Social Assistance Summaries

Prince Edward Island

We’re updating Social Assistance Summaries with the new 2022 data.

For the most accurate data, please download the PDF version.

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.

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 about 3,150 cases (families and single adults) and just under 5,100 beneficiaries (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children) in Prince Edward Island’s Social Assistance Program during 2020-21. Both numbers decreased from the previous year: 443 fewer cases (12 per cent) and 643 fewer beneficiaries (11 per cent). Over the long term, these numbers fell in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but have been reasonably stable over the last decade.

Figure 1PE – Yearly cases and beneficiaries of the Social Assistance Program in Prince Edward Island, 1996 to 2021

AccessAbility Supports

On average, almost 1,900 individuals received support through the AccessAbility Supports Program. The number of cases has risen gradually since its introduction in 2001-02.

Figure 2PE – Yearly cases of AccessAbility Supports in Prince Edward Island, 2001 to 2021

What proportion of the population receives social assistance?

In 2020-21, on average, 5.3 per cent of people in Prince Edward Island under 65 received the AccessAbility Supports Program or the Social Assistance Program, which is 1 in 19. The proportion of recipients receiving social assistance has followed a similar pattern as the total number of recipients.

The proportion of people under 65 receiving AccessAbility Supports has slowly increased from 0.6 in 2001-02 to a high of 1.4 per cent in 2020-21.

The proportion of Social Assistance Program beneficiaries decreased until 2007-08, declining from 5.8 per cent to 4.7 per cent. From 2007-08 to 2019-20, on average, the proportion hovered around 4.5 per cent. In 2020-21, the average proportion of Social Assistance Program recipients relative to the under-65 population reached its lowest point of 3.9 per cent.

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).

Figure 3PE – Yearly beneficiaries of the Social Assistance Program and cases of the AccessAbility Supports Program as a proportion of the under-65 population of Prince Edward Island, 2001 to 2021

Who is receiving social assistance?

In March 2021, unattached singles comprised the majority of social assistance cases among households for both the Social Assistance Program and the Accessibility Supports Program, with 71 per cent and 92 per cent respectively.

For the Social Assistance Program, single parents were the second largest number of cases, with 19 per cent. For the Accessibility Supports Program, couples without children were the second largest number of cases, with 5 per cent.

The Social Assistance Program had more female cases with 57 per cent. Whereas, the Accessibility Supports Program had more male cases with 59 per cent.

Data on beneficiaries was not available for March 2021.

Social Assistance Program

Figure 4PE – Cases of the Social Assistance Program by household in Prince Edward Island, March 2021

Figure 5PE – Cases of the Social Assistance Program by gender in Prince Edward Island, March 2021

AccessAbility Supports

Figure 6PE – Cases of AccessAbility Supports by household in Prince Edward Island, March 2021

Figure 7PE – Cases of AccessAbility Supports by gender in Prince Edward Island, March 2021


Figure 8PE – Yearly social assistance data for Prince Edward Island, 1997 to 2022

Figure 9PE – Social assistance data by household for Prince Edward Island, 2021 and 2021-22

Figure 10PE – Social assistance data by gender for Prince Edward Island, 2021 and 2021-22

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 yearly social assistance data reflects the average number of cases and beneficiaries over the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).
  • The disaggregated social assistance data (by household and gender) reflects the number of cases on March 31, 2021.
  • For 2019-20, the number of Social Assistance beneficiaries is for March 2020 and is not a yearly fiscal average as previously reported.
  • Data for beneficiaries by household and gender was not available.
  • The unattached singles cases of AccessAbility Supports include 402 child cases (0-17 year-olds).
  • The gender of two Social Assistance Program cases was unknown.
  • The numbers do not include First Nations living on reserves.
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered.