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


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 Quebec, the social assistance program is known as Last Resort Financial Assistance, which includes the Aim for Employment (objectif emploi), the Social Assistance program (aide sociale), and the Social Solidarity program (solidarité sociale).

Aim for Employment (objectif emploi)

The Aim for Employment program was introduced in April 2018, and it aims to help recipients improve their employability. It is a 12-month program that is mandatory for new social assistance recipients (with some exceptions). In addition to the basic benefit, recipients receive a participation allowance for carrying out the activities in their labour market entry plan.

Social Assistance Program (aide sociale)

The Social Assistance program provides basic benefits to adults and not children. Between September 1997 and 2005, children’s basic benefits were delivered through the Quebec Family Allowance, but since 2005 children’s basic benefits have been available through the Child Assistance Measure.

Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale)

The Social Solidarity program is for those with severely limited capacity for employment. To obtain a social solidarity allowance, a medical report must be produced confirming that the applicant’s physical or psychological condition is significantly impaired and will be so permanently or for an indeterminate time. Such conditions, in combination with their socio-occupational profile (little schooling, no work experience) qualify the applicant as having a severely limited capacity for employment. In the case of a family composed of two adults, only one adult must prove his or her severely limited capacity for employment in order for the family to be eligible for the program.

How many people claim social assistance?

On average, there were 287,000 cases (families and single adults) in Quebec’s social assistance programs during 2018/19. A very small proportion (one per cent) were part of the newly introduced Aim for Employment Program, over half (55 per cent) received support through the Social Assistance Program and the remainder (44 per cent) received support through the Social Solidarity Program.

Aim for Employment Program (objectif emploi) and Social Assistance Program (aide sociale)

The number of Social Assistance Program cases in Quebec fell by 15,500 to reach 158,000 in 2018/19. Overall, the number of cases and beneficiaries has fallen most years since the mid-1990s, but the most recent decrease has been somewhat countered by the 3,400 new cases in the Aim for Employment Program, which was introduced in April 2018. With this program in place, most individuals and families seeking income assistance in Quebec receive support through the Aim for Employment Program for 12 months; those still in need of income support at the end of this period may then transition to the and Social Assistance Program or Social Solidarity Program.

On average there were 243,000 beneficiaries (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children) of Quebec’s Social Assistance Program in 2018/19, 24,600 fewer than the year before; but there were also 5,000 new beneficiaries of the Aim for Employment Program in 2018/19. 

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Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale)

In 2018/19, there was an average of 126,000 Social Solidarity Program cases and 141,000 beneficiaries. Both numbers have remained relatively stable over the last decade, having gradually risen in the decade before that. 

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Table: QC Data

Data notes

  • 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.
  • Objectif Emploi was introduced in April 2018 to help people who are newly eligible for social assistance benefits to improve their employability and become financially self-sufficient. It is a 12-month program that is mandatory for new social assistance recipients (with some exceptions).
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered