Social Assistance Summaries

Northwest Territories

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 the Northwest Territories, the Income Assistance Program provides financial assistance to residents to help meet basic living needs, such as food, shelter, and utilities. In combination with developmental opportunities, it aims to help recipients become self-reliant as individual capacity allows, to participate fully in community life, and to share in the opportunities available to them.

Alongside financial assistance for basic living needs, recipients may also qualify for enhanced benefits depending on their circumstances (such as clothing, educational assistance, child care, furniture, incidentals, and allowances for seniors and persons with a disability).


How many people claim social assistance?

On average, there were close to 2,100 cases (families and single adults) and over 3,000 beneficiaries (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children) in the Northwest Territories’ Income Assistance Program in 2020-21. The number of cases and beneficiaries fell in 2020-21 after increases for seven consecutive years.

Figure 1NT – Yearly cases and beneficiaries of the Income Assistance Program in the Northwest Territories, 2001 to 2021

What proportion of the population receives social assistance?

In 2020-21, on average, 7.4 per cent of people in Northwest Territories under 65 received the Income Assistance Program, which is about 2 in 25. The proportion of recipients receiving this program has followed a similar pattern as the total number of recipients. On average, the proportion increased from 5.5 per cent in 2012-13 to a high of 7.8 in 2018-19 and 2019-20. This was followed by the first decrease in nine years in 2020-21.

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

Who is receiving social assistance?

In 2020-21, unattached singles comprised the majority of both cases and beneficiaries of the Income Assistance Program in the Northwest Territories among households, with over 76 per cent of cases and over 52 per cent of beneficiaries. Single parents had the second highest percentages, with 16.5 per cent of cases and 31 per cent of beneficiaries.

Females made up the majority of beneficiaries in 2020-21, with 55 per cent, which is over 24 per cent more than males.

Figure 3NT – Cases and beneficiaries of the Income Assistance Program in the Northwest Territories by household, 2020-21

Figure 4NT – Beneficiaries of the Income Assistance Program in the Northwest Territories by gender, 2020-21


Figure 5NT - Yearly social assistance data for the Northwest Territories, 2001 to 2021

Figure 6NT – Social assistance data by household for Northwest Territories, 2020-21

Figure 7NT – Social assistance data by gender for Northwest Territories, 2020-21

Data notes

  • The data reflects the average number of cases and beneficiaries over the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).
  • Fiscal year averages prior to 2001 are not available due to changes in the gathering and reporting of case and beneficiary data.
  • “Non-binary” is a third option for gender. No beneficiaries chose it in 2020-21.
  • These income assistance numbers only represent clients served by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment of the Government of Northwest Territories. First Nations on reserves are included in this data.
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered