Welfare in Winnipeg's inner city: exploring the myths.
Subject: Social service (Management)
Inner cities (Social aspects)
Welfare reform (Analysis)
Welfare reform (Management)
Poverty (Control)
Poverty (Canada)
Authors: Sheldrick, Byron M.
Dyck, Harold
Michell, Claudette
Myers, Troy
Pub Date: 06/22/2006
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Summer, 2006 Source Volume: 15 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics; 290 Public affairs Computer Subject: Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 155783068
Full Text: Abstract

This paper explores welfare myths through the lens of the experiences of welfare recipients in Winnipeg's inner city. A sample of welfare recipients were interviewed and asked questions about their reliance on welfare and their experience with the welfare bureaucracy. The results of these interviews are used 1) to develop a better understanding of who utilizes income assistance in the inner city; 2) to identify what sorts of problems and difficulties they encounter with the welfare system and 3) to remedy some of the pervasive myths of welfare use that continue to dominate policy discussions in this area. The paper concludes that restructuring of welfare administration will do little to reduce reliance on welfare by individuals in the inner city. Rather, broader structural issues such as economic development, education, health care, and child care are critical for moving people from welfare to work.

Keywords: Social assistance, poverty, welfare reform, advocacy


Cet article explore des mythes d'assistance sociale par l'objectif des experiences des recipients d'assistance sociale dans le centre urbain de Winnipeg. Comme le groupe des recipients d'assistance sociale ont ete interviewes et ont pose des questions sur leur confiance dans le bien-etre et leur experience avec la bureaucratie d'assistance sociale. Les resultats de ces entrevues sont employes a 1) pour developper un meilleur arrangement de qui utilise l'aide de revenu dans le centre urbain; 2) pour identifier quelles sortes de problemes et de difficultes ils rencontrent avec le systeme d'assistance sociale et 3) pour remedier des mythes dominants de l'utilisation d'assistance sociale qui continuent a dominer des discussions de politique dans ce secteur. Le papier conclut que la restructuration de l'administration d'assistance sociale fera peu pour reduire la confiance dans le bien-etre par des individus dans le centre urbain. Plutot, de plus larges issues structurales telles que le developpement economique, l'education, la sante, et l'assistance a l'enfance sont critiques pour les personnes mobiles du bien-etre pour fonctionner.

Mots cles: Eassistance sociale, pauvrete, reforme d'assistance sociale, le conseil

For residents of the inner city access to state income assistance programs is vital. These programs provide an important source of income support for many inner city residents. Proposals for welfare reform, therefore, have a disproportionate impact on inner city residents. Restructuring of state welfare whether it is simply the cutting of benefit rates or the development of workfare schemes--will significantly affect the lives of many inner city residents. While there have been numerous studies of welfare systems, and no shortage of recommendations for change and restructuring, relatively few studies (or policy makers for that matter) have asked welfare recipients for their opinions about how the system operates. The 1989 report of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Committee entitled Transitions was considered groundbreaking for having working groups made up of social assistance recipients and for incorporating into the final report the views of recipients. The framing of the Committee's recommendations around these "voices" distinguished it from many such policy documents. (1)

The failure to "listen" to those who rely on social assistance reflects a number of underlying assumptions and attitudes about the nature of welfare and the nature of those who need it. Our welfare system is underpinned by the notion that the poor can be distinguished between those who are deserving and those who are not. Single parents, for example, often receive better treatment within the welfare system than single individuals. Their parental status makes them more deserving of state assistance, while the single individual is considered someone who is able to work, but chooses not to. Consequently they are seen as undeserving and their benefits are often extremely minimal and well below what is required for a decent standard of living. It is the intention of this paper to examine some of these assumptions through the development of a profile of welfare recipients in Winnipeg's inner city. The objective behind the paper is threefold: 1) to develop a better understanding of who utilizes income assistance in the inner city; 2) to identify what sorts of problems/difficulties they encounter with the welfare system and 3) to remedy some of the pervasive myths of welfare use that continue to dominate policy discussions in this area.

