OTTAWA, ON – March 22, 2016 – The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) welcomes Budget 2016’s investments in children and families, seniors, and Indigenous peoples and communities. While Growing the Middle Class falls short of comprehensively addressing poverty, it provides a refreshing step towards a more progressive path and marks the return of cooperative federal leadership to Canada.
“While CASW would have preferred an emphasis on shrinking poverty and addressing inequality as opposed to Growing the Middle Class, it certainly responds to many of CASW’s key advocacy efforts throughout the previous government’s administration” notes CASW President Morel Caissie.
In particular, Growing the Middle Class addresses CASW’s call for reconciliation by providing funds to Indigenous communities for education, child welfare, and physical and social infrastructure. Moreover, the budget introduces an income-tested, tax free Canada Child Benefit that stands to greatly benefit families most in need. Additionally, the budget makes targeted investments in single seniors most at risk of poverty by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement by 10%, and returning eligibility for the Old Age Security benefit to 65 for all Canadians.
“The GIS increase is welcome, of course, but many seniors will still live below the poverty line. CASW would have preferred that the government take one more step toward the development of a basic income program to help lift all Canadians out of poverty,” said Caissie.
Earmarked mental health investments are conspicuously absent from Budget 2016. “CASW is very concerned about the lack of concern for mental health services and funding in this budget – mental health is as important to Canadians as physical health and deserves to be recognized as such,” states Caissie.
As Budget 2016 takes steps towards comprehensively addressing the social determinants of health through social infrastructure and income supports, the tone of these investments is also noteworthy.
“Social workers are always happy when programs are enhanced to provide relief and support to Canadians who need it most, and the GIS top up and new tax free Canada Child Benefit respect Canadians' dignity and support their self-determination. While this budget does not implement a basic income, which could be a key piece of a national poverty reduction strategy, its support for some of Canada’s most vulnerable is refreshing,” concluded Caissie.
For further information:
Fred Phelps, MSW, RSW
CASW Executive Director