Canadian Social Research Links

Overview of Provincial Welfare
Reforms in the 1990s

February 26, 2014

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Overview of Provincial (and Territorial)
Welfare Reforms in the 1990s
October 1998
By Gilles Séguin

The following is a 15-page overview of the welfare reforms in each province and territory in the 1990s.
I found it while poking through some historical files on my computer.
I produced those notes in 1996-97 while I was on a one-year secondment with the the National Council of Welfare (NCW), for material to use in the NCW's report entitled Another Look at Welfare Reform (1997). I co-wrote this report with Steve Kerstetter, then-Director of the NCW.

I did a cross-check for a few Canadian jurisdictions of the contents of the overview page you're now reading and the final public version of Another Look.
There's a WEALTH of information on provincial-territorial welfare reforms that didn't make it to the final report, so I heartily recommend this Overview to anyone interested in Canadian welfare programs in the 1990s, as a companion document to Another Look. I guarantee you'll find some shiny nuggets of information that you won't find anywhere else...

Just below, you'll find the link to the NCW report.
Click it, and then compare the content in Another Look with the content of the page you're reading now.

Another Look at Welfare Reform (PDF - 6.75MB, 134 pages)
--- 100+ pages of information on Canadian welfare reforms in the nineties, published in the fall of 1997


Companion document to
Another Look:

Overview of Provincial (and Territorial)
Welfare Reforms in the 1990s

October 1998
Fifteen pages of research notes used in the production of Another Look at Welfare Reform.
HINT: There's a WEALTH of information on provincial-territorial welfare reforms in these pages that didn't make it to the final report!



* Welfare rate freezes, cuts in special assistance, more controls to prevent abuse, but no major welfare reforms so far in the 1990s.

* The 1994-95 Budget contained the following provisions relating to social assistance:
- social assistance rates were frozen (the most recent rate increase took effect in April 1992);
- the Department anticipated savings of $3.5 million in 1994-95 as a result of the activities of 15 of its Special Investigators;
- the significant growth in the social assistance caseload resulted in an increase of approximately $29 million over the 1993-94 budget for social assistance;
- the government allocated $1 million in additional funding to hire 33 additional staff (20 financial assistance officers and 13 administrative support staff) to support the delivery of departmental programs;
- for adult social assistance recipients who need new eyeglasses, these will be provided once every three years (rather than the current two years);

* Strategic Social Plan - started in the summer of 1996 - reform discussion paper, public consultation, final report (April 1997): recommended more spending in job creation, day care and child nutrition. The final Strategic Social Plan was released in August 1998, with gradual implementation over the next two years. The final report is short on actual detail about reforms and related costs, but the overall direction appears to be consistent with welfare reforms elsewhere in Canada during the past few years, including more emphasis on self-reliance.


Prince Edward Island

* Progressive welfare reforms early in the 1990s but rate freezes and cuts started in 1993 after the recession and the closure of C.F.B. Summerside (1992) increased welfare dependency.

* In a statement released May 18, 1994, the Honourable Alan Buchanan (Minister of Health and Social Services) announced the following three changes, which were expected to decrease expenditures under the Welfare assistance Program by approximately $2.5 million during 1994-95.
- The maximum monthly shelter allowance for single employable persons was reduced from $480 to $305 in Charlottetown and other urban areas, and from $410 to $260 in rural areas (effective June 1994 for new clients, three months later for existing clients);
- effective July 1994, income from GST credits is considered non-exempt in the calculation of social assistance benefit entitlement (reinstated in 1997):
- the policy concerning special assistance for transportation (for medical, employment-related or day care needs) has been tightened (the provincial Auditor-General's report for 1994 noted that the province is often too generous in its application of this policy).

* No major overhaul of the welfare system in the 1990s.

* Early in 1994, the management responsibility for the programs and services of the Department of Health and Social Services were transferred to the Health and Community Services Agency. The Agency's role was to provide overall leadership and direction for the delivery of health and community services (including social assistance) through administration, program support and consultative services. The Department of Health and Social Services retained responsibility for strategic planning, administrative support and advice to the Minister. The Agency was disbanded in 1997, and the welfare program (among others) went back to the Department of Health and Social Services.

* Social assistance rates were last increased in July 1992. Maximum shelter allowances for single employables were decreased in June 1994 for new clients and in September 1994 for existing clients.


Nova Scotia

* Focus in the 1990s: unifying the province's two-tier welfare system.

* The Family Benefits Review Board was disbanded in September 1993.

* Six Eligibility Review workers were hired in 1994 to monitor FBA cases across the province; two workers were hired in the fall of 1993 to investigate Metro Halifax's more complex FBA cases.

* As part of the provincial budget package in April 1994, the Nova Scotia Minister of Finance released Government By Design: An action plan for reform and fiscal recovery in Nova Scotia. The Department of Community Services, which is responsible for social assistance in the province, will be affected by the following measures:
- staff reductions (Early Retirement Savings Program) will result in savings totalling $1.9 M. in 1994-95 and approaching $4M. by 1997-98;
- plans have been made to eliminate 100 positions through reorganization and downsizing at certain facilities;
- centralizing administration of approximately 10,000 long term Family Benefits cases will enable the Department to focus on rehabilitation and finding permanent employment to the remaining clients;
- a province-wide eligibility review will ensure that only those in need qualify for assistance;
- reforms (cutbacks) to Pharmacare coverage for Family Benefits clientele;
- the shelter component of FBA for disabled clients living with relatives will be discontinued where the family income exceeds federal low-income.

* In March 1993, the medical assessment procedure to determine disability for FBA purposes was amended to include the option of making a recommendation for a referral for a second medical opinion

* Since January 1994, the Director of Family Benefits may continue to pay FBA on behalf of a child who is removed from a client's home by the Child Welfare agency under specific conditions (maximum two years).