Within the broader structure of the welfare state it is fair to say that those who rely on social assistance programs--those programs aimed at the most needy and destitute--are generally characterized as undeserving. This results in a number of assumptions about welfare recipients. While generally these assumptions are well known and hardly need repetition, it is worth briefly noting some of the most significant. (2) First, understanding the poor as undeserving transforms poverty from a structural and collective problem to an individual problem. Consequently, it is often assumed that welfare recipients are lazy, able but unwilling to work, and therefore sympathy for their plight is unwarranted. The "welfare cheat" becomes a pervasive image that defines the structure of welfare programs. Even those who are considered relatively "deserving" within this structure do not escape this characterization. So-called "spouse in the house" rules and media portrayals of single mothers as individuals who deliberately get pregnant to increase their benefits are examples. As a result, it is assumed that coercive measures are required in order to "force" those on welfare to look for work. (Shragge1997; Sheldrick 1998)

Empirical studies have revealed that many of the assumptions made about welfare recipients are, in fact, false. They are myths. (Law 1997) Despite this, they continue to inform much of the policy work that is done around the welfare question. In the context of Winnipeg's inner city, our survey of welfare recipients demonstrates a range of structural impediments that makes it difficult for them to move from the welfare system to paid employment. Many of the assumptions about the individual nature of the "welfare problem", therefore, are unsupportable.

These assumptions about the undeserving nature of welfare recipients, however, also affect the way in which policy has been developed in this area. Policy analysis in this field often does not integrate the actual experiences of welfare recipients into the policy mix. (Sheldrick 1998) Rather, the voices of experts--social workers, policy analysts, welfare case workers, etc.,--are privileged. Generally welfare systems are structured in an extremely undemocratic fashion and it is assumed by policy makers that welfare recipients have little knowledge or experience that is worthwhile. Consequently, they are disenfranchised from participating in discussions about the nature of welfare policy or how welfare should be delivered. They are frequently treated in a manner that is little more than the mass processing of people by welfare officials. Those officials have little capacity to engage the individual in creative solutions to their problems, and even less inclination to try. Many welfare offices appear to be little more than a bureaucratic version of the Dickensian poor house. The processes may be different--paper and forms may have replaced forced labour--but the despair and alienation created by these administrative structures is very similar. That despair is reflected in the responses of people as to how dealing with welfare officials made them feel.

There are a number of advantages to hearing about these issues from the perspective of the welfare recipient. First, the experience of the service recipient and those responsible for delivering the service may vary considerably. The problems and difficulties that a welfare case worker might identify may not be the same as those that are of concern to the welfare recipient. In other instances both might identify the same problem, but see two completely different solutions. At the end of the day, however, it is the welfare recipient whose life is most profoundly affected and structured by the welfare system. That is not to say that the opinions of front line workers and policy analysts are not important. It is to say, however, that this is only one perspective on a complex problem. While the welfare recipient may lack technical expertise about the way the system operates, they may possess considerable social expertise from living within the system. This is a valuable body of knowledge that needs to be documented and incorporated into policy discussions on this issue. (3)

This paper is divided into three sections. The first section outlines the methodology employed in the study. The second looks at the question of why people are on welfare. It documents welfare recipient's own understanding of their situation, with an assessment of their educational background and work history. It also discusses what obstacles exist to the successful transition from welfare to work. In this way we confront the broad myths that unemployment and poverty in the inner city are individual problems and document the structural nature of the problem. The third section looks at the experience of individuals within the welfare system. The so-called "welfare cheat" is often portrayed as a cunning operator who is adept at manipulating the welfare system. The evidence, however, indicates that individuals are generally ill-informed of the complexities of the welfare system and many of their difficulties with welfare officials stem from poor communication and a lack of understanding. This image of the welfare recipient points to the need for greater education and advocacy on behalf of welfare recipients, rather than greater prosecution, surveillance and coercion.


The intention of the project was to generate a random sample of welfare recipients who would be interviewed. The interview respondents were selected from amongst the clients of a grass-roots organization known as the Low Income Intermediary Project (LIIP). This group provides advice and advocacy services for welfare recipients. Interview respondents were selected to be representative of the major categories of welfare recipients. Initially case files were reviewed and divided according to the primary categories of income assistance recipients: single mothers, disabled welfare recipients, and single employable welfare recipients. From these groups a random sample of clients was generated. Efforts were made to ensure equal numbers of men and women. In addition, inner-city Winnipeg has a very large urban Aboriginal population, so the initial sample was designed to also include equal numbers of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal respondents. In total 95 welfare recipients were interviewed. (4)

In the end the interview sample was not rigorously random in nature. In addition to those selected to be interviewed from amongst the LIIP case files, a number of individuals simply appeared at the LIIP offices seeking to be interviewed. Current clients who learned of the project were also often interested in participating. Interviewees were paid a small honorarium of $20.00 and this led to a number of people coming for interviews who were as much interested in the money as they were the project. Some people were simply not interviewed. However, if individuals fit within the parameters of the research project they were interviewed. In total 62 women and 33 men were interviewed. As well, 68 of the interviewees were Aboriginal and 27 were non-Aboriginal.

