Welfare in Canada, 2017

Components of welfare incomes

Households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for other financial support including:

  • GST/HST credit
  • Provincial/territorial tax credits or benefits
  • Federal and provincial/territorial child benefits (for households with children)
  • Recurring additional social assistance payments (for example, an annual back-to-school allowance)

Together, these combine with basic social assistance payments to form the total welfare income of a household. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, while some households may receive more if they have special health- or disability-related needs.

The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for four household types living in St. John’s in 2017.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$9,048$9,048$13,644$14,220
Additional SA benefits$1,800$1,800$1,800$1,800
Federal child benefits  $6,400$10,800
Provincial child benefits  $382$788
GST credit$311$311$702$848
Provincial tax credits/benefits$220$420$436$722
Total 2017 income$11,379$11,579$23,364$29,178

Download the data in a table

For the single person with a disability, the additional benefits component of welfare income included the Personal Care Allowance of $150 per month paid by Health and Community Services to social assistance recipients receiving supportive services. For the other household types, additional benefits included the Supplemental Shelter Benefit of $150 per month. As over 90 per cent of households living in St. John’s had rental costs that exceeded the basic benefit, it was assumed they automatically received the shelter supplement.

Persons with disabilities on assistance were ineligible for the Supplemental Shelter Benefit because they could receive additional financial benefits towards the actual cost of shelter and utilities from the Department of Health and Community Services. The value of this additional assistance was not readily available and so could not be included in the total welfare income calculations.

In July 2017, the maximum monthly Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit increased from $31.58 to $32.16 for the first child and from $33.50 to $34.16 for the second child.

In terms of provincial tax credits, social assistance recipients qualified for the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement, and those who were eligible for the federal Disability Tax Credit received an additional credit from the province.

Total welfare incomes in Newfoundland and Labrador ranged from $11,379 for a single person considered employable to $29,178 for a couple with two children.

Changes to welfare incomes

There was only one substantive change that affected welfare incomes in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2017. This was the first full year that the Canada Child Benefit was paid in full, resulting in higher welfare incomes for the two household types with children.

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four illustrative household types have changed over time. The values are in constant 2017 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation.

Download the data in a table

  • In the early 1990s, a single person with a disability had a welfare income nearly double the maximum for a single person considered employable. But the welfare incomes of these two groups have converged. In 2017, a single person with a disability had a total welfare income of $11,579 compared to $11,379 for a single person considered employable.
  • Between 1995 and 1996, the welfare income of a single person considered employable dropped from over $6,500 to under $2,000. This was the result of a policy change where recipients no longer received shelter benefits for market rent and instead received significantly lower room and board allowances. Between 2000 and 2002, the total amount more than recovered to the previous level, and then increased at a more gradual pace until 2012.
  • Between 1997 and 2005, the welfare income of a single person with a disability consistently declined. It fell again in 2011, but this was due to the shelter supplement no longer being included in the total welfare income calculations. This in turn was because persons with disabilities on assistance often received additional financial assistance for the cost of shelter and utilities from the Department of Health and Community Services and were therefore ineligible for the shelter supplement. Since the amount of this additional assistance is not readily available, it could not be included it in the welfare income calculations.

Download the data in a table

  • Over the long term, welfare incomes for both household types with children have gradually increased, with marked rises in 2006 and 2015. The rise in 2006 was the result of a five per cent increase to the Family Benefit rate, while the rise in 2015 was largely the result of changes to federal child benefits.
  • In 2017, the welfare incomes of a single parent with one child and a couple with two children stood at $23,364 and $29,178, respectively.
 

Adequacy of welfare incomes

The adequacy of a household’s total welfare income can be assessed by comparing it to a set threshold of low income. In Canada there are three commonly used measures:

  1. The Market Based Measure of poverty (MBM), which the National Poverty Strategy set as the official poverty measure, identifies households whose disposable income is less than the cost of a basket of goods and services that represent a basic standard of living.
  2. The Low Income Measure of poverty (LIM) identifies households whose income is substantially below what is typical in society (less than half of the median income).
  3. The Low Income Cut-Off measure (LICO) identifies households that are likely to spend a disproportionately large share of their income on the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

The table below shows how welfare incomes in Newfoundland and Labrador for the four household types compared to the three low income thresholds (after tax). The LICO and MBM thresholds are for St. John’s, the largest city in the province.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Total welfare income$11,379$11,579$23,364$29,178
MBM    
MBM threshold (St. John’s)$19,692$19,692$27,848$39,383
Welfare income minus MBM threshold-$8,313-$8,113-$4,484-$10,205
Welfare income as % of MBM58%59%84%74%
LIM    
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)$23,020$23,020$32,555$46,039
Welfare income minus LIM threshold-$11,640-$11,440-$9,191-$16,861
Welfare income as % of LIM49%50%72%63%
LICO    
LICO threshold (St. John’s)$17,758$17,758$21,612$33,575
Welfare income minus LICO threshold-$6,379-$6,179$1,752-$4,397
Welfare income as % of LICO64%65%108%87%

Download the data in a table

For each household type, the maximum welfare income fell well below all of the low income measures with one notable exception: the single parent with one child, where the welfare income exceeded the LICO threshold by 8 per cent (but was significantly below the MBM and LIM thresholds). As a proportion, the biggest gap was for single adults considered employable – their welfare income was between 49 and 64 per cent of the low income thresholds.

Return to top