* The Diabetic Assistance Program was terminated in September 1993 (except for grandfathered cases). In practice, persons in need who were diabetics were assisted under the Family Benefits program; in the calculation of the budget deficit (needs test), an amount imputed and indexed by regulation as the diabetes-related health care costs was included as an ongoing need for all diabetic applicants and clients. Since September 1993, diabetic persons in need must apply for regular Family Benefits and request special assistance for health care costs.

* Since 1994, benefit cuts for some clients, more administrative controls, less assistance for drugs, higher cost to parents for subsidized child care, but no welfare overhaul.

* 1995 - province took over welfare system in Cape Breton, froze transfers for welfare to municipalities (because of freeze in federal transfers for welfare to the province)

* 1996 (April) - province took over welfare in Halifax region, increased food allowances to families with children but cut shelter allowances for single people on municipal welfare.

* 1997 (April) - provincial-municipal agreement to unify welfare by 1998-1999.


New Brunswick

* Long standing link between welfare and employability programming in the province.

* Early to mid-1990s : NB Works, Job Corps, Self - Sufficiency Project and other employability initiatives.

* But - lowest welfare rates in Canada overall; advocates viewed Creating New Options (1993 welfare reform discussion paper) as a return to Elizabethan Poor Laws ( policies of retrenchment and cutbacks).

* From Options to Actions (1994): government blueprint for reform, embodied in the new Family Income Security Act (May 1995) ; better supports for those making the transition to self-sufficiency, but more controls and a greater emphasis on family and community responsibility.

* Andersen Consulting hired in 1994 to trim $80 million over 5 years on the administrative side of the system.

* During the summer of 1994, New Brunswick implemented the Income Supplement Benefit Program, a shelter subsidy program for families with dependent children which are receiving assistance under the Long Term Established Needs (LTEN) Program and the Upgrading, Placement and Training (UT&P.) Program. To qualify for this year-round benefit ($90/mo. for November to April, $60/mo. for May to October), the client household must be residing in private market rental housing and paying more than 30% of its basic unit rate toward rental costs. Families with children in receipt of the Income Supplement Benefit are not eligible for the home heating supplement.

* Since the summer of 1993, the earnings exemption does not apply to income from part-time and full-time work in the initial determination of eligibility for social assistance for an applicant who is awaiting and eligible for UI benefits; that is, the applicant's income from employment cannot be decreased by means of this exemption.

* Since the summer of 1993, the basic assistance entitlement for a blind or disabled adult client living in the parental home is reduced by 5% to 25% where annual gross income of the parent(s) is $30,000 to $40,000 or more.

* In April 1993, the Department of Income Assistance (since renamed the Department of Human Resources Development) entered into an agreement with Employment and Immigration Canada (now Human Resources Development Canada) to recover any social assistance paid during the UI waiting period directly from HRDC* .

* Since April 1994, social assistance applicants and recipients 60 to 64 years of age are required, as a condition of eligibility, to apply for CPP Early Retirement Benefits.

* Six new investigators were hired in 1994, and over three dozen summer students were involved in case reviews during the same year.

* Mandatory cheque pick-up was implemented for clients of the Interim Assistance program and the Upgrading, Training and Placement program.

* Benefit levels for UT&P and LTEN client households were increased by approximately 2% in September 1994, but only where the household's shelter cost is less than 30% of its basic entitlement, i.e., families eligible for the Income Supplement Benefit Program had their social assistance rates frozen at September 1993 levels. Rates for clients of the Interim Assistance program were also frozen at September 1993 levels.

* Late in 1996, the government appeared to soften its approach to welfare reform ($25 million/year for a provincial child tax benefit and working income supplement, rate increases and higher earnings exemptions for some clients.)



* Reforms in 1989 and 1990 created the Financial Support Program for unemployables and Work and Employment Incentives Program for employables, also APPORT for working poor with children.

* Those reforms introduced cuts for employable people whose parents were deemed to be able to support them and for people on welfare sharing accommodation.

* Because of the 1990s recession, welfare dependency grew by 50% between 1990 and 1993, when the government cut benefits for employables and started beefing up its administrative controls.

* Since 1994, persons 60 to 64 years of age are required, as a condition of eligibility for social assistance, to apply for any Early Retirement Benefits (from the Québec Pension Plan or the Canada Pension Plan) to which they may be entitled.

* In March 1994, the allowance for breastfeeding mothers was increased from $20 to $50 per month and a new allowance for infant formula was implemented.

* Since October 1993, a person residing in a shelter for victims of violence who applies for social assistance is considered in the Unavailable category , i.e., higher benefit levels than a fully employable person, no job search expectation.

* Since October 1993, coverage for dental and pharmaceutical services is extended for up to six months in the case of a single-parent family head who ceases to be eligible for a program of last resort because of that parent's integration into the labour force; in August 1994, the same coverage became available for up to 12 months to clients participating in a self-employment support initiative established by the Ministry of Income Security.

* Since October 1993, a single-parent household which incurs moving costs to allow the adult to pursue post-secondary studies is eligible for reimbursement of such expenses up to $500 (formerly $200).

* In October 1993, asset exemption limits for all client households of the Financial Support Program and the Work and Employment Incentives Program were increased by $147 for each dependent child (and each dependant over age 18 still attending secondary school) in the household.

* In October 1993, the provincial government abolished its policy of allowing a 100% exemption of a client's income from the first month of work (formerly applicable to clients who had been on assistance for at least three months).

* The 1993-94 Budget froze benefit levels for 1994 for the following programs:
- the Work and Employment Incentives Program (social assistance for employables)
- the Parental Wage Assistance Program (except for "harmonization" adjustments)
- allowances under the Quebec Family Assistance Allowances Act (i.e., Family Allowance, the Allowance for Handicapped Children and the Allowance for Young Children).

