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 Saskatchewan 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 Saskatoon in 2018.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability||Single person in SAID program*||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Basic social assistance**||$8,255||$9,924||$14,206||$13,235||$17,035|
|Additional SA benefits||$840||$840||$215|
|Federal child benefits||$6,448||$10,881|
|Provincial child benefits|
|Provincial tax credits/benefits||$346||$346||$346||$692||$964|
|Total 2018 income||$8,883||$11,422||$15,789||$21,087||$29,955|
*The Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program is a needs-tested income support program. It was introduced in 2009 to support individuals in residential care and was expanded in 2012 for people with significant and enduring disabilities living independently.
**In Saskatchewan social assistance programs support households with utility costs in different ways (either covering actual utility costs, providing a flat-rate amount, or a combination of both). The utility component of social assistance used in the table above is the average amount provided for each household type in 2018.
Total welfare incomes in Saskatchewan ranged from $8,883 for the single person considered employable to $29,955 for the couple with two children. A person with a disability received $11,422 in 2018 under the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) but those who qualified for Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) benefits received a much higher amount of $15,789. The other household types received Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA).
On top of basic assistance, single persons with a disability received additional benefits. A single person with a disability on SAP received the Disability Allowance of $600 ($50 per month) and the Special Transportation Allowance of $240 ($20 per month). Meanwhile, a person with a disability on SAID received $840 ($70 per month) through the Disability Income Benefit.
The School Expenses Allowance was also available for households receiving TEA with school-aged children. It provided the couple with an additional annual payment of $85 for the 10-year-old and $130 for the 15-year-old.
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.
All households received the GST credit, which increased in July 2018 in line with inflation, and the Saskatchewan Low-Income Tax Credit (SLITC).
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 income of a single person considered employable has fluctuated over the 1990s and 2000s, but since 2010 has been on a gradual downward trend. In 2018, it stood at $8,883.
The welfare income of a single person with a disability receiving Saskatchewan Assistance Plan (SAP) benefits declined until 2006, when it started to gradually increase. However, in 2011 it began to drop again, and in 2018 was $11,422. This is considerably lower than 1989 when it exceeded $14,000.
A single person with a disability who qualified for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) Program received much more generous benefits than those under SAP. Trends in the SAID incomes have only been tracked since 2013. After consecutive increases, they have been declining since 2016. In 2018, benefits for a single person receiving SAID benefits stood at $15,789.
Both household types with children experienced declines in their welfare incomes during the 1990s, but these amounts later veered upwards in the late-2000s. The welfare incomes of households with children saw a bigger increase from 2015 to 2017, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.
In 2018, the welfare income of the single parent with one child and the couple with two children stood at $21,087 and $29,955, 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:
- The official poverty measure (also known as the Market Basket Measure or MBM) identifies households whose disposable income is less than the cost of a basket of goods and services that represent a basic standard of living.
- 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).
- 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 Saskatchewan for the four household types compared to three low income thresholds (after tax). Because LICO and MBM thresholds vary by community size, the threshold used is for Saskatoon.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability||Single person in SAID program||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Total welfare income||$8,883||$11,422||$15,789||$21,087||$29,955|
|MBM threshold (Saskatoon)||$19,414||$19,414||$19,414||$27,456||$38,829|
|Welfare income minus MBM threshold||-$10,531||-$7,992||-$3,625||-$6,369||-$8,874|
|Welfare income as % of MBM||46%||59%||81%||77%||77%|
|LIM threshold (Canada-wide)||$24,054||$24,054||$24,054||$34,017||$48,108|
|Welfare income minus LIM threshold||-$15,171||-$12,631||-$8,264||-$12,930||-$18,153|
|Welfare income as % of LIM||37%||47%||66%||62%||62%|
|LICO threshold (Saskatoon)||$18,166||$18,166||$18,166||$22,109||$34,347|
|Welfare income minus LICO threshold||-$9,283||-$6,744||-$2,377||-$1,022||-$4,392|
|Welfare income as % of LICO||49%||63%||87%||95%||87%|
For each household type, the maximum welfare income fell below all of the low income measures. As a proportion, the biggest gap was for single adults considered employable — their welfare income was between 37 per cent and 49 per cent of the low income thresholds. The higher benefits available to persons with disabilities through the SAID program reached between 66 and 87 per cent of the low income thresholds. However, the gap was smallest for single parents with one child — their welfare income was between 62 per cent and 95 per cent of the low income thresholds.