Social Assistance Summaries

Last updated: June 2021

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 Nunavut, social assistance is delivered under the Income Assistance Program. It is intended to help Nunavut families and individuals meet their basic needs when, for various reasons, including disability, illness, low income or periods of unemployment, they are unable to provide for themselves.

The Income Assistance Program provides basic benefits to residents 18 years of age and older for food, shelter, utilities, fuel, and municipal services. Extended benefits for clothing, incidental allowance (for seniors and people with disabilities), household furniture, security/damage deposits, emergency, and education are also paid to eligible individuals.


How many people claim social assistance?

On average there were about 5,700 cases (families and single adults) in Nunavut’s Income Assistance Program in 2020, and just under 12,700 beneficiaries (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children). This marks the most substantial one-year increase in cases in 20 years, with a rise of 32 percent or about 1,400 cases from the previous year. It also marks the most substantial one-year decrease in the number of beneficiaries in 15 years, with a decline of 10 percent or about 1,500 beneficiaries from the previous year. This suggests that there was a decrease in the number of families receiving social assistance which was countered by an increase in the number of single adult households receiving social assistance.

Over the longer term, the number of social assistance cases rose during the 2000s and early 2010s but has been relatively stable in recent years until 2020.

Data notes

  • The data reflects the average number of cases and beneficiaries over the calendar year (January 1 to December 31).
  • Recipient statistics are not available for 2000 to 2004 and for 2014.
  • The data for 2019 is an average for the months of January to October. The data in November and December has been omitted due to validity concerns.
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered