N.L. launches basic income program for youths receiving government support

The department is working with Waypoints, a St. John's organization that offers residential and support services to young people and families, to expand support beginning in 2023.

Program will cost about $3M annually, says minister

A middle-aged man wearing a black suit with a red tie speaks with reporters. He stands in front of a banner showing Newfoundland and Labrador's logo, along with a logo from Waypoints that reads 'A leader in providing care for children, youth & their families.'
Children, Seniors and Social Development Minister John Abbott says the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation is working to expand services across the province. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador is creating a new basic income program that will increase funding and enhance support for teenagers and young adults receiving government support.

The basic income program, announced Tuesday, will provide more than $600 extra per month, according to the provincial government, and will boost existing financial and employment counselling, support for mental health and addictions, support for tutoring and education, and life-skills programming.

About 300 people between 16 and 21 receive housing support and services through the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, according to a press release from the department.

According to a spokesperson from the department, they currently receive about $1,200 a month to help with shelter, food, clothing and other basic necessities.

The government is working with various community groups, including Waypoints, a St. John's organization that offers residential and support services to young people and families, to expand support beginning in 2023.

Children, Seniors and Social Development Minister John Abbott said Tuesday the program also applies to youths transitioning from the in-care program or youths age 16 or 17 in need of protective intervention and who are unable to live in their family home.

"What we've determined based on the analysis that we've done, the recommendations from the Health Accord, is that they need more support. Both financial and programming. And that's what we're doing here today," Abbott told reporters following the announcement. "That's something we think is long overdue." 

A provincial basic income plan is a key recommendation of Newfoundland and Labrador's Health Accord, the provincial blueprint outlining long-term fixes for the provincial health-care system, including finding ways to improve the social determinants of health.

Abbott said the program will cost about $3 million annually. It also works differently than a traditional basic income plan, he said, as it will need to be more than just writing a cheque.

"We know, because of their lived experience, that they need other supports. Whether it's counselling, financial literacy, direction around which training programs might work for them. So we're acting, quote unquote, 'in place of the parent' in this transition phase," he said.

"If this program works the way we think it will, then that will lead to less reliance on income support and, actually, folks will live better, productive lives."

A middle-aged man with receding brown hair speaks in front of a microphone following a funding announcement.
Rick Kelly, executive director of Waypoints, says the program will go a long way in helping youths get off government support. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Waypoints executive director Rick Kelly said Tuesday the program will go a long way in helping youths who need government support make the transition to the workforce or an education. 

"Seeing young people leave care, we know we need to support them in their obstacles to employment and school. And facing those barriers, barriers like, you know, friendship, company, sometimes companionship, and of course financial," he said.

"Our young people have the skills. Now they'll have the financial support, the increased financial support, and the wraparound supports. That's going to make a huge difference."

A white two-storey home in St, John's. The tiles on the roof are grey, and there are nine windows across the front of the home.
Pathways, on LeMarchant Road in St. John's, offers residential and support services to young people and families. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Interim NDP Leader Jim Dinn said the announcement is a step in the right direction and he hopes the provincial government will do more in acknowledging income support plays a key role in lifting people out of poverty.

"I think it hits on everything we've been saying as well in terms of the social determinants of health as identified by the Health Accord N.L.," he said. "Let's move on now with a broader approach which is going to lift everyone, a lot more people out of poverty."

Abbott said it's too early to say if basic income programs will be expanded to other populations but the creation of an all-party committee to explore the topic is underway. He hopes the committee will meet for the first time next month.

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