These figures, in part, reflect the nature of welfare in the inner city, as well as the nature of LIIP's client base. The population of the inner city is increasingly Aboriginal, and so it is no surprise that Aboriginal people make up a considerable percentage of those from the inner city in receipt of benefits. As well, it appeared that women were more interested in participating in the survey. Almost all of the women interviewed had children and many were single parents. One possible explanation is that these women had a stronger interest in the welfare system and greater stake in seeing changes to the welfare system than men and therefore willing to participate in the survey. In total, 31 single mothers, 26 disabled individuals and 38 single employable individuals were interviewed. The following table indicates the total number of respondents for each category.

The number of respondents in some categories is too small to provide reliable statistical results. However, the responses of these individuals did provide interesting and important insights into the nature of life on welfare in Winnipeg's inner city and, by and large, were consistent with the responses of most of the other respondents.

The interviews were designed as open-ended interviews that invited the respondents to elaborate and offer their own opinions and insights. A sample questionnaire appears at the end of the paper. Each interview lasted anywhere from 30--90 minutes in duration. While some respondents did, in fact, open up and provide considerable elaboration, many did not. As indicated above, this was particularly the case for male respondents.

The overall age of the respondents was 38.4 years. Table 2 details average age by respondent category.

It is not surprising that the average age of disabled welfare recipients (44 years for all categories of disabled individuals) would be somewhat higher than average. This reflects the increased difficulties and barriers disabled individuals face in the labour market. These problems are exacerbated at the low end of the income scale where the physical demands of labour may be higher and accommodations less available. (Stienstra 2004)

It may be somewhat surprising that the average age of single mothers (30 years) is not lower. A pervasive welfare myth is that the income assistance system is abused by teenaged mothers who have children as a means of increasing their benefits. Such a conclusion does not seem supported by the data. Moreover, this data is consistent with other studies of poverty. Kerr and Beaujot's study of child poverty and family structure in Canada suggests that in 1997 only 9.7% of lone parents falling below Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut off were below the age of 25. By contrast nearly 41% of lone parents were between the ages of 25 and 34 and another 50% percent were above the age of 35. (Kerr and Beajot 2001, Table 2).

Many of the respondents had more children than the national average of 1.3 (Table 3). The average number of children in the household for all respondents was 2.2. This figure is not nearly as high as the welfare myths would suggest. As a whole, the women interviewed represent a relatively mature group of women who are clearly struggling to piece together a sufficient income to provide for their children. The average number of children for male respondents was significantly lower than for their female counterparts, reflecting the fact that child-rearing remains predominantly the responsibility of women in the inner city. Male respondents, on average, had only 1.4 children living in the household with them, while female respondents on average had 3 children living with them in the household.

Welfare: Structural versus Individual Factors

A persistent assumption that underpins welfare policy is the notion that welfare systems create a form of dependency that traps individuals. (NCLEJ 1996; Law 1997; Sheldrick 2000) "[he critical problem, from this perspective, is restoring individual willingness whether through coercion or incentives--to engage in wage labour. This perspective depends on a number of interrelated assumptions. First, that individuals are trapped on welfare. Welfare, from this perspective, has become a cradle to grave support system that crosses generations. Second, that jobs are available but people simply lack the will to take them.

An assessment of the length of time individuals spend on welfare demonstrates that some welfare recipients do rely on income assistance for extended periods of time. However, this is far from universal.

Forty-one percent of the total respondents had been on income assistance less than two years and 57% of respondents had been on assistance for less than 5 years. At the same time, nearly 41% of respondents indicated that they had been on some form of income assistance for longer than this. This may reflect the fact that LIIP's client base is disproportionately composed of individuals who are relatively new to the welfare system and are seeking assistance to deal with initial problems and difficulties.

However, a closer look at the data suggests a more complex pattern. First, for single mothers and disabled individuals a higher proportion of respondents had been on income assistance for much longer periods of time. When all categories are combined, 61% of single mothers had been on income assistance for more than 6 years and 29% for more than 11 years. For disabled respondents 38.5% of respondents had been on income assistance for more than 6 years and 23% for more than 11 years. For single mothers the extended duration of time on income assistance represents the length of time needed to raise a family, while for disabled claimants it represents the lack of employment opportunities and accommodations for disabled individuals.

