Welfare in Canada
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Last updated: November 2019
This resource is not intended to help individuals identify what government transfers they could be entitled to. Individuals living in Northwest Territories seeking financial assistance should visit this page.
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 2018.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability*||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Basic social assistance||$21,733||$23,055||$26,472||$32,652|
|Additional SA benefits||$4,068|
|Federal child benefits||$6,448||$10,881|
|Territorial child benefits||$815||$1,174|
|Territorial tax credits/benefits|
|Total 2018 income||$22,163||$27,553||$34,447||$45,567|
Total welfare incomes in the Northwest Territories ranged from $22,163 for the single person considered employable to $45,567 for the couple with two children.
The NWT basic social assistance program pays actual costs of shelter, fuel, and utilities. At the beginning of 2018, the shelter component of basic social assistance for single person households was capped at $900. In April 2018, the cap was removed and the shelter component was aligned to the market costs of renting a one bedroom apartment. In the table above, single people were assumed to have a shelter allowance of $900 per month in the first three months of 2018 and $1,451 per month thereafter (the average market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in 2018 in Yellowknife according to CMHC annual rental market report).
On top of basic social assistance, one household received additional social assistance benefits, as shown in the table. The single person with a disability received the Disability Allowance of $300 per month and the Incidental Allowance for Persons with Disabilities of $39 per month.
Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit which increased in July 2018 from $533 to $541 per month for a child under the age of six and from $450 to $457 per month for a child aged between six and 17. They also received the NWT Child Benefit. The single parent received $67.91 per month (the amount provided for one child under the age of six) and the couple household received $97.83 per month (the amount provided for two children between the ages of six and 17).
All households received the GST credit, which increased in July 2018 in line with inflation.
Changes to welfare incomes
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 2018 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index.
The welfare incomes for a single person considered employable and a single person with a disability have mirrored each other over time. They both dropped in 1997, gradually increased until 2008, and decreased until 2013. They have both fluctuated considerably since then.
The variations between 2013 and 2017 were the result of changes in the way costs were calculated rather than the result of changes to social assistance policy. The rise in 2014 was due to a considerable increase in utility costs, and the fall in 2015 was due to a decrease in the cost of fuel. The fall in 2017 was due to methodological changes in the estimation of utility costs. The welfare incomes data for 2017 are lower in this edition than originally reported due to a revision to shelter and utility costs.
In April 2018, there was a considerable increase in the welfare incomes of single adults due to a change in policy. This resulted in an increase in the shelter component paid to single persons on assistance from $900 per month to the average monthly rental cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Yellowknife ($1,451).
In 2018, the welfare incomes of a single person considered employable and a single person with a disability stood at $22,163 and $27,553, respectively.
The maximum welfare incomes of households with children rose from 2015 to 2017, in part due to changes to federal child benefits.
In 2017, the welfare incomes of both household types with children also increased as a result of changes to the way shelter and utility costs were calculated. The welfare incomes data for 2017 are lower in this edition than originally reported due to a revision to shelter and utility costs.
In 2018, a single parent with one child had a welfare income of $34,447 and a couple with two children had $45,567.