Study of Income Support Benefits Offered to Government Assisted Refugees Under the Resettlement Assistance Program

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1 Study of Income Support Benefits Offered to Government Assisted Refugees Under the Resettlement Assistance Program Written by: Rebecca Siggner (SPARC BC) Jill Atkey (SPARC BC) Michael Goldberg October 2007

2 Acknowledgements We would like to thank a number of people who have helped produce this report. Above all we would like to thank the people who participated in the research, including CIC regional staff and the SPO staff who participated in the survey, focus groups and provided us with the raw data on RAP income supports. We would also like to thank Wai Young, Sherman Chan and Joey Cheung of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance (CISSA-ACSEI) for their input and for providing us with the background information necessary to undertake a study of this nature. We were also aided by staff at CIC National Headquarters. Maryka Nichol, Robb Stewart and Ron Parent were helpful throughout the process. This report was prepared for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The research and recommendations are the responsibility of the authors of the report and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIC. Rebecca Siggner Jill Atkey Michael Goldberg October 2007 SPARC BC has received agreement from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to share this report as required.

3 Table of Contents Executive Summary i 1.0 Introduction Overview of the Resettlement Assistance Program Methodology Comparability of RAP and SA Basic Rates Total Assistance Complementary RAP and SA Employment and Health Programs Overview of Key Issues That Emerged for Other Household Types Adequacy of RAP RAP Compared to Measures of Adequate Income Rental Housing Stock and Market Prices Customized Reference Range Discussion and Implications Regional Differences Impact of Inflation and Cost of Living Increases on Recipients Purchasing Power Flexibility to Adjust RAP Rates Linking RAP to the MBM Conclusions and Recommendations Conclusions Recommendations 40

4 List of Tables Table 1: GAR Settlement Regions in 2005/06 4 Table 2: RAP Supplements in All Locations 9 Table 3: Additional RAP Supplements in Some Locations 9 Table 4: Supplements Included in SA Supports Calculations 10 Table 5: Provincial Comparison of Employment and Education Supports Available through Social Assistance Programs 15 Table 6: Comparison of Health and Dental Supplements Available through Provincial Social Assistance Programs and the IFH Program 19 Table 7: Additional Income Supports for Seniors and People with Disabilities Under RAP and SA 22 Table 8: Vacancy Rates and the Proportion of Average Rent Covered by RAP Shelter Allowances and Supplements 28 Table 9: Proportion of RAP Income Needed for Shelter by the Reference Family, Table 10: Current Start-Up Costs for the Reference Family Under RAP 32 Table 11: Current Special Allowances for the Reference Family Under RAP 33 Table 12: Inflation on Major Goods and Services Between 2002 and 2006 by Provinces 37

5 List of Charts Chart 1: Monthly RAP to SA Basic Rate Comparison, Chart 2: Total Monthly RAP and SA Incomes, Chart 3: Monthly RAP Incomes Compared to MBM, Chart 4: Monthly RAP Incomes Compared to After-Tax LICO, Chart 5: RAP Total Incomes Compared to Customized Reference Range,

6 Executive Summary As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees, Canada undertakes the responsibility of sponsoring a number of government assisted refugees (GARs) who require settlement in a safe third country. The Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), which is administered through Citizenship and Immigration Canada, became a national program in 1998 and operates in all provinces with the exception of Quebec. RAP is primarily a one-year federal income assistance program designed to assist GARs as they settle and find work in Canada. Canada has consistently supported over 5,000 GARs per year during the past decade. Citizenship and Immigration Canada contracted with the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC) to conduct an independent study of income support benefits offered under RAP. The goals of this project were: (1) To review the comparability of the basic RAP rates in 15 of the settlement locations to the corresponding basic Social Assistance (SA) rates, including comparisons of basic rates, supplements provided through both programs, and total incomes, which factor in government benefits. (2) To examine the adequacy of the RAP monthly income supports and a customized reference range in meeting actual living costs in 15 settlement locations as compared to accepted measures of poverty in Canada, including the Market Basket Measure and the Low Income Cut-Off. Methodology The methodology for this study involved several steps. Firstly, the research team gathered data on 2006 basic rates and supplements for both RAP and SA for the various family types in the 15 settlement locations. Government benefits were then calculated for all household types under the two programs using the Government of Canada s online calculator was used to determine the GST/HST Credit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit and information provincial websites and from the National Council of Welfare s 2005 report for the provincial benefits and tax rebates. The methodology for determining the adequacy of the current RAP income supports involved, firstly, a comparison of current total RAP income supports, with government benefits, to the Market Basket and Low Income Cut-Off rates, taking into consideration household size and location. Secondly, CIC and service providing organizations, both of whom administer RAP income supports, were asked to complete an online survey to examine the adequacy of the specific income supports by region. The information gathered contributed to the development of a customized reference range, which shows what the research team considers to be income supports that adequately cover basic living costs for GARs during the first year in Canada. The customized reference range is based on the MBM rates, adjusted to 2006, for the various i