Men were generally on income assistance for relatively shorter periods of time. When all categories of male respondents are combined 88% of respondents had been on income assistance for less than 5 years and 63% of respondents had been on income assistance for less than 2 years. This should not, however, be interpreted as an indication that these men had successfully made the transition from welfare into paid employment. Seventy-five percent of all respondents indicated that they had been on income assistance previously. In the case of male respondents 88% had been on welfare previously. It may be that that men move into a series of short-term, frequently low paid jobs that interrupt their time on income assistance. This is reflected by the fact that over half of male respondents indicated that they had been employed in non-skilled manual labour. In the inner city this sort of work is frequently short term and rarely permanent. Male respondents indicated to the interviewers that they had difficulty obtaining permanent and full time employment. Over the long term, therefore, these intervals of paid employment may not significantly lessen the overall reliance of these individuals on income assistance.

Table 5 documents the employment history of the respondents. Nearly 70% of the respondents reported having participated in some form of paid employment while 33% responded that they had never previously worked. Given the average age of the respondents it is remarkable that nearly one third of the sample had not previously been engaged in paid employment. This high rate of non-participation in the labour market may reflect an absence of jobs and economic opportunities in the inner city or an absence of skills and capacities on the part of the individuals. Respondents consistently reported that they wanted to work, but were unable to find jobs. This problem was particularly acute for women and for disabled individuals. Forty-two percent of female respondents had not worked while nearly one third of disabled respondents had previously had no employment. This compared to only 18% of male respondents reporting no previous employment. Again, the lack of accommodation for both child care responsibilities and disability must be considered primary factors in explaining these differences. Men, particularly able bodied men, were better able to take advantage of short term labouring jobs than women and disabled individuals.

The type of jobs taken up by individuals is reflective of a lack of good jobs for inner city residents in general and welfare recipients in particular. The largest concentrations of employment for female income assistance recipients were in the retail, food services, and child care sectors. Nearly 44% of women respondents had held jobs in these areas. This primarily had involved jobs at fast food outlets, small shops and grocery stores. Another 11% of female respondents indicated that they had previously held clerical jobs as secretaries, receptionists or clerks. Another 11% reported having been employed in child care. While some had worked for child care centres, most reported simply having "baby-sitting" jobs of one sort or another. Eighteen percent of female respondents reported jobs that were characterized as manual unskilled labour. These primarily involved jobs of a janitorial or custodial nature. A number of women reported having worked in laundries or cleaning in institutional settings such as hospitals, schools, or in private homes.

For men, on the other hand, the primary employment category was in the unskilled manual labour category. Fifty-five percent of men in the single employable category of income assistance had engaged in this type of work (57% of Aboriginal men and 50% of non-Aboriginal men). Even for disabled men this was the single largest category of employment with 45% of men in this category reporting having engaged in this sort of labour. Typical of this category included jobs in construction, janitorial work, gardening (grass-cutting, etc.), and warehouse work.

Of note, very few respondents worked in industrial or skilled labour settings. Only 6% of respondents fell within this category. Even fewer respondents had experience in the so-called new economy job sector. This sector of the economy includes those economic enterprises and industries based on new information technologies. The new economy is often held out as providing a vehicle for improving the economic condition of those individuals who have been traditionally excluded from traditional manufacturing industries (MacKenzie et al. 2005). Only two respondents (2.1%) indicated that they had held jobs in this sector. Both of these individuals had worked in call centers, which arguably fall within the low wage/low skill end of the new economy. A few respondents (4.2%) had held professional jobs. These typically involved jobs such as a community outreach worker, a court worker, and teaching assistant positions in local public schools. Importantly, these more "professional" type positions were all community based and directed towards servicing the needs of the local community.

The lack of employment opportunities available to inner city residents on income assistance should not be taken as indicating that these individuals are uninvolved in their communities or unwilling to work. Rather, a great many respondents indicated a record of volunteer participation in their communities. Sixty percent of respondents reported volunteering in a wide range of community organizations. Moreover, as Table 6 demonstrates, volunteer participation was relatively consistent throughout all categories of respondents. In addition, many of those individuals who engaged in volunteer work participated in more than one capacity. The average number of volunteer jobs taken on by individuals was two. Those who volunteered engaged in a variety of activities. These included assisting neighbours and friends with baby-sitting, assisting disabled members of the community and the elderly, fundraising for sports teams, working at local schools, helping to organize local carnivals, and working at local community organizations, drop-in centres, and hospitals.

These findings are consistent with the experience of others who have looked at Winnipeg's inner city. John Loxley, for example, writing about community economic development in Winnipeg, has argued that in the face of poverty and unemployment there is a tremendous degree of community participation and activity that takes place in the inner city (Loxley 2000; Deane 2006; Silver et al. 2004).

