Changes Needed for Women on Social Assistance

Monday, July 26 2010

Two Regina researchers have identified important changes need for women living in poverty and on social assistance. Their report will be launched in Regina on Thursday.

One of the major findings is that women on social assistance need advocates to help them access services and benefits, and that this is true in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The report indicates that women often are not receiving the benefits they should, and this creates hardships and stress that are harmful to their health.

"The right to appeal delays or reductions in welfare benefits is fundamental to women's health and economic security," says Bonnie Morton, study co-author, and advocate with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry. "Yet for many reasons, women face numerous barriers that hinder their ability to appeal decisions that cause harm."

"Welfare rates are not really adequate to start with, and having some of these benefits withheld only compounds the difficulties women face in trying to create a decent life for themselves and their families." In doing the research, Morton drew on interviews with women on social assistance, anti-poverty advocates and agencies working with people living in poverty.

The report contains a number of recommendations for ways to provide advocacy services.

In her section of the report, Josephine Savarese, a lawyer and professor at the University of Regina, analyzed changes in social assistance policy in Saskatchewan and Manitoba over the last decade. She questions whether recent changes in federal funding and new provincial programs are really improvements.

"We need a fair wage policy for women on assistance and for women in the workplace" Savarese explains. "The research continues to demonstrate wide scale poverty among women. We want to see the recommendations in this report and others implemented to ensure that women's contributions to society, through unpaid caregiving, in the labour force and in the community are recognized."

The report points out that Canada is a signatory to human rights documents affirming human dignity. "We want to see this achieved for women living in poverty through adequate assistance benefits, thoughtful programs to labour market entry and supports like child care and accessible adult education."

Women and Social Assistance Policy in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is part of a series of reports by Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence examining social assistance policies in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and their effects on women's health. Two other reports in the series are:

These reports are available on the PWHCE website or by contacting PWHCE.

The Authors

Bonnie Morton (Bachelor of Human Justice - BHJ) has worked as an anti-poverty advocate for the past nineteen years. In the past she served as the President of the National Anti-Poverty Organization.

Bonnie is currently the Vice Chair of the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, the Chair of the Equality Advisory Committee of the Court challenges Program, and sits on the Board of the Court Challenges Program. She has received the Keith Couse award for social justice work, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, and the International Helen Prize for humanitarian service, and recently received the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal (all of these awards have recognized Bonnie for her work in the area of social and economic justice.)

Josephine Savarese (BA (Honours), LL.B., LL.M.) has experience as a criminal and family lawyer. She is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Justice Studies at the University of Regina. She conducts research on issues of poverty, health and women's rights. Josephine's publications include Exploring the Intersections Between Women's Health and Poverty, published by PWHCE.

For more information contact:

Joanne Havelock, Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence
E-mail:, Cell (306) 535-9570, Tel: (306) 585-5727

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