7 sample household types in 15 locations where GARs settle. 1 The customized reference range also includes allowances for the various households to begin paying back their transportation loan. The report uses a reference family consisting of an adult couple with two children, aged seven and three, to make the report more understandable and easier to follow. Calculations were made for eight other household types, which can be found in the appendices. Findings Comparability of RAP to SA Basic RAP rates are theoretically guided by prevailing provincial SA rates. This study found that only three of the nine provinces examined had basic RAP rates that mirrored the corresponding provincial basic SA rates (British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick). However, all other provinces, with the exception of Nova Scotia, had basic RAP rates that were within $100 higher than the corresponding basic SA rates. Nova Scotia s basic RAP rates were more than $350 above the basic SA rates. Once supplements were factored into the RAP to SA comparisons, the gap between the RAP and SA rates grew in all provinces. Under RAP, all households are eligible for housing and transportation supplements. RAP also provides supplements to support families with children under six years of age and school supplies supplements for families with school-aged children. Other supplements provided through RAP vary by province, with households in certain regions being eligible for additional supplements such as shampoo and laundry. Meanwhile, SA recipients are primarily only eligible for a schools supplies supplement for households with children, along with generally minor supplements that vary by region. The federal and provincial governments provide the following benefits and tax credits for both RAP and SA recipients: Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) Credit, the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), provincial child benefits where applicable and provincial tax credits where applicable. Once supplements and government benefits are factored into the basic rates, the RAP income supports surpass the SA income supports in all 15 settlement locations. Despite this, the income supports for almost all household types still fell below the accepted poverty lines in Canada. 1 The 15 locations referenced in the report are: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto, London, Kitchener, Windsor, Halifax, St. John (NB), Charlottetown and St. John s (NL). ii

8 Adequacy of RAP Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has created the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as an absolute measure of poverty to determine what it costs to live in a number of Canadian communities. The items in the MBM have been selected to represent a standard of consumption. According to the MBM measure of low income, a person whose disposable family income falls below the cost of goods and services in the market basket for their community is considered to be low income. This study finds that the RAP income supports, before government benefits are included, all fall short of the MBM thresholds, meaning that the RAP incomes are inadequate to cover the basic costs of living in the various communities. Even once government benefits are factored in, RAP income supports still fall short of the MBM in all settlement locations, with the exception of Halifax, which actually surpasses the MBM threshold once government benefits are included. While the MBM provides a good sense of the disposable income required to cover the cost of living for various family sizes in different locations across Canada, poverty in Canada is usually measured by using Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs). The cut-offs are based on the concept that people are living in "straitened circumstances" if they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on food, clothing and shelter in both before and after tax scenarios. For the purpose of this study, RAP income supports were compared to the after-tax LICOs, as this measure of poverty is more consumption based. This comparison reveals similar findings to the MBM comparisons. RAP rates in all the settlement locations fall below the corresponding after-tax LICOs before government benefits are included. Once government benefits are factored into the RAP income supports, the income supports in all settlement locations still fall below the corresponding LICOs, with the exception of Halifax. Shelter is usually the most significant proportion of a household s budget. Finding safe and appropriate shelter typically comes ahead of all other costs. Therefore, as an additional means of determining the adequacy of RAP income supports, this study includes a comparison of RAP income supports for shelter to the rental housing stocks and market prices in the settlement locations. The study shows that rental housing stocks are low in over half of the settlement locations, which means that it is even more challenging to find safe, affordable and appropriate housing in those communities. As a result of tight rental markets and high market prices for rental, this study reveals that even when including the new shelter supplement provided through RAP, the reference family would have to spend at least 30% of their total income on shelter, and in some cases over 50% to afford a two bedroom apartment in their communities. This means that GAR reference families in all the settlement locations are living in core housing need. iii

9 Comparability of Current RAP Income to the Customized Reference Range The Market Basket Measure (MBM) was used to develop a customized reference range for the regular monthly costs that GARs are likely to incur during their first year in Canada. The MBM has established the costs of shelter, food, transportation, clothing, and other items in communities across Canada. In addition, the customized reference range includes a $100 per month allowance for the reference family to begin to pay back their transportation loan. St. John s, Halifax, and Winnipeg are currently providing income supports that are all within 10% or less of the customized reference range for their respective cities. Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver RAP total incomes fall the furthest below the customized reference range. The RAP incomes for these cities are more than 20% short of the customized reference range. Recommendations The research team strongly recommends that RAP adopt the customized reference range, based on the MBM and indexed to inflation, as the basis for its income supports to GARs, as it reflects the actual cost of living for various household sizes in different communities across the country. It is also recommended that the customized reference range be supplemented by the current start-up cost allowances, including household needs, staples, clothing, winter clothing, and telephone and utility hookups. The one exception is that CIC and SPO staff feel that the clothing allowance should be increased to $1,750 from $1,150 for a family of four to better reflect the costs of obtaining a basic set of clothing. The research revealed that the special allowances for dietary supplements, maternity clothing and diets, newborn costs, and school start-up should continue to help off-set irregular costs such as these. CIC and SPO staff would also like to see special allowances to cover other unforeseen or irregular costs not included in the MBM categories, such as emergency transportation, interpretation, child care, extra medical costs and disability allowances. The report also identified several themes to be taken into consideration when making any revisions to RAP income supports. Firstly, consistency in the administration of RAP should be a priority, especially for the national supplements. However, some flexibility should be maintained to reflect varying costs of living by location and other special needs. Issues of adequacy and inflation protection should be a guiding principle when revising the RAP income support amounts. As well, the research team would recommend that special consideration be giving to better understand how GARs should be transitioning off of RAP income supports. iv