These data suggest that individuals on income assistance engage in a wide range of work. That work, however, is largely unpaid. The data, however, do not support the conclusion that those individuals on income assistance do not want to work. Indeed, almost all respondents indicated that they did not want to be on welfare and would like the opportunity to work. Their record of volunteer participation indicates a commitment to local communities and, contrary to the myths, an unwillingness to simply do nothing. The absence of supports and services in inner city neighbourhoods makes the availability of volunteer labour of this sort all the more vital for the sustainability of the community.

On the one hand, then, many individuals in the inner city do rely on welfare as a primary source of income. The respondents who did find work tended to be engaged in short term and unstable jobs. As a result, they frequently find themselves having to return to some form of income assistance. Many respondents, when asked how long they had been on welfare commented that it had seemed to be their entire life and some recalled their parents also being on income assistance. Does this amount to a form of welfare dependency? In a sense it does in that inner city residents may rely heavily on income assistance. This does not, however, support the conclusion that it is the fact of welfare that causes that dependency. Rather, the employment and volunteering patterns of the respondents demonstrate a willingness to work and to contribute to their community. The types of jobs these individuals had managed to secure were not the sort that would be sufficient to permit them to permanently leave the welfare system.

This is reflected by income assistance recipients' own assessments of the reasons they have come to rely on the welfare system. Table 7 sets out the reasons people identified for relying on social assistance. The responses to this question were fairly low, with only 58% of respondents providing an answer. The reasons for this are not clear. The total response rate, therefore, makes the data somewhat less reliable. However, there are some interesting trends in the responses that were provided. First, and not surprising, for single mothers child care responsibilities were the single highest reason for requiring income assistance. Interestingly, factors related to illness and disability were the single greatest reasons for relying on income assistance with 18% of respondents citing these. Moreover, this was a factor not just for those respondents who identified themselves as disabled, but for others as well. Twenty-five percent of single employable males, for example, identified health factors as one of the reasons they were on income assistance (21% for Aboriginal respondents and 33% for non-Aboriginal respondents). This indicates that the overall levels of poorer health that characterize inner city communities, and the general absence of sufficient numbers of family physicians, may have implications for the overall economic wellbeing of inner city residents as well.

Several individuals indicated that a general lack of available jobs, or job loss (layoff, dismissal) had resulted in a reliance on income assistance. Sixteen percent of respondents indicated that this was a major factor in why they were on income assistance, but 23.6% of those classified as single employable cited this as a reason they were on welfare. Another 5% indicated that lack of education and job training was a reason for their being on income assistance. A number of individuals indicated that various transitions in their lives were significant factors leading to unemployment. Marital breakdown or violence in the family was a factor for 4% of respondents.

Others indicated that they had moved to Winnipeg from northern communities and had been unable to find a job. For these individuals the transition to urban life had been a difficult one. The loss of community and family support seemed to be significant factors in explaining the difficulty in adjusting to urban life. Finally, for some individuals, particularly men, having been released from jail was a factor. For these individuals (4%), the transition from jail to life in the city had led to unemployment and a reliance on income assistance. Frequently, a lack of education and training was cited alongside the release from jail as explanations for being on income assistance.

The reasons why people are on welfare are complex, q-hey reflect a mix of individual circumstances--illness, disability, marital breakdown, transitions to urban life, lack of support networks--that are beyond the control of the individual, as well as broader structural factors such as a lack of educational and employment opportunities in the inner city.

While relatively few individuals cited education as a primary factor explaining their reliance on income assistance this has to be considered a significant factor. The survey data indicate that income assistance recipients in the inner city have very low levels of education.

This data clearly indicates the degree to which lack of educational achievement corresponds with a reliance on income assistance. Only 26% of the respondents had graduated from high school and of those 5% had gone on to some form of post-secondary education. Only one respondent reported having completed a university degree. By contrast, 66% of the respondents had not completed high school and 15% had not completed grade 9. Almost 30% of respondents indicated having some type of certificate or additional training beyond public education. However, 50% of those with some sort of additional certificate had completed grade 12 and another 25% had attained grade 11. Various certification programs, therefore, were overwhelmingly being used by those who had already received a relatively higher degree of educational attainment. For those with very little education, on the other hand, these training and certification programs appeared generally inaccessible.

Lezubski, Silver, and Black (2000), in their study of inner city poverty in Winnipeg found that approximately 15% of inner city residents had less than a grade 9 education. This is consistent with our findings. Based on census data Silver found that in 1996, 44% of inner city residents had not completed high school (Lezubski, Silver, and Black 2000, 36). Our data suggest that for income assistance recipients this figure is much higher with 66% of respondents not having completed high school. Similarly, Silver reports that 12.4% of inner city residents had a university degree. In our sample only 1 individual had completed a Bachelors degree, while several others had one or two years of a university or college program.

