Social assistance benefits going up, but not enough, says advocate

·2 min read
Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers says the changes come as a response to the increasing cost of living.   (Rick Gibbs/CBC - image credit)
Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers says the changes come as a response to the increasing cost of living. (Rick Gibbs/CBC - image credit)

Starting January 2022, Islanders receiving social assistance will see a permanent increase in their monthly benefits.

Adults will now receive $450/month, parents of children up to 11 years old will get $271/month per child and those with kids between 12 and 18 will receive $359 per child.

"Our most vulnerable Islanders, they have the autonomy to spend it where they need it most," said Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers.

For example, a family of four with two adults and two children aged nine and 15 will receive an additional $376 a month.

"They have to make tough choices and it means now with this increase those choices will be that much easier."

Trivers said the increases are in response to rising inflation. P.E.I. has the highest annual rate of inflation in the country, at seven per cent — the national average is 4.7 per cent, an 18-year high.

"We have to respond to what is happening out in the world," Trivers said.

Canada's Food Price Report for 2021 said overall food prices will increase three to five per cent. It anticipates most Atlantic provinces, besides New Brunswick, will see increases even higher than that.

This December, the province is also giving a one-time increase to the school-aged child allowance. Parents of children between the ages of four and 11 will get $200 and those with kids between the ages of 12 and 18 will receive $250. That is double the normal amount.

'Given the bare minimum to survive'

While the increase is good, the amount that people will receive is still not enough, said Jillian Kilfoil, the executive director of Women's Network P.E.I.

"Marginal increases to rates, although good, are not going to solve the problem," Kilfoil said.

The entire social assistance system should be scrapped and a basic income guarantee should be put in its place, she said.

Tee Johnny Photography
Tee Johnny Photography

People on social assistance on P.E.I. are given the "bare minimum to survive," Kilfoil said, and it keeps people in poverty.

"So it's really a system that takes away a lot of people's dignity," Kilfoil said.

"And instead of giving them what they need and trusting them that they will spend it on what they need, there's really a process where you're nickeled and dimed and you need to get approval for everything in advance.

"If you need your eyes checked, you need to get permission and get approval for that. If you have a problem with your teeth, your teeth will be pulled instead of you getting the repair work that you need."

Kilfoil said people who receive benefits say the process is difficult, the rates are too low and if you have any unexpected expenses come up, you have no money to support yourself.

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