National Council of Welfare

Conseil national du bien-être social

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NO SUCH THING AS A "TYPICAL" WELFARE CASE,
SAYS NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WELFARE REPORT

             There is no such thing as a "typical" welfare case, the
National Council of Welfare says in a landmark analysis of welfare
caseloads in the 1990s that was published today. "Stereotypes about welfare are certain to be inappropriate,"
the group says in a report entitled Profiles of Welfare: Myths and
Realities. "The welfare rolls are made up of older people as well
as younger people, people with disabilities as well as people who
are able-bodied, and people who are well educated as well as people
who are poorly educated. Every chapter of this report is testimony
to the varied backgrounds and circumstances of people on welfare." The report contains a gold mine of new statistical information
about welfare in Canada. The information comes from a database of
welfare statistics made available to the Council by Human Resources
Development Canada with the approval of welfare officials from all
ten provincial governments. Much of the information in the report
has never appeared in print before. "Every person who reads this report will learn something new,"
the Council says. "And every person will be reminded that popular
notions about welfare and welfare recipients are sometimes quite
far removed from the truth." Among other things, the report shows close to 1.1 million
children on the welfare rolls as of March 1997 and a surprisingly
large number of long-term welfare cases.

                                     -2-

             Given all the publicity about child poverty in recent months,
it should come as no surprise that more than one million of the
people on welfare as of March 1997 were children under the age of
18. They were on welfare for one simple reason: their parents or
guardians were on welfare. "Some readers may find this point too obvious to mention, but
it is not always obvious in the development of welfare policies in
all provinces," the report says. "Ontario, for example, did not
exempt families with children when it arbitrarily slashed its
welfare rates in October 1995. Other provinces talk of improving
government benefits for children to `take children off welfare'
without acknowledging that it is impossible to do so without taking
their parents off welfare at the same time." Perhaps the most disturbing data in the database was
information about the length of current "spells" on welfare.
As of March 1997, 54 percent of the welfare cases had been on
welfare continuously for 25 months or more. "Given the low levels of income provided by welfare, it
seems unlikely that people would consciously choose to live on
welfare year after year," the report says. "It is sad to think
that governments have been unable to come up with better ways of
managing the economy and creating more job opportunities for the
people who are willing and able to take advantage of them." The Council hopes that the report will help dispel many of the
myths about welfare and people on welfare. It also hopes that the
new data will prod social policy analysts both inside and outside
government to step up their own research and develop new policy
options. "Among the most urgent options are dealing with the problem
of long-term dependency on welfare, finding more and better jobs
for people, improving financial support for single parents, and
promoting government income supports for people with severe
disabilities that are more appropriate than welfare."


  
                                     -3- 
             Finally, the report says that better welfare policies are
in the interest of all Canadians, because everyone is at risk of
falling on welfare at some point in their lives. "The numbers speak for themselves: the estimated 1,494,800
welfare cases as of March 1997 represented an estimated 2,774,900
individual children, women and men or nearly ten percent of
Canada's population." "Losing a job, losing a spouse, and losing good health are
some of the reasons that people go on welfare. The biggest myth of
all would be to assume that most of us are immune to any of these
personal tragedies or the many other misfortunes that can lead to
reliance on welfare." The National Council of Welfare is a citizens' advisory body
to the Minister of Human Resources Development. ---------------------------------------- For further information, contact: National Council of Welfare 1010 Somerset Street West, 2nd Floor Ottawa K1A 0J9 (613) 957-2961


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