Social assistance system significantly reformed to better support New Brunswickers23 April 2013
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is undertaking the broadest number of policy changes to social assistance since the 1990s.
Effective this October:
● the wage exemption policy will be enhanced;
● social assistance rates will be increased;
● a new exemption will be added to the Household Income Policy;
● additional supports will be available for families with high shelter costs; and
● improvements will be made to assistance provided to disabled clients living with their parents.
"The reforms that our government is introducing demonstrate our commitment to enhance the quality of life for people in need," said Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé. "Our government is committed to reducing poverty in New Brunswick and to enhancing the quality of life for people in need."
Wage exemption policy
"The most significant improvement of social assistance reform will revise the wage exemption policy to allow recipients to keep more of their earnings as they gain employment," said Dubé. "By working together, we are on the right track to achieving our poverty reduction goals and helping many New Brunswickers as they gradually transition to work and reduce their reliance on social assistance."
This policy is being improved to help recipients keep more of their earnings as they make the transition to employment from social assistance. A client's benefits will be reduced by 70 cents for every additional $1 he or she earns beyond the fully exempted amount. The current policy reduces a client's benefits by $1 for every $1 in earnings.
Social assistance rates
"Our government is focused on reducing, preventing and alleviating poverty in New Brunswick," said Dubé. "Among the ways we are responding to those experiencing poverty is by increasing basic social assistance rates."
Basic social assistance will increase by seven per cent over six months: four per cent this October and three per cent in April 2014.
Single employable individuals who do not have barriers to employment will not be eligible for these increases. In 2010, this group received an increase of 82 per cent when the interim assistance rate was eliminated.
"Many people receiving social assistance are able to work with the right help and support," said Dubé. "On top of receiving monthly social assistance payments, clients are able to receive support and guidance in their pursuit of employment."
The current social assistance rate structure will be simplified by merging the two existing rate schedules into one. This translates into an additional two-per-cent increase for families with high shelter costs.
Household Income Policy
"It is important to ensure that the social programs and services we have in place are doing what they were created for: to support those in need the most," said Dubé. "Some people are more vulnerable than others, so by expanding the exemptions to the Household Income Policy, we are able to improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable persons while living within our means."
There are 14 exemptions under the policy. A new exemption is being created to include single clients with multiple education, health, housing and social challenges that present chronic, significant barriers to employment.
The number of clients exempt from the policy will be expanded to provide them with more choices in their living arrangement and an opportunity to reduce shelter costs.
Clients in spousal relationships will continue to receive one cheque for the household.
The supplement available to families struggling with high shelter costs will be increased by 20 per cent. Families that spend more than 30 per cent of their assistance on shelter costs receive a supplement to help offset these costs.
Clients with disabilities who live with their parents will be eligible for a reduction in their shelter deductions in addition to the overall social assistance rate increase they will receive. In instances where the parental income is less than $50,000, the shelter deduction will be eliminated entirely. In instances where the parental income exceeds $50,000, the shelter deduction will be reduced to a flat rate of $100 for single disabled clients.
Reforming social assistance was part of the province's poverty reduction plan, based on some of the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Social Assistance Reform.
"I thank co-chairs Roger Lessard and Ken Pike and the other members of the advisory committee for their hard work and dedication on this complex issue," said Dubé. "Everyone involved should be proud of the work they have done to reform social assistance in New Brunswick."
The Department of Social Development invests more than $238 million in programs and services for social assistance clients, which may include health services, employment training and fuel assistance.
"Implementing the recommendations of the province's poverty reduction plan is a priority of our government," said Dubé. "Reforms to the social assistance system, along with our investments in the vision and dental plan for children of low-income families, increasing the disability supplement and the school supplement, show our dedication to helping low-income families and those living in poverty."
These reforms will require changes to regulations. The proposed amendments will be posted online in the near future for public review and input.
● Citizen Engagement and Consultations (Public Review of Draft Regulations)