10 1.0 INTRODUCTION Citizenship and Immigration Canada contracted with the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC) and the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance (CISSA-ACSEI) to conduct a study of income support benefits offered under the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). The goals of this project were twofold: (1) to review the comparability of the basic RAP rates in 15 of the settlement locations to the corresponding basic Social Assistance (SA) rates; and (2) to examine the adequacy of the RAP regular monthly income supports in meeting actual living costs in 15 settlement locations. The comparability of RAP rates to SA rates includes both the basic rates and supplements and benefits provided through provincial and federal governments. The comparison also extends to health care benefits and employment and education supports. Although the RAP income support rates are guided by prevailing SA rates in each of the provinces, the two program types have inherently different purposes and objectives. SA programs in most provinces have been restructured in recent years to focus on employability. As such, for those without disabilities, SA is seen to be a short-term support for employable people who are in need of temporary financial assistance. SA programs typically expect that those recipients who are able to work will enter the labour market as soon as possible, and relatively low income supports are seen to be an incentive to seek employment. Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) face significant barriers in their settlement in Canada. Increasingly, they leave behind traumatic experiences and living conditions that are vastly different from those in Canada. It is expected that GARs will generally require time to adjust to life in Canada, recover from traumatic events they may have experienced and learn an official language before they are in a position to sustain employment. Structuring RAP to support the process of settlement increases the likelihood of GARs to gain and sustain employment once their initial settlement process is complete. Using a customized reference range the report examines the adequacy of the RAP income supports. The customized reference range was developed using Human Resources and Skills Development Canada s measure of adequate income, the Market Basket Measure (MBM), with some modifications to reflect unique costs that GARs must incur. The discussion concerning the adequacy of RAP income supports also examines the start-up and special allowances provided to GARs in their first year in Canada. Again, this report uses the reference family in 15 locations where GARs settle, while highlighting some key issues for other family types. Appendix H outlines comparisons between the current RAP regular monthly income supports to the customized reference range for selected household types by the settlement locations. Finally, the report discusses implications and recommendations based on the findings of the comparisons of the current RAP income supports to SA and the customized reference range. That discussion looks at how the customized reference range addresses the adequacy of the RAP income supports in meeting daily needs, based on the comparisons 1

11 with SA and other measures of adequate income in Canada, the need for regional or community variations in the RAP rates, and the impact of inflation on the ability of rates to address increases in the cost of living. The report s findings also lead to a number of recommendations for the implementation of the customized reference range to ensure that the needs of GARs are provided for through the RAP income supports and supplementary provisions when needed. 1.1 Overview of the Resettlement Assistance Program History and Purpose of RAP As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees, Canada undertakes the responsibility of sponsoring a number of government assisted refugees (GARs) who require settlement in a safe third country. Government assisted refugees to Canada, must: meet the United Nation s refugee criteria (persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group, or political opinion); be displaced from their country of origin; be in a country of asylum (usually a refugee camp); have been qualified as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and referred for protection; be interviewed, medically screened, security cleared and accepted as Permanent Residents by a Canadian Foreign Mission. The Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) became a national program in 1998 and operates in all provinces with the exception of Quebec (which operates its own immigration program, under separate Federal-Provincial funding arrangements). In 2002, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) introduced significant changes to Canada s refugee resettlement program by redirecting Canada s GAR selection criteria to place more emphasis on protection needs and less on settlement potential. This humanitarian change resulted in Canada selecting GARs from more critical refugee camps, who have experienced more trauma, and with no hope of resettlement within their home countries. With its emphasis on protection, the implementation of IRPA had a direct impact on the source camps and source countries that Canada selected for the resettlement assistance program, resulting in a large increase in refugees arriving in Canada with a number of long-term special needs. 2 RAP is primarily a one-year federal income assistance program designed to assist GARs as they settle and find work in Canada. The program supports may be extended for an additional year in special circumstances. 2 The Evolution of RAP, presentation by R. Parent, CIC Conference February

12 Structure of Program There are two primary components for RAP program delivery: 1. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) provides funding to service providing organizations (SPOs) for direct services. GARs are usually met at the airport by a representative of the local SPO. The representative takes them to the temporary accommodation that has been prepared for them. During this initial reception, a number of direct services are normally scheduled to provide the GAR with the necessary orientation and information to prepare them for life in Canada. GARs also receive assistance and support with finding permanent accommodation, learning how to navigate the city, shopping and other basic life skills. Applying for mandatory government programs and referral services also occurs. These direct reception services are funded by RAP and delivered by 24 SPOs across Canada. 2. Income supports are provided by CIC to eligible refugees. Income supports include: a start-up allowance to buy basic furniture, household goods, clothing and food staples; monthly allowances for basic food, shelter (rent, heat, electricity, telephone and water) and other expenses such as bus passes and school fees. The basic food and rent portion of the allowance is supposed to be guided by provincial/territorial income assistance rates; special allowances for a specified need or a period of time, such as during maternity. Canada provides a travel loan prior to arrival to cover the cost of refugees travel to Canada. GARs are expected to repay the travel loan over time. 3 There are also earnings exemptions with up to 50% of the value of the RAP monthly allowance being exempted before allowances are deducted. Allowances are then deducted dollar-for-dollar for earnings that exceed the 50% threshold. The following table shows regions where GARs settled in 2005/06 and the number of CIC and SPO offices in those regions that provide support under RAP. 3 The current format of RAP does not include supports to allow GARs any disposable income for transportation loan repayment. This is addressed later in this report under the discussion of the customized reference range, which includes income supports to cover transportation loan repayment. 3

13 Table 1: GAR Settlement Regions in 2005/06 BC Prairies Ontario Atlantic Total Number of GARs ,460 Number of Local CIC Offices Number of SPOs* * These numbers do not include Point of Entry (POE), and also do not include the extra SPO in the Prairies that does Life Skills only (Saskatoon). Source: Inventory of Current RAP Practices and Services for GARs Across Canada, Kappel Ramji Consulting Group, March Profile of Government Assisted Refugees While the numbers of GARs have fluctuated, often in response to world refugee crises and patterns, Canada has consistently supported over 5,000 GARs per year during the past decade. The RAP program supported 5,300 GARs in 1998 while in 2007 it is anticipated that the program will support between 5,500 and 5,700 refugees. However, the profile of GARs has changed over this time. In 1998, 66% of GARs arrived from source countries in Europe, with 11% from countries in Africa. In 2007, 40% of GARs are expected to arrive from countries in Africa and 2% are expected to arrive from countries in Europe. 4 In 1998, the majority of GARs came from urban centres in Europe and lived in refugee camps for relatively short periods of time prior to resettlement. In contrast, in 2007 many GARs will arrive in Canada after extended stays in refugee camps and with life experience from small villages, rather than urban centres, in Africa. These changes in the GAR arrivals profile have implications for the ability and ease in which GARs are able to settle in Canada. Interviews with 152 GARs who arrived in BC in 2003 and revealed that: Nearly 60% reported their English language skills as not at all or beginner ; 26% were relying on food banks while receiving RAP income assistance; 54% were spending 50% or more of their income on housing (over half of whom reported spending 60% or more); 53% of GARs who arrived in 2003 and 95% who arrived in 2005 were unemployed; Of those employed, 44% had part-time jobs and 78% reported that their employment did not match their skills; 74% of all GAR families that arrived in 2003 or 2004 were receiving government assistance; Only 12.5% reported experiencing some form of racism; 92% stated they were very happy or happy about moving to Canada. 4 Ibid. 5 Immigrant Services Society (2007). New Beginnings: Insights of Government-Assisted Refugees into their Settlement Outcomes and the Impact on RAP SPOs. Presentation by Chris Friesen to the national RAP Conference, February 20. 4

14 This study also found that the dramatic shift in RAP client characteristics has stretched the current services delivery system to the breaking point and that SPOs face increasing challenges working with GARs within current RAP income support rates Methodology Several research methods were used in order to compare the RAP income supports to SA and to measure the adequacy of the current RAP income supports. Comparing RAP to SA The first step in the process of comparing RAP to SA was to gather the 2006 rates by province for both programs for the selected family types. The RAP rates were compiled with assistance from CIC staff. A CIC representative from each province was asked to fill in a spreadsheet with information about the specific start-up, monthly, and special allowances provided to the nine household types. At the same time, the research team gathered provincial SA rates for the same household types, using provincial government websites and social assistance manuals, the National Council of Welfare s Report on Welfare Incomes 2005, advocacy group websites, and making phone calls to provincial SA administrators for further information and clarification as required. Rates were also collected for regular supplements provided through the provincial SA programs. Provincial and federal government benefits were then determined for each of the household types under both the RAP and SA programs by province. The Government of Canada s online calculator was used to determine the GST/HST Credit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. Information about provincial benefits and rebates was obtained from the individual provincial websites and from the National Council of Welfare s 2005 report. Once the data on the 2006 RAP and SA income supports was compiled, charts were designed using Excel to illustrate location and household type comparisons. The charts highlight comparisons between RAP and SA for basic regular monthly allowances and total incomes including supplements and government benefits. Adequacy of RAP Income Supports Two approaches were used to measure the adequacy of RAP income supports. The first compared the current monthly basic RAP rates and current monthly RAP total incomes with government benefits to the MBM rates and Statistics Canada s measure of adequate income, the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO). Both the LICO and MBM take into consideration household size and location. The second approach included an on-line survey and focus group with CIC and SPO staff about the adequacy of the RAP rates and allowances. CIC and SPO staff, both of whom directly administer the RAP income supports and work with GARs, were first asked to 6 Ibid. 5

15 complete an on-line survey to identify the extent to which current RAP entitlements are sufficient and if insufficient, which allowances are not sufficient or not provided. The survey also examined regional or location differences in the administration of the RAP income supports. The survey results were then presented to a focus group with CIC and SPO staff participants at the RAP conference held in February 2007 in Vancouver. Focus group participants were asked to prioritize the recommendations generated by the survey and assign costs as a way to confirm the survey findings and to get a more in-depth understanding of the adequacy of RAP income supports. The information gathered through these two approaches contributed to the development of a customized reference range that represents ideal RAP regular monthly income supports. The customized reference range is based on the MBM rates, adjusted to 2006, for the various sample household types in 15 locations where GARs settle. The customized reference range also includes allowances for the various households to begin paying back their transportation loan. The customized reference range was then compared to the current regular monthly RAP income supports including all supplements and benefits for the sample household types in the various locations. The current RAP start-up and special allowances were adjusted based on the findings of the survey and focus group. Discussion and Recommendations The discussion and draft recommendations are based on the analysis of the data collected through the above methods. A draft report and recommendations were prepared by the research team and then circulated to CIC National Headquarters (NHQ) and staff in each of the regions for review. The research team then produced this final report and recommendations. Household Types and Settlement Communities The following nine household types were selected for RAP to SA comparisons: single adult adult couple with no children adult couple with two children (aged 7 and 3) adult couple with four children (aged 14,10,5 and 2) single adult with three children (aged 13,9 and 7) single adult senior senior adult couple single person with a disability adult couple with disabilities and two children (aged 7 and 3). The comparisons between the two programs are generally illustrated in the report through the reference family, consisting of two parents and two children, aged seven and three. Detailed breakdowns of the comparisons for the other household types are provided in the appendices, with some discussion of key issues for various family types in the body of the report. 6

16 The settlement communities referenced in the report are: Vancouver Calgary Edmonton Regina Winnipeg Ottawa Hamilton Toronto London Kitchener Windsor Halifax St. John (NB) Charlottetown St. John s (NL). Although GARs settle in additional communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, the research team selected the communities where the largest proportion of GARs settle in each province. All of the cities in Ontario were included because the transportation supplements in each community range significantly, which amounts to a difference of several hundred dollars annually. In Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick the annual difference is marginal and would not have resulted in differences substantive enough to warrant their inclusion in the report. 2.0 Comparability of RAP and SA 2.1 Basic Rates Income supports provided by RAP are guided by the prevailing provincial SA rates for food and shelter. Chart 1 compares the monthly SA rates to the basic monthly RAP rates by community for the reference family. 7 Both SA and RAP rates include only the shelter allowance and basic allowance for food and other incidentals. They do not include any additional supplements. 8 7 The reference family is comprised of a couple with two children, aged seven and three. 8 Chart 2 provides the total incomes of SA and RAP recipients, including all supplements and other government income benefits. 7

17 Chart 1: Monthly RAP to SA Basic Rate Comparison, 2006 St. John's (NL) 998 1,089 Charlottetown 1,328 1,364 St. John (NB) Halifax 1,020 1,387 Windsor Kitchener London Toronto Hamilton Ottawa 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 1,240 Winnipeg 1,099 1,153 Regina Edmonton Calgary 1,041 1,045 1,050 1,104 1,050 1,104 Vancouver $0 $200 $400 $600 $800 $1,000 $1,200 $1,400 Basic Monthly RAP Basic Monthly SA Of the 15 settlement locations looked at in this study, slightly over half of the cities (St. John, the six Ontario cities and Vancouver) have RAP rates that are exactly the same as the corresponding provincial SA rates for the reference family. 9 The RAP rates in Regina are also almost exactly the same as Saskatchewan s SA rates, with the RAP rates being only $4 higher than the SA rates. The remaining locations have RAP rates that are higher than the corresponding provincial SA rates. The RAP rates in St. John s, Charlottetown, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary are all less than $100 above the corresponding provincial SA rates. Halifax is the only community with RAP rates that are substantially higher than the corresponding SA rates (26% higher). 2.2 Total Assistance There are a number of supplemental supports and government income transfers that contribute to the total assistance that persons may receive. The total RAP support for the GAR reference family includes the basic monthly allowances for shelter, food and 9 All RAP and SA rates are for It should be noted that SA rate increases have been announced for 2007 in Ontario and BC. 8

18 incidentals, as well as the monthly supplements (outlined in Table 2) for all settlement locations, except where indicated by footnote. Table 2: RAP Supplements in All Locations Supplement Amount* (monthly) Housing $100 Transportation $80 - $200 Under-six 10 $50 School supplies 11 $20 * Amounts shown are the monthly totals for the reference family of two adults with two children, aged seven and three. Some locations provide additional supplements for expenses that are not included in the allowance for incidentals. Other locations provide additional supplements for children to match similar supplements available to SA recipients in those provinces. Table 3 below outlines the additional supplements provided in some provinces. 12 Table 3: Additional RAP Supplements in Some Locations Location Additional Supplement Amount* (monthly) Halifax Shampoo, soap and laundry $28 St. John (NB) Under $75 Charlottetown Laundry $36 Under $152 * Amounts shown are the monthly totals for the reference family. Total support for SA recipients includes the shelter allowance and the basic support in each province, and any additional supplements that are typically provided and on which 10 Except in Charlottetown and Winnipeg. Charlottetown has the under-19 supplement noted in Table 3 and Winnipeg does not provide the under-six supplement. 11 Except in St. John, which does not have a school supplies supplement but has an additional under-19 supplement that is greater than the school supplies supplement. 12 RAP recipients in Alberta cities receive an additional health care supplement to cover the cost of Alberta health premiums. This supplement is not included in the Alberta totals because the other provinces with health premiums waive the costs of those premiums for low income residents. The health care supplement for SA recipients is also not included for the same reason. 13 The under-19 supplement in St. John is provided in addition to the under-six supplement. 14 The under-19 supplement in Charlottetown is provided instead of the under-six supplement. 9

19 recipients can rely for their budget planning. The table below outlines the SA supplements included by province. 15 Table 4: Supplements Included in SA Supports Calculations 16 Province Supplements Included Amount* (annual) BC School supplies $84 Christmas supplement $90 AB School supplies $100 SK School supplies $85 MB School supplies $85 ON NB School supplies $69 Winter clothing allowance $210 School supplies $100 Income supplement benefit 17 $900 NS School supplies $50 PEI School supplies $150 Healthy child benefit 18 $1824 NL Supplementary shelter benefit 19 $732 * Amounts shown are the annual totals for the reference family. The federal and provincial governments provide the following benefits and tax credits for both RAP and SA recipients: Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) Credit, the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), provincial child benefits where applicable and provincial tax credits where applicable. Each of these is looked at in turn below. 15 A number of health and dental supplements are available through social assistance programs in each province. They are not included in the total incomes for the reference family, but more information on the supplements can be found in Section The majority of provincial SA supplements are provided annually or biannually, making their inclusion in the total incomes of recipients problematic. There is significant variability as to who receives the supplement based on the time of year that recipients access the SA system (for example, a family who begins receiving assistance in October will not receive an annual school start-up supplement until the following September). This is different from the RAP supplements, which are provided monthly. 17 The income supplement benefit is intended to offset high shelter costs and is paid to families with children. 18 The healthy child allowance is intended to offset the impact of the NCBS clawback and is paid to all families with children under 18 at a rate of $76 per child per month. Rather than calculating it as part of the NCBS clawback, it is included here as a supplement in order to mirror the inclusion of the under-19 supplement through RAP in PEI. 19 The supplementary shelter benefit is automatically paid to households in St. John s because rental costs exceed the basic shelter rate (National Council of Welfare). 10

20 Canada Child Tax Benefit and National Child Benefit Supplement The Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) includes both the CCTB Basic Benefit and the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). Some provinces reduce the amount of a family s benefits paid through the welfare system by the amount of the NCBS and reinvest those monies into programs and services for children (referred to as the clawback). Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba do not claw back NCBS payments. However, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and BC do claw back either a portion or the full amount of the NCBS. 20 The means through which each province does this varies in some cases by reducing social assistance rates up front and in others by collecting from parents the amount they received from the NCBS. The total CCTB/NCBS benefit for the reference family ranges from $ to $ Those with refugee status are eligible for the CCTB through the submission of a RC66 form. The applications take six to eight weeks to process but the payments are retroactive to the date of eligibility. The CCTB has, therefore, been included in the total income calculations for GARs. GARs residing in provinces that claw back the NCBS are also subject to the clawback. All charts and tables include the clawback, where applicable. Universal Child Care Benefit The UCCB was introduced in 2006 and is paid to all families in Canada with children under the age of six. Each family receives $100 per month per child under six. Households that receive the CCTB automatically receive the UCCB, including those with refugee status. The benefit is taxable in the hands of the spouse who earns the lower income. In all locations, both the RAP and SA reference families receive $100 per month for the three year old. Provincial Child Benefits Additional provincial child benefits are available in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. 21 In both provinces, child benefits payments are administered through the federal government s CCTB program. Those who qualify for the CCTB will automatically qualify for the provincial child programs, so the payment amounts are included for both the RAP and SA reference families. The RAP and SA reference families receive $49.33 per month in St. John s. The SA reference family in Halifax receives $90.83 per month. The RAP reference family receives $8.50 in Halifax because the benefit is income-tested and the RAP reference family has a higher income than the SA reference family. 20 In its 2007 budget, the Government of Ontario announced a 2% increase in SA rates and a new provincial child benefit that the Government says will effectively eliminate the clawback over a five year period. This study compares SA rates from 2006 in all provinces. 21 In Saskatchewan and BC, the provincial child benefits are reduced annually to reflect NCBS increases. As such, the provincial benefits programs have been fully offset by NCBS payments and the provincial benefits payments are now zero. 11

