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.

Saskatchewan has three social assistance programs:

  1. Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA) which assists people participating in pre-employment programs and services or those who are “job ready” and seeking employment.
  2. Saskatchewan Assistance Plan (SAP) for households which, for various reasons, cannot meet basic living costs.
  3. Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) for persons with significant and enduring disabilities.

The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for four household types living in Saskatoon in 2017.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle person in SAID program*Single parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance**$8,246$9,828$14,114$13,392$17,089
Additional SA benefits $840$840 $215
Federal child benefits   $6,400$10,800
Provincial child benefits     
GST credit$278$312$394$702$848
Provincial tax credits/benefits$296$296$296$592$824
Total 2017 income$8,820$11,276$15,645$21,086$29,776

*The SAID program, introduced in 2009, is an income support program for persons with significant and enduring disabilities. Initially it supported individuals in residential care, but in June 2012 it was expanded to include persons living independently. It is a needs-tested program that pays higher benefits than those under SAP.

** Support for SAP recipients includes actual utility costs while TEA recipients receive a flat-rate utility amount and SAID uses a combination of both. The table above reflects the utility component of support by using the average annual utility amounts for each household type.

Download the data in a table

All of the example households received TEA, except for the single person with a disability, who received benefits through SAP and SAID. In July 2017, TEA rates decreased by $20 per month per adult.

Through SAP, the single person with a disability received some additional social assistance benefits — a Disability Allowance of $50 per month and a Special Transportation Allowance of $20 per month. Meanwhile, a person with a disability on the SAID program received $70 per month through the Disability Income Benefit component.

The only additional benefit through TEA that applied to the example households was the Education Expenses Allowance, which provided the couple with an annual payment of $85 for their 10-year-old and $130 for their 15-year-old. All of the household types benefited from the Saskatchewan Low-Income Tax Credit (SLITC).

Total welfare incomes in Saskatchewan ranged from $8,820 for a single person considered employable to $29,776 for a couple with two children. A person with a disability in the SAP program received $11,276 in 2017 but those who qualified for SAID benefits received a much higher amount of $15,645.


Changes to welfare incomes

There were multiple changes affecting household’s welfare incomes in Saskatchewan in 2017. In July, the basic social assistance rates through Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) fell by $20 per month per adult. This meant that the single person considered employable and the single parent received $120 less from social assistance in the second half of 2017, and the couple with two children received $240 less. This drop was slightly countered by an increase in the Saskatchewan Low-Income Tax Credit (SLITC) in the second half of the year (which increased the annual income of the single adults by $50, the single parent by $100, and the couple with two children by $140). The year 2017 was also the first full year the Canada Child Benefit was paid, boosting the 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

  • The welfare income of a single person considered employable has fluctuated over the 1900s and 2000s, but since 2010 it has been on a gradual downward trend. In 2017, it stood at $8,820.
  • In 2017, the total welfare income of a single adult considered employable fell. Some of the fall is due to changes in social assistance rates described above but the main driver was a drop in the estimated average expenditure on utilities and not a specific policy or rate change. (To estimate the typical welfare income of a single person household in Saskatoon, the utility cost component of social assistance is the average amount paid through the TEA program to single employable persons living in Saskatoon. The estimated annual average was $192 less in 2017 than in 2016. TEA’s flat-rate utility allowance is based on location, family size and type of utility need. Given that the rate remained unchanged, this difference may be attributed to changes in the other factors.)
  • The welfare income of a single person with a disability receiving Saskatchewan Assistance Plan (SAP) benefits fell in the years to 2006, when it started to increase gradually. However, after 2011 it began to drop again, and in 2017 stood at $11,276.
  • A single person with a disability who qualified for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program received a higher welfare income than those in the SAP program. In 2017, the welfare income for a single person receiving SAID benefits was $15,645.

Download the data in a table

  • 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, particularly the couple, started to rise again in 2015, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.
  • In 2017, the welfare income of the single parent with one child and the couple with two children stood at $21,086 and $29,776, 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 Saskatchewan for the four household types compared to the three poverty thresholds (after tax). The LICO and MBM thresholds are for Saskatoon, the largest city in the province.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with disabilitySingle person in SAID programSingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Total welfare income$8,820$11,276$15,645$21,086$29,776
MBM threshold (Saskatoon)$19,360$19,360$19,360$27,379$38,720
Welfare income minus MBM threshold-$10,540-$8,084-$3,715-$6,293-$8,944
Welfare income as % of MBM46%58%81%77%77%
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)$23,020$23,020$23,020$32,555$46,039
Welfare income minus LIM threshold-$14,200-$11,744-$7,375-$11,469-$16,263
Welfare income as % of LIM38%49%68%65%65%
LICO threshold (Saskatoon)$17,758$17,758$17,758$21,612$33,575
Welfare income minus LICO threshold-$8,938-$6,482-$2,113-$526-$3,799
Welfare income as % of LICO50%63%88%98%89%

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 exception: the single parent with one child, for whom the welfare income reached 98 per cent of the LICO threshold (but just 77 per cent of the MBM and 65 per cent of the LIM thresholds). As a proportion, the biggest gap was for single adults considered employable — their welfare income was between 38 per cent and 50 per cent of the poverty thresholds. The higher benefits available to persons with disabilities through the SAID program reached between 68 and 81 per cent of the low income thresholds.

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