HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA - May 15, 2001 Progress made on improving the health and well-being of children in Canada was the main topic at the semi-annual meeting of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services, held in Halifax on May 14 and 15, 2001. Ministers also expressed an ongoing commitment to address disability issues.
The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2000, released on April 30, 2001, indicates that fewer children across Canada are living in poverty and more low-income families are earning money from employment and leaving welfare. The report notes that the percentage of families with children living in low income dropped from 20.5 per cent in 1996 to 18 per cent in 1998.
“While Canada’s strong economic performance has been a key factor in reducing the percentage of families living in low income, the National Child Benefit (NCB) has also supported this positive trend,” noted the Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada. “The NCB is increasing child benefits and services for low-income families and improving work incentives by lowering the welfare wall.”
The NCB will be further enhanced by close to $300 per child, per year in July 2001. For example, a low-income family with two children will receive an annual benefit of up to $4,544. This enhancement, combined with a strong economy, along with a wide range of provincial and territorial reinvestments, should result in continued progress in improving the lives of families with children.
In September 2000, federal, provincial and territorial First Ministers committed to improve and expand early childhood development supports and services. Implementation of the commitments made by First Ministers on Early Childhood Development (ECD) is the shared responsibility of Social Services and Health Ministers. The Government of Canada will transfer $2.2 billion to provincial and territorial governments over the next five years, beginning on April 1, 2001. These funds will be used to build on and complement the existing wide array of provincial-territorial programs and services. Ministers reported at the meeting on the new ECD programs and services they are introducing.
The result for families will be better access to programs that are important to children’s development, such as prenatal nutrition and support programs, parent education, and child care and preschool programs.
“Ministers agreed that they need both the NCB and ECD to support further improvements in the health and well being of Canadian children,’* noted Saskatchewan Minister Harry Van Mulligen, who co-chaired the Ministers' meeting with Minister Stewart. “Our goal is to provide parents with the support they need to give their children a good start in life.”
Ministers also endorsed the joint work underway on a feasibility study for a disability supports and a labour market needs analysis for persons with disabilities. The two initiatives will advance the objectives outlined in the In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues policy framework. They noted that a productive meeting with representatives of the disability community and Aboriginal organizations was held in April 2001 to solicit input on the two areas of joint work.
Ministers also welcomed the launch, in April, of Disability Weblinks, a dedicated internet site on government programs and services for persons with disabilities.
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The NCB Progress Report 2000 can be found at www.nationalchildbenefit.ca
First Ministers’ September 11, 2000, news release on the Early Childhood Development initiative can be found at http://www.scics.gc.ca
Disability Weblinks can be found at www.disabilityweblinks.ca
For more information, please contact:
Minister Stewart’s Office
Director of Communications
Nova Scotia Community Services
* While Quebec supports the general principles of the National Child Benefit, the Early Childhood Development and the In Unison initiatives, it did not participate in the development of these initiatives because it intends to preserve the sole responsibility for its family policy. Consequently, all references to viewpoints shared by the federal, provincial and territorial governments in this document do not include the Government of Quebec.