* Benefit levels for most client households in the Work and Employment Incentives Program were decreased in October 1993;

* The Parental Wage Assistance program was amended in 1994 to maintain its harmonization with the Quebec tax system

* Benefit levels for clients of the Financial Support Program (social assistance for clients who are unemployable because of a disability) were indexed in March 1994.

* In the summer of 1994, Work and Employment Incentives Program client households with at least two dependent children were granted a $13 monthly increase in earnings exemptions.

* In December 1994, the new (P.Q.) Minister of Income Security (Jeanne Blackburn) announced the establishment of the Conférence permanente sur la sécurité du revenu (income security advisory council), comprising representatives from over a dozen community organizations and advocacy groups. The Deputy Minister of Income Security will act as Chair for the council, which will also include two Assistant Deputy Ministers, a regional director and a senior member of the Minister's Office. The mandate of the council is to provide a forum for input from organizations that represent the needs and interests of social assistance consumers into the policy process; the council will review and critique the Ministry's social assistance policies and programs on an ongoing basis and make recommendations regarding possible improvements to the quality of services.

* Small increases for unemployables in 1994, freeze in 1995.

* Provincial economic summit (March 1996) : government committed to a balanced budget by the year 2000, social groups demand protection of benefits for the poor.

* April 1996 - rate increases for unemployables, but cuts for most employables, higher penalties for not meeting employability expectations, asset exemptions virtually eliminated for new applicants.

* Spring of 1996 - expert advisory council (Pierre Fortin and Camil Bouchard) releases two dissenting reports, reflecting differing views (harsh VS supportive).

* October 1996 - new family policy announced: unified children=s allowance, major expansion of subsidized child care, improved parental leave (all to take effect in 1997-1998).

* December 1996 - The Road to Labour Market Entry, Training and Employment (welfare reform consultation paper) released ; proposals included transferring all children and unemployable people from welfare to the Quebec Pension Board, cutting benefits for people not meeting work expectations, moving mothers with younger children into the employability mainstream, reclassifying people between 55 and 60 years of age as employable (with a commensurate rate cut and employability expectations), taxing welfare top-ups paid to low-wage earners, exempting a portion of child support payments received, allowing landlords to arrange to receive rent payments for tenants on welfare directly from the province and tightening up administrative controls

* Social groups and unions denounced the reform proposals; throughout the public consultations (winter and spring 1997), many groups said the government was going to push 100,000 people off welfare simply to cut costs, that the reforms would be particularly harsh on mothers with young children, people 55 to 60 year old and young people.

* In September 1997, the province implemented its unified children=s allowance (renamed the Anew family allowance@); it also reclassified mothers with children 5 years of age as employable (formerly, the age threshold was 6 years).

* The government is currently drafting new legislation to table in the National Assembly in the coming months.



* A number of progressive welfare reforms took place in Ontario in 1989 and 1991 as a direct result of the Transitions report of the Social Assistance Review Committee in 1988.

* When the NDP came to power in 1991, they improved earnings exemptions, increased rates of assistance and made the system more equitable.

* The 1990s recession hit Ontario hard - welfare dependency skyrocketed and the cap on CAP added more fiscal pressure on the province.

* A 1992 advisory group report commissioned by the government advocated more spending on benefit improvements and social supports to help people to move to self-sufficiency; the government ignored the report because it had already shifted into cost-containment mode.

* Starting in the summer of 1992, the government cut off welfare top-ups for people during their first three months on welfare by disallowing the application of earnings exemptions for the first three months on welfare.

* The Provincial Auditor General=s Reports in 1992 and subsequent years said the province was losing hundreds of millions of dollars to fraud and program mismanagement.

* In 1993, the government released Turning Point, a discussion paper that included proposals for an Ontario Child Income Program (to take children off welfare@), an Ontario Adult Benefit and Job Link (to connect clients to the employability mainstream); the new programs were to take effect in 1995, but only Joblink would survive the transition to the new Tory government that year.

* In April 1993, Ontario's Expenditure Control Plan was released by the provincial Minister of Finance. Specific measures from this plan which were implemented during 1993-94 to contain or reduce social assistance costs include (among others):
- in-depth reviews of case files to ensure eligibility and accurate benefit levels; review of cases where there has been a sponsorship breakdown; limit on retroactive payments;
- elimination or reduction of some types of special assistance (including limiting home repairs to emergency situations, discontinuing payment of life insurance premiums and limiting moving expenses to essential moves);
- reduction or termination of benefits for young clients where parents have a legal obligation to support them; "the Ministry will work with parents whose children are over 12 to help those parents prepare to enter the workforce";
- reduction of the flat-rate portion of the earnings exemption for most social assistance clients;
- consideration of "other" (previously exempted) financial resources in calculating benefit entitlement, including interest earned on liquid assets, increase in home equity and income from boarders;
- moving more social assistance households into new non-profit housing units; introduction of regionally-variable shelter ceilings;
- mandatory direct depositing of cheques into recipients' banking institutions; monthly reporting of income by Family Benefits clients (formerly annually); reduction in the number of forms to administer the program;
- operational streamlining (restructuring & delayering of MCSS corporate and field operations) to save 10% of Ministry administration costs over three years (excluding directly-operated facilities).

* 1994 - a few cuts in basic and special assistance, but much more emphasis on fraud

* Investigations and more rigid application of controls.

* In July 1994, Ontario eliminated its two-tier shelter structure (formerly, client households which had very low shelter costs received a flat-rate "basic" shelter allowance based on family size, while those living in fair-market housing received the basic allowance plus a "variable" shelter allowance to cover actual costs up to a provincial maximum); since that time, shelter allowances cover only the actual cost of shelter up to the same provincial maximum (except for homeless clients, who continue to receive the flat-rate amount, which is now called the "fixed shelter amount")

* Since June 1994, children, grandchildren and foster children of recipients who are not in school or an approved training program are expected to pay board and lodging if living in the recipient's home (formerly, school attendance or participation in a training program were not a factor in determining whether board and lodging charges would apply to these dependent children.

