Network Inc. (MRON). While there as an intern, she provided information on disability etiquette and matters concerning persons with disabilities to staff and was able to contribute information on disability awareness to a variety of clients and members. Because Nancy was able to demonstrate her abilities and work ethic during her internship, she was hired full-time at MRON.

Supporting Families
Dave and Shauna have two children, aged 10 and 15, David is on heart medication and one child requires medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In 2003, David and Shauna wanted to work, but when they explored options, they decided it made more sense to continue receiving Income Support because of the increased costs and loss of benefits. Prior to the Poverty Reduction Strategy, if the family had left Income Support, they would have faced over $7,000 in additional costs, losing benefits such as dental and prescription drug coverage.

Due to changes brought in by Poverty Reduction Strategy initiatives, David and Shauna no longer face such barriers to employment. Costs they previously would have faced have been reduced from $7,000 in 2003 to $350 in 2014. Now a family can count on earned income improving the family’s finances. The Poverty Reduction Strategy is helping ensure that families such as David and Shauna’s are much better off working.

Supporting Students
Michelle is a single mother of two children aged five and seven and is receiving Income Support. She is currently renting an apartment in Stephenville and wants to get a decent job to support her two children. After receiving employment counselling from a Career Development Specialist in the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, she has decided that going to the College of the North Atlantic and obtaining a trade in Heavy Equipment Operator will help her and her family get a fresh start. Michelle has been accepted to the 22-week program starting in September 2014. With changes made under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Michelle’s income while attending College will be approximately $3,300 more for the 22-week program then her income would have been in 2003-04. Further, Michelle will have to pay back $3,800 less in student loans. With the employment counselling she has received along with the lower debt load, Michelle is confident there is work available for her when she finishes her training helping her secure a better future for her family.

Supporting Seniors
Fred is a 72-year-old widower living in a two-bedroom NLHC apartment. Fred fished his whole adult life and relies on Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. In 2003, Fred would have had an annual income of about $14,317 from all sources. In 2014, because of improvements to the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Fred’s total income will increase to approximately $18,500.

Supporting Single Parents
In 2009, Elizabeth was a 29-year-old single mother of two who rented an apartment. She had a daughter in grade one and a son in kindergarten. Until 2007, Elizabeth stayed at home with her children full-time and received Income Support benefits. She wanted to work and had experience in the retail sector. She explored her options, but could not avail of a subsidized space in a child care centre because her work would involve evening and weekend shifts. With the cost of child care and concern about losing access to benefits such as prescription drug coverage, Elizabeth did not feel she could go to work and still meet her children’s basic needs.

Changes through the Poverty Reduction Strategy removed the barriers and financial disincentives she faced, and in 2007 she went to work. With further changes between 2007 and 2009, she saw a significant improvement in her income and quality of life. In 2003 Elizabeth’s income not working was $23,932; now in 2014 Elizabeth is earning $45,664.

Supporting New Parents
In 2009, Sara was a single mother of one child who was renting an apartment and paying for her own heating oil. She worked 30 hours a week at minimum wage, mostly in the evenings, to support herself and her nine-month-old son. A series of changes through the Poverty Reduction Strategy ensured this young family was much better off than it would have been prior to the strategy. In 2003, Sara’s income and benefits would have been $30,838. In 2014, her income and benefits will total $42,533.

2014 06 04                            11:20 a.m.