Welfare in Canada
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Last updated: November 2020
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
In Saskatchewan, households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for other financial support, including:
- Recurring additional social assistance payments (for example, an annual back-to-school allowance);
- Federal and provincial child benefits (for households with children);
- The GST/HST credit and credit supplements; and
- Provincial tax credits or benefits.
Together, these combine with basic social assistance payments to form a household’s total welfare income. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, or more if they have special health- or disability-related needs.The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for five example household types in 2019. All five households are assumed to be living in Saskatoon. The child in the single parent family is aged two, and the children in the couple household are aged 10 and 15.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability – SAP||Single person with a disability – SAID*||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Basic social assistance||$8,196||$9,964||$14,239||$13,256||$17,055|
|Additional SA benefits||$840||$840||$215|
|Federal child benefits||$6,568||$11,083|
|Provincial child benefits|
|Provincial tax credits/benefits||$346||$346||$346||$692||$964|
|Total 2019 income||$8,829||$11,465||$15,826||$21,240||$30,193|
Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.
*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.
Total annual welfare incomes in 2019 ranged from $8,829 for the single person considered employable to $30,193 for the couple with two children.
A person with a disability received $11,465 in 2019 from the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP). Those who qualified for Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) benefits received the much higher amount of $15,826. The other household types received benefits from the Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA) program.
In July 2019, the Saskatchewan Income Support program was introduced; at the same time, intake of new SAP and TEA applications was suspended and both programs will phase out by summer 2021. As the methodology in this report assumes that households started to receive assistance on January 1 and remained on assistance for the entire year, the new Income Support program is not reflected here.
Basic benefit amounts remained unchanged from 2018, except for utilities costs. In Saskatchewan, social assistance programs either cover actual utility costs, provide a flat-rate amount, or some combination of the two. The utility component of social assistance used in the table is the average amount provided for each household type in 2019.
Single persons with a disability received $840 in additional social assistance benefits. SAP provides a Disability Allowance of $600 ($50 per month) and a Special Transportation Allowance of $240 ($20 per month), while SAID provides $840 ($70 per month) through the Disability Income Benefit.
The annual School Expenses Allowance was available to households receiving TEA with school-aged children. It provided the couple with two children with $85 for the 10-year-old and $130 for the 15-year-old.
Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit, which increased with inflation in July 2019 from $541 to $553.25 per month for a child under 6 years of age, and from $457 to $466.83 per month for a child aged 6 to 17. No provincial child benefits were available to families on social assistance in Saskatchewan.
All five households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2019 with inflation. The single person considered employable and the single person with a disability both received $287, while the single parent with one child received $574 and the couple with two children received $876. The single person considered employable also received $28.11 through the GST/HST credit supplement while the person with a disability received $113.79 and the single parent received the full amount of $151.
All five households also received the Saskatchewan Low-Income Tax Credit (SLITC), which provides annual amounts of $346 for an individual, an additional $346 for a partner or eligible dependant, and $136 per child (for up to two children).
Changes to welfare incomes
The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the five example household types have changed over time. The values are in constant 2019 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 been relatively stable over time, with some variability in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, and a gradual decline since 2009. In 2019, the welfare income was $8,829.
The welfare income of a single person with a disability receiving Saskatchewan Assistance Plan (SAP) benefits declined until 2006, increased gradually until 2010, then declined again. In 2019, the total welfare income for this household was $11,465.
A single person with a disability who qualified for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) Program received a much more generous total welfare income than those under SAP. Trends in SAID incomes have only been tracked since 2013, after the program became available to those living independently. After peaking at $15,986 in 2014, incomes have been declining, with a 2019 total welfare income of $15,826.
The welfare income of both households with children initially followed a similar trajectory. It declined throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and saw sharp fluctuations through the mid- to late 2000s. Thereafter, the income of a single parent with one child was relatively stagnant while that of a couple with two children saw a more pronounced increase and subsequent decline. Federal child benefit changes account for the majority of the increases through the 2000s and 2010s.
In 2019, the welfare income of a single parent with one child was $21,240, and that of a couple with two children was $30,193.
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, the Market Basket Measure (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 (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 (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 for the five example household types compared to the three low-income thresholds (after tax). Because LICO and MBM thresholds vary by community size, the threshold used for each is for Saskatoon.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability (SAP)||Single person with a disability (SAID)||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Total welfare income||$8,829||$11,465||$15,826||$15,826||$21,240|
|MBM threshold (Saskatoon)||$23,190||$23,190||$23,190||$32,795||$46,379|
|Welfare income minus MBM threshold||-$14,361||-$11,725||-$7,364||-$11,555||-$16,186|
|Welfare income as % of MBM||38%||49%||68%||65%||65%|
|LIM threshold (Canada-wide)||$24,642||$24,642||$24,642||$34,850||$49,285|
|Welfare income minus LIM threshold||-$15,813||-$13,177||-$8,816||-$13,609||-$19,092|
|Welfare income as % of LIM||36%||47%||64%||61%||61%|
|LICO threshold (Saskatoon)||$18,520||$18,520||$18,520||$22,540||$35,017|
|Welfare income minus LICO threshold||-$9,691||-$7,055||-$2,694||-$1,300||-$4,824|
|Welfare income as % of LICO||48%||62%||86%||94%||86%|
The maximum 2019 welfare incomes of all five example household types were below, and sometimes far below, the thresholds of every low-income measure. The single person with a disability and both households with children had higher incomes relative to the thresholds than single persons considered employable.
The lowest income relative to the thresholds was that of a single person considered employable, whose total income was between only 36 and 48 per cent of the low-income thresholds. The single person with a disability receiving SAP benefits fared slightly better, with an income of between 47 and 62 per cent of the thresholds, while a single person with a disability receiving SAID benefits had the highest relative income, between 64 and 86 per cent of the thresholds.
The two households with children had similar relative incomes, with a single parent with one child having an income of between 61 and 94 per cent of the thresholds, while the couple with two children had an income of between 61 and 85 per cent of the thresholds.
Given that the MBM is Canada’s official poverty measure, and that having an income less than 75 per cent of the MBM is classified as “deep poverty,” all five of the example households would have been living in deep poverty in 2019.