* Ontario's social assistance policy concerning immigrants was amended in December 1993 and again in June 1994; under the revised policy, the minimum amount considered a sponsor's obligation to a recipient of GWA or FBA (for whom that sponsor is responsible) is $100 per month; the maximum amount of social assistance available to recipients living with their sponsor is the basic allowance only.

* Since August 1993, an inheritance of $65,000 (or greater, if approved by the Director) which is placed in trust for a disabled or permanently unemployable applicant or recipient of social assistance is excluded from the determination of assets; the income from the trust fund is also exempt, provided it is used for specific disability-related expenses, education or training which is not otherwise reimbursable.

* Starting in August 1993, sole-support parents under 18 years of age residing with their parents who are not receiving GWA or FBA are covered under a new category of eligibility and a special allowance structure.

* Starting in August 1993, new applicants who are medically-unemployable 16- and 17-year-olds living with their parents are no longer entitled to assistance except as dependants.

* Since July 1993, the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy is considered a liquid asset, subject to asset exemption policies (the cash surrender value of life insurance was formerly totally exempt)

* In June 1994, the flat-rate utility allowance ("minimum deemed utility costs") payable to clients with very low utility costs was reduced by $5 per month.

* In January 1994, the GAINS-D "cap" for a household which includes two disabled adults was increased to $1,560 per month (this cap ensures that the GAINS-D couples rate does not exceed the current maximum OAS/GIS couples entitlement).

* Maximum rates of assistance for clients of FBA (including GAINS-D) and GWA were last increased in April 1993. In June 1994, Ontario decreased the maximum benefit level applicable to two-adult client households (including those with children) by $27 monthly; this decrease applies to both GWA and FBA, but not to GAINS-D couples.

* Maximum monthly earnings exemption levels were reduced for most FBA and GWA client households in the summer of 1993.

* Since January 1994, income from earnings or training allowances is no longer averaged over the period covered by that income.

* Since August 1993, an inheritance of $65,000 (or greater, if approved by the Director) which is placed in trust for a disabled or permanently unemployable applicant or recipient of social assistance is excluded from the determination of assets; the income from the trust fund is also exempt, provided it is used for specific disability-related expenses, education or training which is not otherwise reimbursable.

* Starting in August 1993, sole-support parents under 18 years of age residing with their parents who are not receiving GWA or FBA are covered under a new category of eligibility and a special allowance structure.

* Starting in August 1993, new applicants who are medically-unemployable 16- and 17-year-olds living with their parents are no longer entitled to assistance except as dependants.

* Since July 1993, the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy is considered a liquid asset, subject to asset exemption policies (the cash surrender value of life insurance was formerly totally exempt).

* In June 1994, the flat-rate utility allowance ("minimum deemed utility costs") payable to clients with very low utility costs was reduced by $5 per month.

* In January 1994, the GAINS-D "cap" for a household which includes two disabled adults was increased to $1,560 per month (this cap ensures that the GAINS-D couples rate does not exceed the current maximum OAS/GIS couples entitlement).

* Maximum rates of assistance for clients of FBA (including GAINS-D) and GWA were last increased in April 1993. In June 1994, Ontario decreased the maximum benefit level applicable to two-adult client households (including those with children) by $27 monthly; this decrease applies to both GWA and FBA, but not to GAINS-D couples.

* Maximum monthly earnings exemption levels were reduced for most FBA and GWA client households in the summer of 1993.

* Since January 1994, income from earnings or training allowances is no longer averaged over the period covered by that income.

* 1995 - CHST announced in federal budget(February), Harris government won provincial election (June).

* 21.6% welfare rate cut (October 1995) for everyone (except seniors and disabled) on welfare.

* Thousands of single parents in common-law relationships saw their benefits cut off (FBA) or cut back; formerly, the province had a three-year grace period@, but the second adult was considered a boarder).

* Youth were cut off welfare except in exceptional cases.

* October 1995 - province-wide welfare fraud line introduced; by 1996, the province had saved $8.6 million (one-third of original estimated savings).

* Cuts in direct funding to municipal social services agencies and cuts in transfers to municipalities, resulting in lower municipal grants to those same agencies.

* November 1995 - Fiscal and Economic Statement : total Savings from cuts to welfare, municipalities, universities and colleges, schools and hospitals - $5.5 billion in 1996-1997 alone.

* Late 1995: Angus Reid poll shows 60% approval rating overall for Harris in his first six months in power (but 57% of households under $30,000 disapproved of the government=s performance).

* 1996 - few welfare reforms, no rate cuts.

* Workfare (1995 election promise): more complex and expensive to administer than Tories had thought; announced in April 1996 on a small scale, never really took off. The Toronto Commissioner of Community Services said that the $450 million program was "a misdirection of scarce public funds" because there was already a mandatory framework for employable people on welfare.

* 17,000 welfare parents in post-secondary education were told in 1996 that they would have to apply for student assistance; many never did.

* From June to November 1995, about 100,00 left welfare in Ontario.

* In the spring of 1996, local welfare offices in Toronto and Ottawa surveyed people who left welfare; the survey indicated that less than 30% of those leaving welfare had found jobs.

* In October 1996, the Ontario government released figures showing that 62% of people who left welfare in May 1996 had either found jobs or improved their job situation.

* In early 1997, Toronto did follow-up survey showing that 43% of welfare leavers had found jobs, but 72% had no dental or drug plan and only 16% reported earning over $500 a week.

* 1996 Auditor-General=s report found more evidence of program mismanagement, suggested more reasonable workload standards for workers (375 cases per workers impeded "critical staff functions").