These data are highly suggestive. First, they clearly demonstrate that lack of education is a significant problem for inner city residents and that there is a high correlation between lack of education and reliance on income assistance. Adult education centres and other programmes for improving the educational opportunities for inner city residents must be key elements of any strategy designed to decrease reliance on income assistance (Silver, Klyne, and Simard 2003). At the same time, the data also suggests that for inner city residents achieving grade 12 and/or some degree of additional certification may not be sufficient to move into gainful employment. This may be due to a lack of training programs geared towards moving into employment and/or the training programs that do exist are ineffective. Indeed, many of the respondents indicated they would like to improve their levels of education but complained of not being able to access educational programs.

To a certain extent this is reflected in the sorts of certificates people had obtained. Nearly 21% of those with certificates had achieved some sort of food handlers or cooking certification. Another 17% had received clerical types of certifications (typing, office manager, etc.). Interestingly, another 17% had received some sort of certificate/diploma in computers and/or electronics. Clearly, though, this level of educational attainment is simply insufficient for these individuals to move into relatively high paying jobs in the information technology sector.

Transitions to Work: Obstacles and Support

These conclusions are supported by the respondents' self-assessment of the obstacles that prevent them from moving off welfare and the sorts of supports/programs they require to move off welfare. Table 9 summarizes the obstacles to moving off welfare identified by inner city welfare recipients and Table 10 documents the types of supports people identify as needed.

Respondents identified a number of obstacles or barriers to obtaining paid employment. Interestingly, relatively few respondents saw the welfare system as a major impediment to obtaining a job. This contrasts with many of the assumptions around so-called welfare dependency that suggest the welfare system itself creates impediments to individuals being able to make the transition from welfare to work. Only 12% of respondents believed that the welfare system was one of the reasons they were unable to find a job.

The data suggest that a number of factors external to the welfare system are considered major problems in preventing income assistance recipients from finding jobs. One-third of respondents suggested that there was a lack of jobs available for them. The inner city is an area of economic decline where there are relatively few jobs available (Lezubski, Silver, and Black 2000). This is further reflected by the fact that 7% of respondents identified the absence of reliable/affordable transportation as an issue that contributed to their difficulties finding employment. Similarly, 6% of respondents stated that improvements to transportation would facilitate their finding a job (Table10). These individuals frequently stated that the failure of the welfare system to routinely pay for bus passes made it extremely difficult to do an effective job search as they were often limited to establishments within walking distance of their home.

There were some clear gender differences in terms of the obstacles identified by individuals. Women, particularly single mothers, consistently identified child care as a major obstacle. They also tended to identify child care as one of the supports needed if they were to move off of income assistance. Sixty-five percent of single mothers identified child care as an obstacle to employment while child care was not mentioned as an issue by any of the male respondents. Similarly, 42% of single mothers identified the availability of affordable day care as a key support for returning to work while again no men listed it as an issue.

Training and education were also identified by every category of respondent as a major issue. Individuals seemed to be very aware that their education levels are not adequate to secure full time stable employment. Overall 46% of respondents identified education and/or training as a significant obstacle to gaining employment and 35% of respondents identified improvements in this area as necessary in order to move into employment. As discussed below, a significant percentage (53%) of respondents had participated in some form of training program sponsored by the welfare system. Generally respondents found these programs to be of limited value and did not result in jobs.

For many respondents health care was a major issue. Not surprising, disabled individuals identified health issues as a major obstacle to finding employment. Forty-two percent of disabled respondents named their health as a significant factor preventing them from finding a job. However, many other categories of respondents also saw health care as an issue. Overall, health problems were identified by nearly 23% of respondents as a problem that hindered their ability to find work. Sixteen percent of those respondents who did not identify themselves as disabled cited health problems as a factor limiting their employability. For specific categories the actual percentages are considerably higher than this. No single mothers identified health issues. For single employable men and women, however, 29% of respondents cited health problems as an obstacle to employment.

The data speak to the need to address the root causes of poverty in the inner city. Changes to the welfare system are unlikely to produce significant changes in employment unless the structural problems in the inner city economy and the health care problems of the community are addressed. Indeed, only 9% of respondents felt that more support from welfare was required. Contrary to the assumptions of the welfare myths, this group of individuals was not looking for more benefits.

