Community Services expanding programs to aid province's working poor

The government department some Nova Scotians rely upon for food, clothing and housing is looking to help others, particularly young people, who are struggling but not yet in need of income assistance.

Joy Knight, a Department of Community Services official, told a Nova Scotia Legislature committee Tuesday the programs are being redesigned or expanded to try to help those families or individuals remain mostly self-sufficient.

Knight told members of the Standing Committee on Community Services on an initiative to work with the African Nova Scotian community on a program focused on youth.

"We're also looking at our other youth programming on how we would open it up so that [more] youth at risk are able to participate.

"We work with the most vulnerable, marginalized people in the province and people living in poverty, whether attached to us or not, are experiencing the same things."

Program expansion in January

After the meeting, she told reporters that two other youth-centred programs are being expanded starting in January.

The province is examining the existing Youth Outreach Program to determine what additional resources are needed to help at-risk youth remain in school or upgrade their skills in order for them to find work that provides adequate pay to live on their own.

The other program being beefed up the Youth Development Initiative. Groups such as Hope Blooms receive funding from it.

Knight said young people receive practical job-related advice and companies interested in hiring students from the program get a wage subsidy 

"The barriers facing low-income youth are very, very similar to the barriers facing youth that are attached to income assistance in some way," she said.

'Proactive solution'

Knight called helping those not on assistance, but struggling, a "proactive solution on poverty."

She said the department should not be "focused on just income assistance if we're really going to make an impact."

There are currently 38,400 Nova Scotians who rely on income assistance every month. The budget for employment support and income assistance for 2019-20 is $350 million.

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