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May 30, 2012
For immediate release
Social Action Plan outlines direction to prevent and reduce poverty
Community Services and Seniors
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Prince Edward Island’s Social Action Plan to Reduce Poverty maps out how government will protect and support low income Islanders over the next three years, says Minister of Community Services and Seniors Valerie E. Docherty.
“Prince Edward Island’s first provincial Social Action Plan reflects our government’s fundamental commitment to supporting Islanders in need,” said Minister Docherty. “It will protect and enhance the standard of living and quality of life for those who are not able to participate in the labour force. It will help people move out of poverty by strengthening their educational and economic opportunities. And it will prevent poverty by building on the solid social policy that has been implemented by this government over the past five years.”
The Social Action Plan protects and builds on many existing social programs such as health care, education, early learning and child care. In addition to these services, the provincial government invests more than $100 million each year in programs directly aimed at reducing poverty, and tens of millions more in programs that prevent poverty and support social inclusion. Since 2009, more than $16 million in new funding has been added to these programs.
P.E.I.’s Social Action Plan provides clear direction to protect the gains made in health, education and social services over the past five years by ensuring that there are no reductions in these departmental budgets over the next three years.
As government implements its three-year plan to balance the budget, new investments of $4 million will be made to prevent and reduce poverty.
Programs and services, such as child care subsidies, social assistance benefits and eligibility levels, will be reviewed and enhanced where necessary.
Among the new initiatives to be implemented are: 60 additional rent supplements through a new investment of $800,000; new grants of up to $5,000 to help families renovate their homes to keep seniors home longer; two new Early Years Centres; a $500 increase in the Seniors Home Repair program grant; HST exemptions and rebates for low and modest income families; lower drug costs through new generic drug programs; and an expert review of Mental Health and Addictions services.
The Social Action Plan was developed following consultations with a wide range of groups representing low and modest income individuals and families, persons with disabilities, business, labour, health, women, Aboriginal persons and newcomers.
“The plan was developed based on these consultations, and I want to thank everyone who shared their views with us,” said Minister Docherty. “Feedback from Islanders gave us clear direction on how best to prevent and reduce poverty in Prince Edward Island.”
Copies of Prince Edward Island’s Social Action Plan to Reduce Poverty are available online at www.gov.pe.ca.
The percentage of Islanders with low income according to the Market Basket Measure, has steadily dropped from 12.8 % in 2002 to 8.8 % in 2009. This is the lowest it has been in many years and the lowest of any jurisdiction in Canada.
The groups in Prince Edward Island who are most at risk of living in poverty are single families, singles aged 45-64, persons with disabilities, Aboriginals and newcomers. Following are some of the major supports offered by government to low income Islanders.
• The Community Services and Seniors budget for 2012-2013 is $93.1 million, approximately $10 million more than it was five years ago.
• This year’s budget includes a $2 million increase for the Social Assistance program. Funding for this program increased by 16% over the past five years.
• Government will provide $7.6 million this year in community grants to non-government organizations who support Islanders at the community level.
• In the last three years, funding for early childhood education has almost doubled to more than $10 million. The Pre-school Excellence initiative, with its strengthened focus on early literacy and learning, is one of the most significant initiatives ever undertaken in Prince Edward Island to break the cycle of poverty and to give all Island children a chance to reach their full potential.
• Children across the Island now have equitable access to high quality learning and child care, and there are fewer barriers to prevent parents from returning to work.
• During the past four years, an additional $23 million has been provided directly to students, making post-secondary education more affordable for all Islanders.
• The provincial government will make $10.8 million available this year for housing for low income Islanders. In the past four years, 340 new social housing units were added, bringing the total number of social housing units on the Island to 1,557.
• P.E.I. has one of the most comprehensive seniors drug programs in Canada. All seniors are eligible for this program when they turn 65.
• This year, government will provide $11.3 million to support persons with disabilities through the Disability Support Program (DSP). Approximately 1,500 Islanders or about 1% of the population receive DSP. About half of DSP clients also receive social assistance benefits.
• Mental health and addictions issues put people at greater risk for poverty, and they can prevent young people from ever reaching their full potential. Government will implement an expert review of mental health and addictions services this year.
Government’s major priority for the next three years is to strengthen the economy so that more Islanders are able to work and earn a good income.