The Women’s Centre Blog: It’s Time to Raise the Rates

This blog post was originally posted on The Women’s Centre website on November 5, 2018: http://www.womenscentrecalgary.org/its-time-to-raise-the-rates/
When you’re living on Social Assistance in Alberta, dreaming big means:
  • Buying your own groceries
  • Having enough to pay your rent
  • Buying school supplies for your child
  • Not worrying about money every day

Did you know that single people who are unable to work receive a base social assistance amount of $833 a month? This amount does not even equal half of the poverty line, which is calculated by Statistics Canada to be just under $20,000 a year for a single person.

On top of this, social assistance levels are not indexed to inflation, which means as the cost of living goes up with each passing year, a person or a family living on social assistance can afford less and less. As an organization that works with low-income individuals, at the Women’s Centre we see fist-hand the many impacts low-social assistance levels have on women, families, and all Albertans. Women in our community struggle to buy food, pay rent, or afford items like a transit ticket, a winter jacket, or a single cup of coffee.

This is why the Women’s Centre, and many of our community partners are calling on Alberta’s Provincial Government to raise social assistance rates, and index them to inflation.

New programs and services have gone a long way to alleviate poverty for certain groups in Alberta, but there are still a critical number of people living far, far below the poverty line. While provincial and federal child tax benefit programs have helped families in Alberta afford to meet more of their basic needs, Albertans who have no dependents and are too young to be eligible for old age security are struggling.

For those deemed “employable,” the base benefit is even lower. In 2016, some Albertans were eligible for less than $650 a month, or 38% of the poverty line. For context, the average price of rent for a basic one-bedroom apartment in Calgary is $850 a month, or $10,000 annually. Forget adding food, clothing or transportation into this equation, social assistance alone is not even enough to cover a basic rental at a market price.

Raising social assistance rates would mean better health outcomes, less need for emergency services, more food sovereignty, less homelessness and most importantly, more dignity for Albertans living in poverty. As the Alberta economy begins to recover, the time is right to address the inadequate income assistance benefits received by low-income Albertans who are struggling to make ends meet.

In October of 2018, the Women’s Centre and 16 partner agencies sent a letter to Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services in Alberta, calling on the Government of Alberta to raise income support benefits and index them to inflation.

At the Women’s Centre we believe all Albertans, no matter their situation, ability, age, or background, deserve to live in dignity. We envision a province where everyone is able to meet their basic needs, and connect with their community, and raising social assistance rates in a meaningful way would do much toward achieving these outcomes.

Click here to view fast facts about social assistance in Alberta.

Click here to read our letter to Minister of Social Services Irfan Sabir, calling on the Government of Alberta to raise social assistance levels in Alberta.

To join the conversation, share your thoughts and learn what others are saying about this issue using the #RaisetheRates hashtag.

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