Social Assistance Summaries

Newfoundland and Labrador

Last updated: July 2022

The Social Assistance Summaries series tracks the number of recipients of social assistance (welfare payments) in each province and territory.

For the total incomes available to those relying on social assistance, visit the Welfare in Canada report.

Program details

Social assistance is the income program of last resort. It is intended for those who have exhausted all other means of financial support. Every province and territory has its own social assistance program(s) and no two are the same.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, social assistance is referred to as Income Support (IS).

IS provides financial benefits and other services to eligible low-income people to assist in meeting daily living expenses. Basic benefits include a family and individual benefit (to assist with expenses such as food, clothing, personal care, household maintenance, and utilities) and a shelter benefit (to assist with rent, mortgage costs, utilities and municipal taxes).

Depending on individual circumstances, recipients may also qualify for non-basic benefits such as municipal tax payments, prescription glasses, and special diets. Recipients can also receive further benefits outside of IS by other departments and agencies such as a prescription drug card, medical transportation, and medical equipment.


How many people claim social assistance?

On average, there were just over 20,000 cases (families and single adults) and slightly over 28,000 beneficiaries (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children) in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Income Support (IS) program in 2021. The number of cases and beneficiaries fell consistently through the 2000s, but has fallen at a slower pace more recently. Cases and beneficiaries of Income Assistance saw a steeper drop in 2021.

Figure 1NL – Yearly cases and beneficiaries of Income Support (IS) in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1997 to 2020

What proportion of the population receives social assistance?

In 2021, on average, 7.1 per cent of people in Newfoundland and Labrador under 65 received Income Support (IS), which is 1 in 14. The proportion of recipients receiving IS has followed a similar pattern as the total number of recipients. On average, the proportion has consistently decreased, almost halving from a high of 14 per cent in 1997.

Note: The total population under 65 is estimated on July 1 of a given year, whereas social assistance beneficiary data is a calendar year average (January to December).

Figure 2NL – Yearly beneficiaries of Income Support (IS) as a proportion of the under-65 population in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1997 to 2021

Who is receiving social assistance?

In 2021, unattached singles were the majority household of both cases and beneficiaries of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Income Support (IS) program, with 76 per cent of cases and 54 per cent of beneficiaries. Single parents are second with nearly 17 per cent of cases and 31.5 per cent of beneficiaries.

IS beneficiaries were almost equally split between female and male recipients, with slightly more females.

Figure 3NL – Cases and beneficiaries of Income Support (IS) by household in Newfoundland and Labrador, 2021

Figure 4NL – Beneficiaries of Income Support (IS) by gender in Newfoundland and Labrador, 2021


Figure 5NL - Yearly social assistance data for Newfoundland and Labrador, 1997 to 2021

Figure 6NL – Social assistance data by household for Newfoundland and Labrador, 2021

Figure 7NL – Social assistance data by gender for Newfoundland and Labrador, 2021

Data notes

  • The data reflects the average number of cases and beneficiaries over the calendar year (January 1 to December 31).
  • Eight beneficiaries were not categorized into either male or female gender options. They were labeled “X.”
  • There are three First Nations reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador. Conne River is self-governed and operates its own social services programs. Its case and beneficiary numbers are not included in the data. The two other reserves are in Labrador: Natuashish and Sheshatshiu. From April 1, 2016, the delivery of Income Support was devolved to the Innu and statistics for these communities are no longer included in the data.
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered