Oct 17 International Day – Actions for Sask

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty highlights actions needed to address poverty including Saskatchewan Income Support rates

Poverty Free Saskatchewan is declaring the need for immediate action to address poverty in the province, as is highlighted by the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17. As a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Canada and Saskatchewan are obligated to uphold its recommendations.

With the continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become more apparent that governments in Saskatchewan, Canada and internationally have a responsibility to address the needs of people living with low income. Instead, the Government of Saskatchewan has reduced benefits to all recipients of the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program.

On August 31, 2021, the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program replaced both the Social Assistance Program (SAP) and the Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA). The result is a reduction in benefits that were already grossly inadequate.

The effects of SIS on recipients are the following:

  • Under SIS utility coverage is wrapped into an already inadequate shelter allowance. Under SIS recipients have for the most part lost extra or special needs benefits such as school supplies, additional clothing grants, emergency furniture and moving allowances which were available under the former program.
  • SIS recipients who receive the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement have had it clawed back.
  • Under SAP recipients had the option of having Social Services pay their rent directly to their landlord and pay their utility bills directly to the utilities. These options are no longer available to SIS recipients.

SIS payments are extremely low.

  • Under SIS, a single person living in Regina will receive $860 per month: $575 for shelter and utilities and $285 to cover food, clothing, transportation and other necessities.
  • The poverty line for a single person in Saskatchewan is approximately $22,500 a year. $860 per month adds up to only $10,320 per year, less than half the official poverty line.
  • Though Regina has a high rental vacancy rate (7.7%), there is a growing homelessness crisis, partly due to poverty-level income assistance rates.

Poverty Free Saskatchewan recommends that the provincial government enact the following:

  1. Provide SIS recipients with full coverage of basic utilities.
  2. Stop the claw back of the Saskatchewan Rental Supplement to SIS recipients.
  3. Provide SIS recipients with the option of having their rent paid directly to their landlord and their utility bills paid directly to the utility providers.
  4. Raise the SIS rate by $300 a month as a first step toward raising it above the poverty line.

Saskatchewan continues to have many people living in poverty.  Recent Statistics Canada data show that the number of persons in poverty in Saskatchewan in 2019 was 136 thousand, 12.4 percent of the population. And these figures date from before the pandemic – in 2021 more residents of the province are likely to live in poverty.

Further steps that should be taken by the Saskatchewan Government to reduce poverty are:

  • Top up the Canada Child Benefit by providing an additional $1,000 per year for each child for families with children under age 18
  • Increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Allocate a significant portion of the provincial government’s budget to address the effects of COVID-19 on mental health, drug addiction, HIV prevention services, housing, and preK-12 education and training systems.

PFS strongly recommends the creation of a provincial anti-poverty act. Such an Act should aim to eliminate poverty, providing income security, adequate housing, health care investments and affordable child care for all persons and families in Saskatchewan. The Act would be developed in consultation with all sectors of the community, centering on people experiencing poverty, and have independent overview of its implementation.

Since 2015 the Saskatchewan government has cut or reduced programs for those with low incomes. PFS has outlined these in documents about the provincial budgets – most recently in 2020. (See https://povertyfreesask.ca/reports-and-initiatives/budget-2020-appalling-frugality

Recently updated and revised Statistics Canada poverty statistics show that there were 136 thousand persons, including 31 thousand children, in poverty in the province. The poverty threshold for a family of four in Regina was $45,825 and 50 percent of persons aged 18-64 not living in families lived in households with incomes below these thresholds. For seniors aged 65 plus, the poverty rate was 5.9 per cent. While updated data do not include information for the fifty thousand plus persons living on reserves, incomes are especially low among the Indigenous population of the province. (See http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/skp2018r.pdf )

Poverty and its accompanying social exclusion are related to many aspects of society. Governments play an important role, but so do businesses, individuals and communities in moving us forward to a more inclusive and equitable society.

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Concluding Observations on Canada (March 23,2016)

The following recommendations are from the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ observations on the sixth periodic report on Canada’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“The Committee recommends the following actions to reduce poverty:

  1. Considering the advanced level of development of the State Party (Government of Canada), the Committee is concerned about the significant number of people living in poverty. It is further concerned that indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, single mothers, as well as minority groups continue to experience higher rates of poverty and at the limited effectiveness of measures taken to address this (article 11)
  2. The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures to combat poverty more effectively while paying particular attention to groups and individuals that are more vulnerable to poverty. The Committee recommends that the State party in collaboration with provinces, territories, and indigenous peoples and in consultation with civil society organizations, implement a human rights-based national anti-poverty strategy, which includes measurable goals and timelines as well as independent monitoring mechanisms. The Committee further recommends that the State party ensure that provinces and territories’ anti-poverty policies are human rights-based and aligned with the national strategy.”