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A unique partnership of the Government of Canada, Provinces and Territories and First Nations

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What is the National Child Benefit?

The National Child Benefit (NCB) initiative is a partnership among the federal, provincial and territorial governments1 which extends to First Nations, and First Nations that aims to help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty, support parents as they move into the labour market and reduce overlap and duplication of government programs.

How the NCB Works

The NCB combines two key elements: monthly payments to low-income families with children, and benefits and services designed and delivered by the provinces and territories to meet the needs of families with children in each jurisdiction.

Under the NCB, the Government of Canada has increased the benefits it pays through the NCB Supplement to low-income families with children, regardless of their source of income. Provinces and territories and First Nations have the flexibility to adjust social assistance or child benefit payments by an amount equivalent to the NCB Supplement. These social assistance adjustments have allowed provinces and territories and First Nations to pay for new and enhanced benefits and services for low-income families with children.

In all jurisdictions, no family receiving social assistance experienced a reduction in its overall level of income support as a result of the NCB.

Lowering the “Welfare Wall”

Before the NCB, moving from social assistance into a paying job often meant only a minimal increase in family income for low-income parents. It could also mean a loss of other valuable benefits, including health, dental and prescription drug benefits. As a result, families could find themselves financially worse off in low paying jobs as compared with being on welfare - a situation known as the “welfare wall”.

The NCB works to reduce the welfare wall by providing child benefits outside of welfare and ensuring that enhanced benefits and services continue when parents move from social assistance to paid employment.

1Although the Government of Quebec has stated it agrees with the basic principles of the NCB, it chose not to participate in the NCB because it wanted to assume control over income support for children in Quebec. Quebec has adopted an approach similar to the NCB, but references to federal, provincial, territorial positions on this website do not include Quebec.