The number of people in Alberta collecting social assistance soared to 54,374 in January 2017, according to the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.
The publication Social Policy Trends looked at the number of people collecting income support (excluding AISH) between April 2005 and January 2017.
Scroll down to read the full report.
Research found that number was low (24,205) in October 2006 before rising to 40,177 in April 2010.
The numbers indicate the volume of claimants didn’t fall back to pre-recession levels even after the Alberta economy stabilized. In October 2013, the number had only decreased to 32,659.
Then, the 2015-2016 downturn hit and the numbers soared, “with no clear sign of levelling off,” the publication reads.
“For social agencies, these numbers signal what will likely be increased demands for their services in the near future.”
According to researchers Ron Kneebone and Margarita Wilkins, provincially-funded income supports are social assistance funds received when other supports, like EI, run out.
“What’s really concerning is that there appears little sign of the line plateauing,” Kneebone said. “There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of ‘green shoots’ for these folks.
“And remember, these numbers don’t include AISH, so the overall social assistance number is much larger. Rising caseloads are often an indication of future demand for the help provided by social agencies and for that reason, as well as many others, these numbers are troubling.”
The paper names lower oil prices, difficulty gaining approval for new pipelines and the Fort McMurray wildfires as reasons for job losses, income drops and uncertainty.
It said while unemployment, GDP and the number of job losses are common measures of economic health, the number of people relying on social assistance is another helpful indicator.
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