* February 1996: Ontario signed a six-year deal with Andersen Consulting to find efficiencies in the system and to improve the computer technology.

* 1996 studies by the City of Toronto and social agencies showed the impacts of welfare rate cuts: 15% of welfare households in Toronto were diverting more than 50% of their basic allowance to cover rent in May 1996 (up from 4.6% in 1995) ; maximum shelter allowance for a single employable person was $325 (VS $531/month for a bachelor apartment in Toronto); increasing hardship, less income, fewer community supports , higher living costs, more evictions, 65% increase in food bank demand in one year, more child poverty than official figures@.

* 1997 (January) mega-week of provincial announcements that would shift education to the province in return for downloading more social program costs to municipalities.

* Government went against recommendations of its Who Does What panel, which had said that social programs, especially welfare, should be funded by the province, not municipal property taxes.

* Within two months, the government back-tracked, deciding that it would pick up only 50% of education costs and ask municipalities to pay only 20% of the welfare bill, as of 1998.

* June 1997: the government introduced its welfare reform legislation, the Social Assistance Reform Act, to take effect in January 1998.

* The Ontario Works Act will force all employable people (including parents with school- aged children) to participate in workfare programs, allow for direct payments to landlords or utility companies and allow municipalities to fingerprint their welfare clients and to place liens on welfare clients= homes,

* The Ontario Disability Support Program will improve and protect assistance for disabled people.



* In April 1993, the provincial government implemented province-wide standards for welfare eligibility and benefits as a prelude to eventual unification of the two-tier welfare system.

* Winnipeg (serving 90% of the province=s employable caseload) was forced to cut back its rates to the (lower) provincial standards, or pay any additional costs; the City kept paying higher food supplements for children, with cost-sharing directly from CAP, until the federal contribution ended with the implementation of CHST in April 1996.

* Winnipeg was also forced to cut back its income exemption policies to match provincial standards.

* In April 1993, Social Allowances Health Services (SAHS) benefit provisions were tightened up (fewer eligible drugs and services, elimination of major restorative dental services, dollar limits placed on basic restorative dental coverage, three-month waiting period introduced for non-emergency dental and optical care). In June 1994, the range of drugs covered under SAHS was further reduced.

* In May 1993, Social Allowances supplementary benefit rates were reduced to reflect changes to the Manitoba Cost of Living and Property Tax Credit programs.

* In July 1993, the categorical eligibility of students was eliminated from the Social Allowances Act (social allowances are no longer available to a person in need solely on the basis of being a student). Disabled and sole-support parent clients will continue to receive assistance through the Social Allowances Program for the attainment of educational goals. Provincial guidelines were developed to provide municipalities with the flexibility to approve employment-related education for municipal assistance clients where it is deemed that the educational plan will help reduce the extent or duration of the client's reliance on assistance.

* In November 1993, the monthly rate of recovery for overpayments from active Social allowances cases was changed from a formula (5% of the household budget up to the amount of the personal allowance) to a flat amount based on family size ($40 for one person, $60 for two persons and $80 for three or more persons).

* In January 1994, the shelter guidelines (rent, fuel and utilities) for single employable cases were reduced, as were the shelter allowances for single employables in a rooming house or sharing accommodation.

* In May 1994, special needs policies under the Social Allowances Program were tightened up.
* 1994 - shelter allowance cuts for employable single people, cuts to provincial support allowances, lower grants to social agencies, day care facilities and nurseries, heavy cuts in special assistance, more cuts in drug coverage, welfare snitch line opened in June.

* 1995 - hardly any welfare changes.

* 1996 (May) new Employment and Income Assistance Program: all welfare rates cut up to 10% except for the disabled, single parents with children under six and women in crisis shelters.

* EIAP offers top-ups to recipients in low-paying jobs, but also cut benefits to clients not meeting employability expectations; the program offers extra help for the self-employed; social groups felt the program would create extra hardships for the poor.

* The 1996 provincial budget (2nd balanced budget in two years) cut more social spending and eliminated provincial tax credits (worth $630/year for family of four on welfare).

* Welfare reforms have since eased up, but as of the fall of 1997, the target date for unification of the two-tier welfare system was still a year away.


* Return to power of the NDP in 1991, release of Changing Directions (welfare reform discussion paper) within months.

* Public consultation, positive reforms in summer of 1992: single parents deemed unemployable until their youngest child is 6 (formerly one year of age); improvements in the appeal system and to policies concerning recovery of overpayments, clients living in common-law situations and the treatment of youth on welfare.

* Benefits increased slightly in 1992, but frozen since then except for a $5/month/child increase in July 1993.

* 1992 - DIAND stopped paying welfare to needy Native people for the first year after moving off a reserve, pushing thousands onto provincial welfare rolls.

* In April 1993, the monthly "cap" on utilities was abolished, i.e., utility allowances now cover the actual cost of clients' utilities (utility allowances were formerly based on regional scales).

* In July 1993, Saskatchewan increased the basic allowance (food, clothing, household and personal needs) by $5 per month for the third person in the household and each additional dependant. Basic allowances have otherwise not changed since August 1992.

* Family Income Plan benefits were increased by $5 per month for each eligible child in July 1993.
* The province assumed financial responsibility for most off-reserve Indians effective July 1, 1993 (formerly, the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs was financially responsible for the first twelve months of off-reserve residence by a person in need with Indian status).

* 1994 - no significant reforms (cuts or improvements) to welfare; the Action Plan for Children received $4.4 million to support children, families and communities.@

* The Saskatchewan economy picked up in 1994 and 1995 (first balanced budget in the province in 12 years, first provincial government in Canada to balance its budget in recent years.)

* The government offered income tax cuts, new training and job assistance for youth, investments in economic development, but no welfare reforms.

