Off Welfare… What Now?

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Transcript Off Welfare… What Now?

Off Welfare… What Now?

Informing Policy with Qualitative Research Findings.

Linda Bell The Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition

The Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition Mission Statement

We are a Coalition of concerned citizens and organizations who are dedicated to addressing the causes and effects of poverty in Saskatoon.

The Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition Our Work:

      Delivery of The Poverty Workshop in partnership with the Saskatoon Health Region Supporting the

Get On The Bus

transportation initiative Host an annual Poverty Awareness Week in October Educating the Provincial and Municipal governments on the realities of poverty Providing a forum for citizens to voice their concerns and needs surrounding poverty Offering capacity building opportunities for community members

The Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition Research Projects

 The Roots of Poverty Project  Report Card on Child Poverty: Saskatoon, 2000/2001   Gender and Poverty Project “Off Welfare…Now What?”, Labour Force Attachment Project

Our members include:

 Not for profit local organizations  Community members from core neighbourhoods  Other concerned citizens

Welfare Reform In Saskatchewan

The Building Independence program was launched in July 1998 as Saskatchewan’s version of a reformed and inventive welfare to work program. It includes these programs:   Jobs First -using a call centre as the first point of access for new applicants. -involves group meetings where participants are made aware of local job opportunities. TEA (Transitional Employment Allowance) -designed for SAP applicants deemed to be employable, a shorter time period and fewer benefits

Labour Force Attachment Programs In Saskatchewan

    Family Health Benefits: provides a small amount of supplementary health benefits to low income working families The Provincial Training Allowance: provides a monthly allowance to students enrolled in education or education related courses The Saskatchewan Employment Supplement: a monthly payment to supplement lower income families; The Saskatchewan Child Benefit: a monthly allowance for low income families with children (clawed back from families receiving social assistance, tieing benefits for children to labour force attachment of their parents)

Genesis of the Project..

  The Saskatchewan provincial government states that there have been significant reductions in the number of people receiving income assistance due to job training programs. Reductions in the number of citizens accessing social assistance is viewed as a success, however, quality of life for those leaving social assistance is less certain.

This qualitative research project examines the quality of life for recipients of job training programs.

How we approached this task…

 a Steering Committee was created to ensure the project remained grass-roots driven  Project participants were recruited via word of mouth from coalition members and by staff at a local employment centre  Unique group-analysis of results

Off Welfare… Now What?

Interview Process

   Interviews were conducted with twenty-five participants over a one-month period. Information collected through the interviews included demographic information, personal experiences with DCRE and the job training programs, barriers to finding work, specific experiences with the DCRE Call Centre, Participants rated indicators of well-being based on the usefulness of the job training programs in which they participated.

Off Welfare… Now What?

Demographics of the interviewees

        25 interviews 18 women/ 7 men Aged 21-49, average age of 35 2 rural; many moving on and off reserve 17 aboriginal 12 were “hidden homeless” 17 single mothers 13 with post-secondary education

Group Analysis

   A process that brought together 9 people from the community, including six Coalition members for a one-day event held in a community meeting room.

Each group analysis participant received interview transcripts of two or three of the research participants and was asked to ‘represent’ them during the analysis Participants reviewed the interviews (data) beforehand to try to understand the life story of the research participants. This information was then used to create headings (themes) for the group session.


               Racism disrespectful treatment housing/stability hidden homelessness mental health over-qualification no flexibility for different circumstances access to education transportation issues unsupportive job market child care punitive measures for those trying to get ahead need to manipulate the system to get ahead food insecurity disability barrier

Major Findings

 Bureaucratic disentitlement  Beaver dam  Casualties of war

Bureaucratic Disentitlement

Barriers to accessing social assistance include excessive requests for information, long application processes and appeals, and confusing language.

Also called “Rituals of Degradation”

The Beaver Dam

a cyclical situation where events have such an impact on each other that there is no way to try to separate the barriers that some interview participants were facing.

Causalities of War

Those who are victimized by the Social Services system. They often move between low-wage employment and social assistance, regardless of the work or training program in which they are involved and remaining a part of the cycle.


Group analysis participants raised the assumptions that people have around the issue of social welfare:

1) It is easy to find a job, especially because the job market is good in Saskatchewan


2) Possessing an education guarantees one a job, or, similarly, people on assistance are not educated and do not value education


3) Aboriginal people do not value work and education like “the rest of society.” 4) Social assistance and job training programs try to help people get ahead so that they can get off social assistance.


1) The number of people out of work in Saskatchewan is 68,816 2) 13 of the 25 people interviewed had post-secondary education and were still looking for work. 3) Seventeen of the people interviewed were Aboriginal, and all of them were looking for work. 4) The experiences of the interview participants demonstrate that job training programs have not allowed them to get ahead, and, as a result, most of them report being trapped in the “social assistance cycle.”


While labour force attachment programs teach participants necessary skills to look for work and provide access to education, they have not directly improved welfare recipients’ ability to find work in today’s challenging labour market. Furthermore, the social assistance system in Saskatchewan does not promote the health and well-being of its recipients through its work, and creates a cyclical system of despair that negatively affects the physical, mental, and emotional health of those whom it purports to serve.

Poverty, it seems, makes people sick.