There is a need, then, to consider a range of policies beyond the scope of the welfare system itself. Economic development needs to be rethought. Community economic development needs to be more actively supported with an emphasis on local production and the reinvestment of profits into the local community. Companies need to be encouraged to locate in the inner city, and where this is not possible, transportation systems need to be improved not just to permit workers from the suburbs to reach the downtown, but also to permit inner city residents to access jobs and educational resources beyond their immediate community. Educational levels and training programs need to be dramatically improved. Adult Education Centres have proved to be a successful mechanism for upgrading the skills and educational levels of adult learners (Silver, Klyne, and Simard 2003). The government needs to provide greater support for Adult Education Centres, particularly those that are Aboriginal agencies. Finally, health care in the inner city needs to be improved. Family physicians need to be encouraged to locate in the inner city and more community health centres need to be established. While it is widely recognized that there is a correlation between poor health and low socio-economic status, it is clear that health problems are particularly significant for welfare recipients.


Respondents were asked a number of questions related to their experience of the welfare system. The objective was to determine a) how well income assistance recipients understood the welfare system, and b) how helpful welfare officials were in assisting individuals to navigate that system. This also relates to the broader question of the extent to which the system itself is an obstacle to people moving off income assistance and finding permanent jobs.

If, as the evidence suggests, education and employment opportunities are significant factors explaining people's reliance on welfare, how useful are the various training and/or job search requirements of the welfare system. We asked respondents a number of questions related to their experience of training programmes that had been offered through the welfare system. These responses are found in Table 11 and demonstrate that for most recipients training had not proved particularly useful.

Just over 50% of respondents had participated in training programs of some sort or another. Generally disabled recipients participated in training programs somewhat less than other categories (46%). However, this remains a relatively high rate of participation. The participation rate for single mothers was also slightly below average at 48%. The participation rate for welfare recipients classed as employable was the highest at 60%. A majority of respondents (54%) did not find the training programs useful and reported that the program had not led to a job. Even those respondents who did find the programs useful indicated that they did not find employment as a result of the program. For the individuals interviewed, then, it is clear that welfare sponsored training programs have not led to employment opportunities for the participants.

Table 12 sets out the type of training individuals reported receiving. The data reveals that the single most common types of training programs included such things as job search/resume writing programs, clerical and food services for women, and construction and forklift operation for men.

These data show that there is a wide range and variety of training programs. However, it is somewhat surprising that the single biggest category of programs that individuals have taken is job search and resume writing skills. This demonstrates the belief that the reason income assistance recipients do not find jobs is a lack of job hunting skills and/or determination on their part rather than an absence of good quality jobs. The perceived solution, then, is to impart a limited set of skills that will enable the income assistance recipient to be better equipped to find those jobs that are present in the labour market. The difficulty with this approach is that it assumes jobs are there when in many instances they may not be.

In other instances there may be other problems/difficulties that prevent the individual from accessing jobs. As indicated in Table 9 dealing with obstacles, most welfare recipients indicated that the biggest obstacles preventing them from finding jobs were an absence of a) skills, education, and training, b) affordable childcare, c) health issues, and d) an actual lack of stable permanent jobs. If these are the obstacles individuals on welfare face, resume and job search skills will not be of much assistance. Training people to better present themselves for jobs that do not exist, or teaching people to write resumes where their educational background is such that they are only qualified for low wage unskilled jobs does little to address the structural problem of unemployment for this group of individuals.

In other instances, training programs proved to be inadequate and quite often frustrating experiences for welfare recipients. A number of male recipients indicated that they had been sent on forklift training. All of those individuals commented on how angry and disappointed they felt when they learned that they could not get jobs as forklift operators. The training program run by the welfare office did not meet industry standards and, consequently, major warehouses would not hire them unless they received additional training that was not available through the system. Mackinnon has reported that the majority of welfare sponsored training programs are short-term in nature and, if any employment results, it is usually low-wage in nature (Mackinnon 2000, 62).

If training programs have proven to be inadequate to assist individuals off welfare, how effective are welfare officials in assisting individuals to navigate the system? As already discussed, a persistent welfare myth is the notion that welfare recipients are cheating the system. Despite studies of welfare fraud indicating that the incidence of fraud is significantly lower than generally believed, this myth remains (Income Security Advocacy Centre 2004, 8). The first questions dealt with the respondent's knowledge of the welfare system. Individuals were asked to what extent they felt they understood the welfare system. Table 13 sets out their responses.

It is clear from this data that most income assistance recipients are uncertain as to how the system operates. In some respects this is not surprising. Welfare systems are notoriously complex, with large numbers of programs and benefits, each of which has its own criteria and regulations. Nevertheless, given the length of time many of the respondents had been on income assistance it is remarkable that nearly 50% described themselves as having no or virtually no understanding of the system. Only 7.4% of respondents felt they understood the system very well and another 19% felt they had a good understanding of the system. The vast majority of welfare recipients interviewed had a very partial understanding of the system. This is confirmed by the experience of welfare advocacy workers at organizations such as LIIP. They indicated that many of the problems they deal with are the result of individuals not understanding the requirements of the system and what their case workers expected of them.

