Social Assistance Summaries

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.

Last updated: May 2020

Prince Edward Island
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.

Prince Edward Island delivers both a Social Assistance Program and an AccessAbility Supports program (formerly Disability Support Program).

Social Assistance Program

The Social Assistance Program delivers benefits on a case-by-case basis to residents who meet the eligibility requirements. The amount of financial support available varies depending on the individual’s circumstances, such as the number of dependents in the household and whether they are a home owner. Assistance may include help with food and shelter costs, personal expenses, medical, dental, and optical care, and funeral costs. Changes were announced in June 2018 to increase income exemptions and support transitioning to work.

AccessAbility Supports

AccessAbility Supports (AAS) is the new name for the former Disability Support Program. The Disability Support Program was the first program in Canada to distinguish disability-specific support from social assistance. Enhancements were announced in July 2018.

People with disabilities (physical, intellectual, neurological, sensory, or mental health) can access tools they need to reach their full potential and contribute to society as fully as possible. Supports are identified using a capability assessment tool that helps to better understand how the disability affects activities of daily living to ensure appropriate support is provided.

There are five areas of support available:

  1. Personal Supports
    These supports help with personal daily living. Examples include life skills training, technical aids and assistive devices, in-home supports, or personal care workers.
  2. Housing Supports
    Independent living can be supported by financial assistance for a caregiver to provide daily supervision and guidance in a community-based residential setting or financial help for home and vehicle modifications.
  3. Community Supports
    These supports help active participation in the community. Examples include assistance with finding or keeping a job, supporting youth transitioning from the education system to the workforce, and enabling active participation in the community.
  4. Caregiver Supports
    Provides help for family members or caregivers. Examples of supports include respite for caregivers to allow time for breaks to recharge or support to provide supervision for adults who are unable to stay home alone safely so that caregivers can go to work or school.
  5. Financial Supports
    Assured Income is the financial support component of AAS. It covers basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and household and personal supplies. Previously, if a person with a disability required financial assistance, he/she would need to apply to the Social Assistance Program.

These supports are not meant to duplicate or replicate existing services.

How many people claim social assistance?

Social Assistance Program

On average, there were 3,900 cases (families and single adults) in Prince Edward Island’s Social Assistance Program during 2018/19. This number fell in the late 1990s and early 2000s but has been reasonably stable over the last decade. On average 5,700 people (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children) benefited from social assistance in 2018/19. 



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AccessAbility Supports

On average, 1,500 individuals received support through the AccessAbility Supports program. The number of cases has risen gradually since its introduction in 2001/02.



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table: PEI Data

Data notes

  • Social Assistance Program beneficiary figures for the years 1996/97 to 2003/04 are not available.
  • The Disability Support Program was introduced in 2001/02. In August 2018, it was expanded and became AccessAbility Supports.
  • The data reflects the average number of cases and beneficiaries over the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).
  • The numbers do not include First Nations living on reserves.
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered.