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 Yellowknife in 2017.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$24,934$21,768$33,312$35,916
Additional SA benefits $4,068  
Federal child benefits  $6,400$10,800
Territorial child benefits  $518$793
GST credit$424$424$702$848
Territorial tax credits/benefits    
Total 2017 income$25,358$26,260$40,932$48,357

Download the data in a table

The NWT Income Assistance program pays actual costs of shelter, fuel, and utilities and the figures in the table were based on estimates of the average costs of these items in Yellowknife. An improved data source was used to estimate these costs for 2017 resulting in an increase in the value of Income Assistance amounts. (Shelter costs for 2017 were taken from the CMHC 2017 Rental Market Report: Yellowknife Highlights [previous years’ data were based on information from the NWT Public Housing Corporation information]. Utility and fuel costs for 2017 were provided by the NWT government based on a new and more accurate database.)

Alongside basic social assistance payments, a single person with a disability received $4,068 in additional benefits (including the Disability Allowance of $300 per month and the Incidental Allowance for Persons with Disabilities of $39 per month).

The NWT Child Benefit was enhanced and restructured in July 2017. Before then, households received the same payment for children regardless of age; after July 2017, households received a higher payment for children under the age of 6.

Total welfare incomes in the Northwest Territories ranged from $25,358 for a single person considered employable to just over $48,357 for a couple with two children.

Changes to welfare incomes

The biggest change to welfare incomes in the Northwest Territories in 2017 impacted households with children as this was the first full year that the federal Canada Child Benefit was paid. In addition, the NWT Child Benefit was enhanced in July 2017, with a greater increase for children under 6 years of age. But the impact this had on household income was small compared to the impact of the Canada Child Benefit.

NWT Income Assistance values also increased in 2017 but this was the result of a methodological change rather than a change in policy. The NWT Income Assistance program covers the actual costs of shelter, fuel, and utilities. To calculate the value of this benefit, we estimate the average cost of these items in Yellowknife. In 2017, an improved data source was used to estimate these costs which increased the value of Income Assistance amount for all household types. (Shelter costs for 2017 were taken from the CMHC 2017 Rental Market Report: Yellowknife Highlights [previous years’ data were based on information from the NWT Public Housing Corporation information]. Utility and fuel costs for 2017 were provided by the NWT government based on a new and more accurate database.)

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four 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

  • The welfare incomes for a single person considered employable and a single person with a disability have followed a similar trend. They both dropped in 1997, gradually increased until 2008, and then decreased until 2013.
  • The changes starting in 2013 were due to changes in the way costs were calculated. In 2014, utility costs were considerably higher than in earlier years, and in 2015 the cost of fuel decreased. The increase in 2017 was the result of a methodological change which resulted in a higher, but more accurate, estimate of utility costs.
  • In 2017, the welfare incomes of a single person considered employable and a single person with a disability stood at $25,358 and $26,260, respectively.

Download the data in a table

  • The maximum welfare incomes of households with children started to rise in 2015, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.
  • In 2017, the welfare incomes of both household types with children increased dramatically. This was the result of changes in the way shelter and utility costs were calculated — described above — as well as changes to federal child benefits.
  • In 2017, a single parent with one child had a welfare income of $40,932 and a couple with two children had $48,357, the highest amounts paid over the 31-year time series.

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