* Redesigning Social Assistance (January 1996 welfare reform discussion paper) was critical of federal cuts to unemployment insurance, welfare and welfare to off-reserve Natives. The paper proposed: a monthly income-tested supplement for all low-income families in the province; supplementary health coverage for people with children leaving welfare for a job; better exemptions allowed against earnings and (for the first time in the province) child support payments; compulsory participation in school/training/work experience for anyone under 22; a unified provincial training allowance; and tighter administration to prevent abuse.

* Mixed reaction: some support for the province=s gentler approach to reform than elsewhere in Canada, but some criticism of policies concerning 18- to 21-year-olds.

* 1996 budget: economic growth, modest income tax cuts, Action Plan for Children funding jumped from $4 million to $10 million; more help for special-needs students, child care, measles immunization, youth justice; no new welfare reforms.

* "Saskatchewan has done better for its welfare clients [than other provinces] by doing nothing."

* March 1997: Children, Families and Independence: Social Assistance Redesign (progress report on welfare reforms) criticized the federal government for delaying the implementation of the NCB until July 1998.

* Improvements to FIP, child care, child nutrition and school allowances for children on welfare in 1997-98 ----- total $16 million.



* First province to cut its welfare rolls - by 63% between March 1993 and September 1997, with most of the drop occurring in the first year.

* In the spring of 1993, the Minister of Family and Social Services announced further major structural reforms to Alberta's welfare program. Welfare benefits were restructured and reduced in the summer and fall of 1993 "to re-emphasize welfare as a program of last resort and as part of the Alberta government's deficit reduction plan", according to a 1994 Alberta news release. In addition, Family and Social Services' 52 district offices were asked in March 1993 to develop their own initiatives to achieve caseload decreases by implementing the spirit of the reforms in day-to-day operations an case management. Initiatives varied among the district offices, but most stressed:
(i) a strengthened assessment and referral process,
(ii) requiring clients to attend information sessions before processing their applications for assistance,
(iii) requiring clients to follow through with mutually agreed-upon case plans,
(iv) establishing waiting periods for non-emergency clients, and
(v) strengthened cooperation with staff and services of Human Resources Development Canada and Alberta Advanced Education and Career Development.
Alberta estimated that these initiatives accounted for as many as 18,000 of the 31,000 cases that left social assistance during 1993-94. During the same fiscal year, it was also estimated that some 11,000 clients left social assistance because of the transfer of responsibility (and part of the social assistance budget) for educational upgrading to the provincial Students Finance Board).

* Maximum shelter benefits were reduced by $50 monthly for most client categories in October 1993; at the same time, a number of other allowances were eliminated or reduced, e.g., standard (basic) allowances (reduced by $26/month per adult), moving costs inside the province, telephone connections and deposits, prescription drug benefits, extra laundry costs for children in diapers, etc.

* In 1993, thousands of cases were transferred off welfare (either to Student Finance Board or AISH for the disabled); others cut off because of investigations and home visits; initial eligibility rules were tightened up; basic and special allowance levels were cut; more single mothers with younger children (six months, formerly two years) were reclassified as employable; and people in common-law relationships saw their benefits cut back or cut off completely.

* Despite deep spending cuts on welfare, disabled people and widows over 55 actually saw improvements in their benefits.

* 1994 - the new Alberta Seniors Benefit replaced a number of existing measures for seniors, with a resulting drop in income for some seniors of up to $1,000 a year; the province boosted payments for the hardest-hit seniors in 1995, and reinjected more money in 1997, especially for health care premium subsidies.

* The Supports for Independence policy manual was revised in the fall of 1993 to reflect significant changes to the special needs policy (some of which are noted in the preceding paragraph); special assistance is now classified as either "continuous" or "non-continuous", with approval for the latter being conditional upon the client having exhausted all cash, liquid assets and available income (i.e., no exemptions are allowed).

* In October 1993, the monthly earnings exemption policy was changed from a graduated scheme (100% exemption on the first $115 per month, 50% on the next $85, 24% on the next $100, and 10% on any remaining amount) to a single flat rate plus percentage (the new exemption is 100% of the first $115 per month plus 25% of any amount over $115).

* During 1993, the employability policy respecting single parents was amended: the client must (as a condition of eligibility) actively seek work or enter training to prepare for independence when the youngest dependent child in the household reaches the age of six months (formerly two years). Other changes occurring the same year include immediate cancellation of eligibility where an employable client refuses or abandons a job without valid reason (formerly 30-day notice of cancellation); damage deposits no longer paid except in cases of spousal or child abuse; lower asset exemption levels for some categories of clients; lower exemptions on equity in vehicles; clarification and stricter enforcement of the policy concerning common-law relationships (revised definition of "family unit"); coverage for prescription drugs, dental and optical benefits was decreased; a client (and any dependants) boarding with adult relatives (by blood, adoption or marriage) is no longer entitled to a shelter allowance.

* During 1993-94, according to the Alberta Family and Social Services Annual Report, over 11,000 cases were closed (resulting in a savings of some $6.2 million) as a result of three special initiatives:
- recovery of departmental mail that was left unclaimed at residences (mainly multi-client address and rental units);
- referral of suspicious circumstances for investigation; and
- targeted review of cases for home visits

* Over the same period, 500 cases were closed (at an annual savings of $550,000) following case reviews by Eligibility and Benefit Verification staff.

* Since February 1994, each adult client of the Assured Supports category (permanently unemployable by reason of disability) receives a monthly personal needs supplement of $20. At the same time, the provincial government created the Community Living Start-Up Allowance - a one-time allowance of up to $1000 which may be paid to cover the cost of establishing a residence for a client who has been residing in an institution as a result of a disability or mental illness.

