News / Halifax

'Absolutely inadequate:' Halifax advocates call for reform of Nova Scotia social assistance

Network of anti-poverty advocates and experts presented an action plan with nine areas of reform for the system.

A network of stakeholders and anti-poverty groups speak during a press conference at Dalhousie Legal Aid Thursday, calling on Nova Scotia to reform social assistance.

Jayde Tynes / For Metro

A network of stakeholders and anti-poverty groups speak during a press conference at Dalhousie Legal Aid Thursday, calling on Nova Scotia to reform social assistance.

Social assistance reform in the province “can’t wait any longer,” Halifax advocates say.

On Thursday morning, a network of stakeholders and anti-poverty groups representing those who have been affected by the province’s social assistance program gathered at Dalhousie Legal Aid to demand that Nova Scotia take reformative action against poverty.

“The time is now to work collaboratively to reform the social assistance program in this province, it’s necessary and it can’t wait any longer,” said one of four spokespeople at the event, Dalhousie Legal Aid community legal worker Fiona Traynor.

The group presented a five-page call to action, which is intended to act as a blueprint to overhaul the current income assistance program in Nova Scotia. The document includes nine areas of reform, and includes 18 signatories from anti-poverty groups across the province.

The Nova Scotia social assistance program currently provides $575 for a single person’s monthly needs, which is meant to cover all living expenses.

Christine Saulnier is the Nova Scotia Director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She said during the event that the total welfare income that a person could possibly access (unless they have a special needs) is less than 40 per cent of what Statistics Canada says is required to meet basic needs.

“By comparing the total amount of welfare income to any poverty measure, it shows that this amount is absolutely inadequate for any household,” said Saulnier.

The advocates pointed out it has been 28 years since the 1989 resolution to end child poverty by 2000 was announced by the House of Commons, yet in 2017 this goal has not been met.

In the recent report on child and family poverty, 21 per cent of Nova Scotia children are currently living in poverty. Nova Scotia had the third-highest provincial child poverty rate, and the highest rate in Atlantic Canada.

Stakeholder Elizabeth Goodridge believes that more needs to be done to address those numbers.

“What we have in our government, in our department of community services, our politicians and bureaucrats is that however well-intended they may be, they are vastly out of touch with the realities of the thousands of people in this province who are living in poverty,” said Goodridge.

The stakeholder network has given the Nova Scotia government until Jan. 15, 2018 to respond to their call to action.

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