21 Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) Credit The GST/HST Credit is intended to help low income households offset the GST/HST they pay through their purchase of goods. Those with refugee status are eligible for the GST/HST Credit by submitting a RC151 form. Similar to the CCTB, the application process takes six to eight weeks but the payments are retroactive, so they have been included in the total income for the RAP reference family. Both the RAP and SA reference families receive $59 a month (paid quarterly) in all cities. Provincial Sales Tax Benefits Provincial sales tax credits are paid to low income families in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatchewan and BC. The sales tax credit programs in Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan are administered through the GST/HST Credit program and those who qualify (including GARs) will automatically receive payments. The provincial sales tax credits in these two provinces have, therefore, been included in the total incomes for the RAP reference family. The credits are income-tested and the RAP and SA families in Newfoundland and Labrador receive $9.92 and $16.67 respectively, while in Saskatchewan they receive $27.13 and $30.33 respectively. In Ontario and BC, however, the provincial sales tax credit programs are administered provincially. To qualify, individuals and families must submit income tax forms for the previous year. Therefore, the sales tax credit in the Ontario cities and in Vancouver have not been included in the total income for the RAP reference family because they would not have filed income taxes in the previous year. The SA reference family receives $12.50 each month (paid annually) in Vancouver and $33.33 in all Ontario cities from the provincial sales tax credits. Chart 2 (next page) compares the total incomes for the RAP and SA reference families in each of 15 GAR receiving locations. 12

22 Chart 2: Total Monthly RAP and SA Incomes, 2006 St. John's (NL) 1,799 2,118 Charlottetown 1,892 2,140 St. John (NB) 1,653 1,874 Halifax 1,789 2,387 Windsor Kitchener London Toronto Hamilton Ottawa Winnipeg Regina Edmonton Calgary Vancouver 1,735 1,735 1,735 1,735 1,735 1,735 1,780 1,752 1,720 1,720 1,692 2,007 1,977 2,005 2,057 1,987 2,000 2,090 2,024 2,046 2,086 2,025 $0 $500 $1,000 $1,500 $2,000 $2,500 Total Monthly RAP Income Total Monthly SA Income When factoring in all supplements and tax benefits, the percentage difference between the RAP reference family s total income and the SA reference family s total income is increased in all locations except Halifax (discussed further below). Taking Vancouver as an example, the monthly RAP and SA payments are on par at $991 per month. Once all supplements and government benefits are accounted for, however, the total income for the RAP reference family is 16% higher than the total income of the SA reference family. With the exception of the provincial sales tax credit in Ontario and BC and the provincial child benefit in Nova Scotia (explained further below), the RAP and SA reference families receive roughly the same amount in government benefits. Therefore, the differences in total incomes between the two reference families are better explained through the supplements than the government benefits. For example, the RAP reference family in Toronto receives $370 in supplements each month through RAP, whereas the SA reference family in Toronto receives $23.25 in supplements each month through social assistance. The difference between the RAP reference family and the SA reference family in each of the locations demonstrates the impact on overall income of the additional supplements received by RAP recipients. RAP recipients typically receive a greater number and 13