* On July 1 1994, the Alberta Seniors Benefit (ASB) replaced the following programs:
- the Alberta Assured Income Plan,
- the Senior Citizens' Renter Assistance Program,
- the Property Tax Reduction Program, and
- full exemption from Alberta Health Care Insurance (AHCI) premiums.

the Alberta Seniors Benefit (ASB) is an income-tested program which offers a cash benefit and exemption from health care premiums to low-income Alberta seniors (65+). The amount of the benefit is based on marital status, income, type of accommodation and eligibility for federal OAS/GIS benefits. The maximum annual benefit ranges from $1,800 for a single senior homeowner to $3,500 for a two-senior couple owning or renting a mobile home. ASB income is 100% exempted for social assistance purposes.

* Since July 1994, Supports for Independence (social assistance) is available to 16 and 17 year-olds as a last resort only, after an investigation by Child Welfare authorities. Where independent living is deemed to be the best case disposition, benefits are based on a separate (lower) schedule of rates than those which apply to the general caseload.

* A July 1994 policy manual revision states that any client reaching the age of 60 years shall be required to apply for an early retirement pension from the Canada Pension Plan, "but only if doing so will increase current income".

* In August 1994, the annual school expenses allowance for dependants who are students was increased from a flat allowance of $25 to $50 for elementary students and $100 for students of junior and senior high school.

* 1994 - report by Edmonton school authorities noted higher stress levels in poor families, as well as increased prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse, theft, violence and family dysfunction.

* 1995, 1996 and 1997 budgets included reinvestments in the area of welfare and social services, but much of the Anew" money was invested in crisis areas - home care, child welfare and seniors.

* The 1994-95 Auditor-General's report said there was no proof that the provincial welfare reforms had succeeded in moving people from welfare to work.

* October 1996 - Alberta welfare caseload hits a 14-year low.

* December 1996 - the Edmonton Social Planning Council released a report showing a 122% increase in food bank demand from 1993 to 1996; almost 50% of respondents reported going without food for a whole day three or more time during the previous month.

* Fall of 1997 - Canada West Foundation survey reported on outcomes of people leaving welfare; 58.8% of respondents had either found work or increased their earnings from work, but many of those simply moved from welfare to the ranks of the working poor. Surprisingly, over 73% of current or former welfare clients agreed that there would be fewer social problems if [people] would just take more responsibility for themselves@ and 90% agreed that "if they are able to work, people on welfare should work for their benefits." Among the general population, support for the two questions was 82% and 88%.


British Columbia

* The cap on CAP did not deter the BC government from improving welfare in the early 1990s; basic support rates were increased in 1992, 1993 and 1994 (although shelter allowances were frozen at 1992 levels), asset exemptions were increased and basic earnings exemptions were doubled.

* Guide dog allowances, school start-up allowances and Christmas allowances were increased in 1993.

* Support allowance levels under the Temporary Assistance and Income Assurance programs were increased in February 1993 and again in March 1994; maximum shelter allowances were last increased in February 1992.

* Challenge of Change (1993 welfare reform discussion paper) accused Ottawa of "walking away from social spending" with the 1990 cap on CAP; the paper also criticized the federal government for UI cuts in the early 1990s and for reneging on its earlier promises (in the late 1980s) to establish a national child care program.

* The government appointed its Advisory Council on Income Assistance early in 1993 to develop proposals for welfare reform

* The advisory council produced a first report, The First Step, early in 1994; by that time, though, welfare dependency was skyrocketing and the progressive proposals of the council (e.g., $75/month immediate increase in all benefits, public input for setting welfare rates, higher exemptions on child support payments) were all but ignored.

* In 1994, the province beefed up its administrative controls, signed agreements with other provinces to share information about welfare cases, arranged with Ottawa to have UI-related overpayments deducted at source, required all childless employables to line up for their welfare cheques and reclassified single parents as employable when their youngest child turned 12 (formerly 19).

* The Premier's Forum on New Opportunities for Working and Living was created in 1994 to guide the renewal of the safety net@; the Forum largely superseded the Advisory Council; social advocates saw the Forum as a hand-picked elite group that did not represent the interests of the poor; in the end, it was the Premier's Forum that drafted the blueprint for welfare reform in BC . According to a news release from BC Social Services dated February 1995, the province saved more than $46 million during 1994-95 because of "new measures to combat welfare fraud and abuse". A backgrounder which accompanies the release provides the following breakdown of the savings:

* In June 1994, BC and the federal government signed an agreement to eliminate the possibility of individuals collecting both Unemployment Insurance benefits and provincial income assistance for the same period. The duplicate payments have cost BC $200 million over the past five years. (Editor's note: although persons awaiting UI benefits were formerly required to sign an Assignment of UI Benefit agreement as a condition of eligibility for income assistance, duplicate payments often went unrecovered [because the onus was on the client to repay the Ministry after he/she left income assistance]; since June 1994, the recovery is effected directly from the federal government.) BC Social Services estimated that this elimination of duplicate payments would save over $35 million by the end of the 1994-95 fiscal year;

* In April 1994, all security deposits paid by the Ministry became an assignable benefit, i.e., when the Ministry pays a client's security deposit, the landlord must return the money directly to the Ministry (anticipated savings for 1994-95: just under $4 million);

* Almost $3 million was saved late in February 1994 when employable singles and childless couples in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island were required to pick up their cheques in person (710 cases were closed where cheques were not picked up);

* During 1994-95, the province signed agreements with Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to share information about income assistance recipients to prevent double-dipping; savings to BC for the fiscal year were expected to amount to almost $3.5 million.

