TORONTO, May 31, 2002 -- The number of Canadian children living in low-income families declined by more than 200,000 from 1996 to 1999. This decline was mostly due to a strong economy, and the National Child Benefit (NCB) supported this trend. That was one of the highlights of The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2001. The report was released this week in Toronto by federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for Social Services.
In addition, the report includes information on how the National Child Benefit is improving the situation for low-income families and taking children out of poverty. The report indicates that in 1999, as a direct result of the NCB:
With investments in the NCB doubling by 2001, the percentage of low-income families will continue to drop.
"We are very pleased to see that the National Child Benefit is making a difference in improving the lives of low-income working families," said Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada and federal co-chair of Social Services Ministers. "We are encouraged with the positive results of the National Child Benefit and we look forward to continued progress in the future."
"The National Child Benefit supports the efforts of families to ensure a prosperous future for their children" noted New Brunswick Minister of Family and Community Services Joan MacAlpine, who co-chaired the Ministers meeting with Minister Stewart. "I do, however, want to make it clear that there is still a lot of work to do in creating opportunities for low-income families throughout Canada."
The Social Services Ministers also discussed progress on a commitment, made by Canada's First Ministers, to improve and expand early childhood development (ECD) programs and services. The Government of Canada has committed $2.2 billion, over five years, to allow provincial and territorial governments to build on and complement existing programs and services for young children and their families.
Provincial and territorial governments are using many creative and innovative approaches to deal with early childhood development. The ECD agreement allows each jurisdiction to develop programs and services that best meet its unique needs. Most governments have released baseline reports; others will release them in the coming weeks. At their meeting, Ministers approved guidelines for reporting in areas of both programming and child well-being and agreed that all participating governments will issue progress reports in the fall of this year.
During their Toronto meetings, the Ministers also released the Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities (EAPD) National Report.** It includes information on programs and services funded under the federal-provincial EAPD initiative during the fiscal years 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. The report outlines expenditures of more than $400 million a year on programs to help persons with disabilities prepare for, find and keep employment.
Ministers also recognized the importance of continuing to work together to improve the labour market outcomes for persons with disabilities. In this context, Ministers committed to moving forward on a framework for a labour market strategy, which could guide work on options before the current EAPD expires. In June, governments will collaborate with community and business representatives on a best practices workshop. In addition, further consultations will be held on a framework for a labour market strategy for persons with disabilities and on disability supports through life.
At the meeting today Ministers agreed to focus efforts on ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to fully participate in the labour market. Ministers committed to working together with their sectoral colleagues, in particular their labour market colleagues, to achieve this goal.
*While Québec supports the general principles of the National Child Benefit, the Early Childhood Development and initiatives for persons with disabilities, it did not participate in developing these initiatives because it intends to preserve the sole responsibility for its family policy. Québec residents benefit from federal funding and investment made by Québec for families and children services. All references to viewpoints shared by the federal, provincial and territorial governments in this document do not include the Government of Quebec.
** The territorial governments are not signatories to the EAPD and are therefore not included in the report.
The 2001 NCB Progress Report and a backgrounder can be found at www.nationalchildbenefit.ca
The EAPD National Report can be found at www.socialunion.gc.ca
For more information, please contact:
Minister Stewart's office (819) 953-2353
New Brunswick Ministry of Family and Community Services (506) 453-2001