By SCOTT DEVEAU, Globe and Mail Update, August 24, 2006 – The amount of money Canadians on welfare received in 2005 is at its lowest point in 19 years, according to a new study. The National Council of Welfare, a citizen’s advisory group to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, released its Welfare Incomes 2005 report Thursday on the state of Canada’s welfare system. It suggests that of the 1.7-million Canadians, half a million of whom are children, currently receiving welfare in the country, most are living far below the poverty line. According to the report, the income adjusted for inflation of a single person living on welfare in Alberta has dropped by 50 per cent since 1986 to $4,824 a year. In New Brunswick the average is $3,427 for a single person or 19 per cent of the poverty of what is considered the threshold for the poverty line. NCW chairman John Murphy calls the present situation “shameful and morally unsustainable.”
Determining eligibility for welfare is a multi-step process in Canada under provincial jurisdiction. Applicants must undergo a needs test, which looks at the amount required for food, clothing, shelter, and utilities, personal and household needs. In general, applicants must be of a certain age, usually between 18 and 65, provide written documentation concerning their financial situation, pursue any court-ordered maintenance support to which they are entitled and provide medical certification of any disabling condition. They must also agree to report any future changes in their circumstances.
“Some people think that reducing the amount of welfare people receive is a good way to go,” Mr. Murphy said. “If you’re living on half of the poverty line, it’s not a good way to go at all. It’s a terrible way to go.” Most welfare incomes peaked in 1994, when the federal government still contributed roughly half of the welfare dollars handed out through the Canada Assistance Plan, Mr. Murphy said. But since that federal program was cancelled, almost one-third of Canadians on welfare have seen the amount they receive drop by at least $3,000. In Ontario, a lone-parent with one child received $21,000 in 1992. Today that figure is $14,400, Mr. Murphy said. (Read the rest of this article on NATIONAL globeandmail.com).