Research Bulletin # 3 Seniors and Children A Tale by imw90208


									                                                     Research Bulletin # 3
                                                          Seniors and Children:
                                                         A Tale of Two Benefits

Poverty strikes hardest at those who are most vulnerable. Seniors living on limited incomes and
children have traditionally been among the most impoverished populations. However, recently
the experience of poverty by the two groups has been decidedly different.

Seniors and the Guaranteed Income Supplement
                                                          • Seniors relying on food banks
Daily Bread’s 2001 Annual Survey revealed an alarming     jumped from 5% in 1995 to 10% in
trend: almost one-in-ten people relying on food banks     2001.
in Greater Toronto were 60 years old or older;            • Seniors reported after-rent
approximately double the number in 1995. During a         median incomes of $11.50 a day in
press conference that summer, Sue Cox, the Executive      ’95 fell to $6.54 in 2001.
Director of the Daily Bread Food Bank along with          • Post the public awareness
Toronto’s St. Christopher House, spoke of the ‘missing’   campaign for the GIS, seniors
Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) recipients             relying on food banks fell to 3%
identified in the 2001 Annual Survey. Only 15% of         and reported after-rent daily
seniors were getting the income supplement which is       median incomes rose to $11.23.
a federal benefit for low-income seniors, though nearly
all were eligible. Adding to this disturbing trend was that seniors surveyed reported dwindling
resources: median incomes after rent had declined from $11.50 in 1995 to a mere $6.45 a day in

At issue was the fact that most seniors did not know about the benefit, and the federal
government, although aware of the problem, were not in a position to inform them.

Media attention and community outrage steadily built; stories ran by CBC Radio, the Ottawa
Citizen and Macleans magazine added to the momentum. The Toronto Star reported that more
than 380,000 Canadians 65 years of age and over were eligible for, but not receiving, hundreds of
millions of dollars a year in GIS benefits.* The Federal government took notice and convened a
House of Commons Human Resource and Development Canada committee to investigate the
issue. The report that ensued resulted in Revenue Canada mounting an extensive campaign to
ensure that the many Canadian seniors eligible, but not receiving the GIS, understood how to
access the supplement.

Since that time, Daily Bread’s Annual Surveys have witnessed a steady decline in the number of
seniors relying on food banks in Greater Toronto: back to 1995 levels and a steady increase in the
median after rent income: from $6.45 in 2001 to $11.23 in 20041. The voice of low-income
seniors relying on the food banks was heard and it’s a story worth repeating.

Although nationally and provincially gains have been made in lifting seniors out of poverty, the
record on child poverty remains far more troubling….

Kids and the National Child Benefit

In 1989, the federal government agreed to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the
year 2000. As part of a set of initiatives to fulfill this promise, the federal government started
the National Child Benefit in 1998 to ensure that all families with children can meet basic needs.
This initiative was intended to provide essential benefits to low income families. However,
despite consecutive years of economic growth more than one million children, or almost one
child in six, still live in poverty in Canada.**

The City of Toronto is significantly falling behind the already poor national average. A recent
publication from the City of Toronto found
that a staggering 1 in 3 children is living in poverty
                                                            • In 1995 43,700 children relied on
in the province’s capital.+ Because of this
                                                              food banks each month.
increasing trend of child poverty more families are
                                                            • In 2004, 63,000 children rely on
turning to food assistance programs like food banks to
                                                              food banks each month.
help make ends meet. 63,000 children in Toronto
                                                            • 48% of all families using food
currently rely on food banks each month, up from
                                                              banks in ’04 have at least one
43,700 in 1995. Households with children account
for 48% of food banks users.                                  child.

Why do these numbers remain so high? One prominent reason is that the previous Ontario
government made the decision to “claw back” a portion of the National Child Benefit for those
Ontarians who receive social assistance. How does the “claw back” work? The majority of
Canadian families with children receive the base amount of the National Child Benefit. But low-
income families with children also receive an extra amount called the National Child Benefit
Supplement. This supplement is meant to help families pay for such necessities as food and
clothing for their children. However, some provinces, including Ontario, reduce social assistance
cheques by the amount of the National Child Benefit Supplement. This results in a loss of about
$125 per month per child for Ontario's least well off families.

This benefit, if allowed to flow through, would make a
significant impact on the lives of social assistance           • 49% of OW and ODSP
recipients with children. Indeed, 49% of recipients of         recipients say that receiving
Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support          the NCBS would make a big
Plan (ODSP) using food banks state that receiving the          difference in their lives.
benefit would make a big difference in their lives. 30%        • 30% of OW recipients with
of OW recipients with children surveyed said that they         children say they would no
would no longer need to use food banks if they received        longer need to use a food
the benefit.                                                   bank if they received the

In late April to early May of 2004 the new Ontario provincial government is expected to bring
down its first budget. The Liberal government made a commitment during the October
election campaign to restore the National Child Benefit Supplement to families with children
on social assistance over a period of four years. The experience of seniors using food banks has
been that progress can be made in reducing poverty when people receive the proper
investments. The same can happen with children. Food banks and other anti-poverty
organizations will be watching the Ontario Budget very closely to see that the government holds
to its commitments, and makes a significant down payment on children by restoring the National
Child Benefit Supplement to families with children receiving social assistance.

* Toronto Star, August 23, 2001
** Honoring Our Promises: Meeting the Challenge to End Child and Family Poverty, campaign
   2000 available at http//
+ Toronto Report Card on Children, City of Toronto 2003, available at

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