* Some 280 case files were closed and another 22 had their benefit entitlement reduced in 1994 when, as part of cheque pick-up pilot projects in the most densely-populated areas of the province, employable singles and childless couples were required to complete job search report cards (listing days worked, job search efforts, training and the need for additional help in seeking employment); total savings for 1994-95 were estimated at $830,000);

* During 1994-95, the BC government signed agreements with their counterparts in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (excluding Winnipeg and Brandon) to share information concerning income assistance recipients in order to prevent interprovincial "double-dipping". Savings to B* from the three agreements were estimated at $3.38 million for 1994-95

* Since April 1994, if a client reports lost cash for a second time, the Ministry takes over the administration of the client's income assistance payments; suppliers (usually landlords) are paid directly by the Ministry and the client receives vouchers or limited cash. Administration of funds in this manner continues until the client can demonstrate his or her ability to manage funds responsibly. In cases of lost cash or lost endorsed cheques, the Ministry recovers the money through deductions from subsequent income assistance cheques (no estimate of savings is provided for this measure);

* Since April 1994, single parents are considered employable when their youngest child reaches 12 years of age (this does not apply to single parents who must stay at home to care for a disabled child.

* October 1995 - tighter eligibility controls for regular assistance, lower health services coverage, new obligation to deplete all resources before qualifying for hardship assistance, 90 new workers hired to work on fraud and abuse.

* December 1995 - residency requirement: three-month wait for welfare for non-residents; contravention of CAP, $47 million penalty from Ottawa; court battle, settled in March 1997, when Ottawa gave BC $67 million more over three years for immigrant settlement programs.

* Appeals system overhauled; legal experts said new system was "too legally and procedurally complex" for untrained clients to represent themselves [anymore].

* Family Bonus (starting in July 1996) pays income supplements to all working poor families with children; no improvements for families on welfare unless working, clawback of $50/year per child from welfare cheques due to the elimination of the B* Sales Tax Credit.

* Healthy Kids (starting in January 1997) offers basic dental and vision care benefits for all children in low-income families in the province.

* Youth Works (starting January 1996) - 8%-10% cut in basic benefits to all childless employable clients 18 to 24 years old, compulsory participation in education, training or job placement (for youth with children, though, no rate cuts plus a new transition bonus -up to $150 a month -for up to 12 months, and child care assistance.)

* Welfare to Work (starting January 1996) - for employables over age 25; same rate cuts and employability requirements as for Youth Works

* Earnings exemption cuts - apply to all client households, including those with children; flat rate exemption ($100/singles, $200/families) discontinued, 25% exemption limited to 12 months in each three-year period. AB is the first and only province to impose a time limit on its earnings exemptions.
* For the disabled: benefits and eligibility were protected; the government is still consulting with disability groups in the province to set up a separate program.
* In 1996-97, BC Benefits cost the province $177 million, savings from rate cuts and tighter earnings exemption policies amounted to $208 million.

* BC benefits was criticized for cutting benefits for childless people and for cutting back earnings exemptions, although social groups welcomed income supplements and better health coverage for children in working poor families.

* The cuts in BC Benefits were denounced by labour unions and the BC NDP's own membership, but the government did not bend under the pressure.

* May 1996 - Victoria news conference by a coalition of food agencies; demand for food jumped by 50% from January to May.

* Spring and summer 1996 - $13 million committed to create 4,000 new subsidized day care spaces, new exemptions for trust funds for disabled applicants.

* - September 1996 - new Ministry of Children and Families created, partly in response to a crisis in child welfare; Social Services (renamed Human Resources) oversees residual welfare caseload - employable single people and couples.

* Welfare no longer paid to children under 19 not living at home.

* January 1997 - preliminary evaluation of the Family Bonus "was full of praise for the program"; the program had reduced the poverty gap for children and helped families off welfare; social advocates reserved judgement pending more information and a longer time frame.


Northwest Territories

* Preparing for territorial split in April 1999 to create Nunavut.

* Studies back to early 1990s show two-thirds of the population under 25, 70% of welfare recipients had Grade 8 or less schooling, welfare costs climbed from $8.1 million in 1982 to $30 million in 1993.

* System administration tightened up, more focus on fraud detection; welfare rates frozen since 1993 (only maximum food allowances were increased in October 1993).

* A new special need allowance in the amount of $200 was instituted during 1993-94 to allow an expectant mother to purchase a baby layette prior to the actual birth of her child

* Since the fall of 1994, NWT is moving to a community delivery approach, transferring responsibility and funding for welfare to communities and Indian bands

- Opponents of community delivery felt that inequitable treatment of people asking for welfare would likely result, depending on the group (often male-dominated) administering welfare in any given region of NWT.

* Since the spring of 1995, welfare is under the Department of Education, Culture and Employment; the government is devolving welfare and social services through block funding.

* 1995 - basic allowances were cut and virtually all special assistance was eliminated; earnings exemptions were increased.

- Income Support Program (starting in January 1997)

- New maximum shelter allowance for single people - $450 (formerly actual cost)

- Mothers considered employable when their youngest child is one year of age.

- Clients must be involved in productive choices@ - hunting, education, training or community service - to receive welfare (except for those unable to work).
- 0Three-month suspension for failing to meet employability expectations.



- Welfare dependency rose from 1,000 people in March 1990 to 2,500 in March 1993

- Rates frozen since 1991 except for a food allowance increase in a remote corner of the territory in 1993

- 1991 - Yukon amended a long-standing residency requirement because of pressure from CAP authorities.

- 1993 - Report on Social Assistance identified challenges: delayed and insufficient UI, poor wages, lack of social supports, no incentives to get off welfare.

- 1993 - Yukon signed an employability agreement with Ottawa.

- 1993 - reforms tightened up administrative controls, improved overpayment recovery procedures and information-sharing with other agencies.

- 1994, 1995 - employment situation improved, welfare dependency decreased.

- April 1996 - new monthly earnings exemptions: $50/single, $100/family (rather than flat $50 for clothing and transportation), plus, after three months on assistance, 25% of any excess earnings; appeal system cut back, grounds for appeal reduced.

- New transitional benefits, additional day care assistance for clients going to full-time work, higher allowances for unemployables, total exemption of children=s earnings.

Prepared by:

Gilles Séguin
Social Program Information and Analysis
October 21, 1998


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