23 amount of supplements than do SA recipients. As demonstrated in Table 3 above, the only SA supplement received in the majority of provinces is for school supplies for the reference family s seven year old. In contrast, the RAP reference family receives transportation, housing, school supplies and under-six supplements in all locations (except New Brunswick and Manitoba as noted above) and a number of additional supplements in three provinces (as outlined in Table 2 above). The overall increase in the difference between the RAP and SA reference family is explained by the additional supplements received by the RAP family. The only location that does not follow this trend is Halifax, where basic monthly RAP payments are 26% higher than the SA payments for the reference family. Factoring in all supplements and supports, this difference is reduced slightly to 25%. The reason that Halifax does not follow the trend established by other locations is the income-tested nature of the CCTB and provincial child benefits. The RAP reference family receives lower payments on these benefits than does the SA reference family due to their relatively higher income. For example, the SA reference family receives $ in CCTB payments and $90.83 in provincial child benefits each month. While the RAP reference family receives nearly the full CCTB amount ($514.09), they receive only $8.50 in provincial child benefits each month a difference of $ In all other locations, both the RAP and SA reference family qualified for the full CCTB and provincial child benefits amounts (where applicable). 2.3 Complementary RAP and SA Employment and Health Programs Employment and Education Supports and Programs A range of employment and education supports are available through social assistance programs in each province. However, the comparison of programs between provinces is problematic because of disparities in the information available on each of the programs. For example, Saskatchewan contracts out its employment supports to community agencies, but information on each agency s programming is not readily or publicly available. Similarly, the information for pre-employment programs in Prince Edward Island is not available publicly and calls to the social assistance office were unreturned at the time of writing. Although some of the support programs available through the provinces restrict eligibility to those on social assistance, many have broader eligibility and would be available to GARs. It is not known whether GARs typically access these programs and with what frequency. Education and employment supports are not available through RAP in any official sense, although many SPOs have employment programs as components of their overall programming. These employment programs are often available to GARs, but are not included in the comparison because they are not a component of RAP and the inconsistency of programs available across the country makes comparison difficult Recent studies about labour market attachment programs and services for immigrants and refugees across Canada are forthcoming from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. 14

24 It is also important to note that the comparison between the availability of programs across provinces relies on information provided by social assistance ministries in each of the provinces, and is not based on any evaluative data. The table below indicates the types of supports related to labour market attachment in each of the nine provinces examined for this study. Program descriptions and the types of services offered for each of the provinces can be found in Appendix J. Table 5: Provincial Comparison of Employment and Education Supports Available through Social Assistance Programs Province Pre- Employment Individual Type of Support Self- Employment Training & Placement BC X X X Education Earnings Exemptions AB X X X X SK X X X X MB X X X ON X X X X NB X X X X NS X X X X X X PEI X X NL X X X X Pre-Employment Skill Development Virtually all provinces offer some type of skills development programs to prepare individuals for obtaining and sustaining employment. In all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador and BC, pre-employment programs are available to all social assistance recipients. In Newfoundland and Labrador, pre-employment programs are specifically targeted to single parents who meet specific criteria, including a desire to move into full-time work as soon as it becomes available and who are not eligible for Employment Insurance. In BC, pre-employment programs are available to adult women who have suffered from violence and/or who may face cultural/language barriers and/or who may be former sex trade workers. All pre-employment skill development programs offer some type of academic upgrading and development of basic literacy skills, with the focus being on General Educational Development (GED) certification. Alberta appears to offer the most comprehensive program by providing upgrading in primary grades as well as GED preparation. The development of basic computer skills, such as Windows, MS Office, and internet are also included in most pre-employment programs. All programs include the development of life skills, such as anger and stress management, self esteem enhancement and gaining an understanding of workplace expectations. 15

25 Training and Placement Employment Programs All provinces also offer specific training and placement programs for social assistance recipients who are employment-ready. In each of the provinces, there is some overlap between the pre-employment programs and the training and placement programs to ensure that appropriate skills are in place to sustain employment. This overlap includes such elements as personal skills development and some academic upgrading, although not as extensive as that discussed above. The training and placement programs are generally focused on resume development and active job searches, either through workshops or classroom settings. The programs are generally geared towards those who are more immediately employable as opposed to the pre-employment supports, which focus on clients with barriers. The exception to this is the BC Employment Program, which addresses the needs of both clients who are immediately employable and those who experience barriers by including individualized programming support for people in need of mental health and drug and alcohol services. Certificate training for specific industries is also offered in Ontario, Manitoba and BC through their training and placement programs. Manitoba offers the most extensive range of certificate options, including: commercial/industrial cooking, basic hand tools and machinist trade, recycling operations and materials reclamations and resale, forklift operation, baler safety and operation, community economic development training, electrical ventilation, refrigeration and water treatment levels. Some combination of paid and unpaid work placements is also available through the training and placement programs by way of the governments partnership with employers. Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have wage subsidy programs in place, which act as incentives for employers to hire social assistance recipients who have been through government training programs. Newfoundland and Labrador also incorporates monitoring and follow-up support into its program to enhance the sustainability of employment and assist with the transition from social assistance to employment. Individualized Client Support Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and BC have individualized client supports in place to assist those social assistance recipients who do not participate in specific programs to obtain and sustain employment. The supports are typically monetary in nature, in that they allow recipients to purchase work appropriate clothing and to assist with transportation costs and childcare during job interviews. Self-Employment Programs Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta have programs in place for social assistance recipients seeking entrepreneurial opportunities. The programs typically provide assistance with developing a business plan, accounting and marketing instruction, and one-on-one counselling in business development. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta also provide financial support for a limited amount of time to assist program participants through the financial hardship of starting a business. For example, New Brunswick offers self-employment benefits of $250 per week for a maximum of 45 weeks. 16

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