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Canada child benefit seen as fighting poverty – as long as provinces co-operate

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Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 12:33 GMT, Jul 14, 2016 |
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Next week’s rollout of the Canada child benefit has been billed as a significant move to fight child poverty. But that move only succeeds if governments don’t give with one hand and take with the other.

That’s why anti-child poverty activists at Campaign 2000 were tracking confirmation from all provinces and territories that the payments low-income families receive under the new federal program will not be clawed back from existing social assistance programs.

“We know from international research that child benefits are absolutely an essential element in a child poverty reduction strategy,” said Sid Frankel, a member of the group’s national steering committee and an associate professor in the University of Manitoba’s faculty of social work.

“It would be hard for the federal government to meet its poverty reduction commitment if the provinces did claw back, because they would be neutralizing at least part of the effect of the benefit.”

The size of the child benefit for families with less than $30,000 in net annual household income is significant — $6,400 for each child under six and $5,400 for children aged six through 17. Families with disabled children get even more.

The 2016 federal budget estimated that about 300,000 fewer children would live in poverty in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15, as a result of the increased benefit.

The new money replaces several programs, including the federal-provincial national child benefit, which was also income-tested and targeted at low-income kids, but not as substantial as the new program.