This raises the issue of the dependency of individual welfare recipients on their case workers for information and explanations about their benefit entitlements. Most recipients on income assistance in our survey indicated that they found their case workers to generally be unhelpful.

Given that the welfare case worker is the primary contact for individuals with the system it is significant that 66% of respondents did not find their case worker helpful or informative. Typical complaints included case workers that did not explain things fully, failed to inform clients of all their entitlements, simply provided a listing of rules, or provided written material (pamphlets, brochures) instead of actually explaining things. Respondents indicated that workers were frequently rude and unwilling to go over points that were not immediately understood. Many respondents also indicated that they felt that their workers did not believe them and treated them as if they were lying.

If individuals are not learning about the welfare system from their case workers, from where do they receive information. Table 15 sets out the sources of information utilized by individuals on income assistance. The data would suggest that there is a real need for more systematic and coherent delivery of information and advocacy services for recipients of income assistance. Sixty percent of respondents listed friends and other welfare recipients as their primary source of information about how the system operated. Another 30% indicated that their primary source of information was their own personal experience. Given how uninformed most welfare recipients are about the operation of the system, it is highly unlikely that individuals are receiving accurate or reliable information. Only 27% of respondents made use of community organizations and advocacy groups aimed at assisting welfare recipients as a primary source of information. Very few individuals (9.5%) made use of pamphlets and brochures. These are usually available at community organizations and at the welfare office.

The current organization of the welfare office fails to adequately deliver needed information, both about the individual's rights as well as their responsibilities. Individuals are frustrated when they genuinely attempt to live up to their obligations and believe they are doing what their worker has instructed them, only to find on a subsequent visit that they misunderstood and now face the possible termination of their benefits. At the same time, many individuals in the study reported having been told by workers that, while they could appeal a decision of the welfare office, there was little point to doing so as they would not be successful. This active discouragement of individuals from pursuing their rights is simply unacceptable. Many community groups provide some advice and assistance for welfare recipients. Generally, however, the available resources are inadequate to meet the need.

In addition to direct advocacy services of this sort, there is also a need for information pamphlets and handouts that are written in plain language and at a level that will be accessible to most welfare recipients. The majority of individuals in our survey had not completed high school. Some had only a grade 5 or 6 education level. As a result, literacy levels for this group of people will be lower than the general population and materials prepared for their use must reflect this.

Additional questions were asked to try and shed somewhat greater light on the relationship between individuals on income assistance and their case workers. Generally individuals complained that their experience on welfare had left them angry, frustrated, and with little self-esteem. Many individuals described their experiences in the following terms:

More specifically, respondents complained of the "jail house" atmosphere of the welfare office, that workers were unavailable by phone and frequently didn't return phone calls, and that terms and vocabulary were frequently inaccessible and rarely explained in a fashion that they could understand.

Table 16 examines income assistance recipients' perceptions of their treatment. In particular, respondents were asked whether they had felt harassed by their workers, and whether they felt their workers treated them in a sexist or racist manner. The response rates for this series of questions, particularly for the race and gender dimensions of the questions were fairly low. Nevertheless, some interesting trends emerge. First, although the majority of income assistance recipients find their case workers unhelpful and complain about their behaviour, nevertheless, a significantly lower percentage of respondents identify their case workers as harassing them. Indeed, the respondents are roughly evenly split with 38% saying they had not been treated in a harassing fashion and 39% saying they had.

On the question of racist treatment the numbers are even lower. Only 17% of respondents indicated that they had been the victims of racist treatment in the welfare office. One might expect a higher positive response rate from Aboriginal respondents. However, only 11 Aboriginal respondents or 16% of the total Aboriginal sample said they had experienced racist behaviour. Of those individuals who actually answered the question, 54% of Aboriginal respondents stated that they had not experienced racism and 46% indicated they had.

"These results seem at odds with the statements made by many of the respondents as to how they are treated at the welfare office and how demeaning they find the whole experience. There are several possible explanations for this result. First, the incidence of harassing, racist and sexist behaviour may be greater than what has been reported. As indicated, there was a fairly high non-response rate to this question. It is difficult, however, to imagine why individuals would have been hesitant to answer these questions. Interviews were conducted away from the welfare office, individuals were told they would not be identified and their responses would be completely anonymous. In addition, the individuals conducting the interviews were both Aboriginal (one male and one female). Still, it is possible that individuals were concerned that answering this sort of question could endanger their welfare benefits at some future date. Another explanation is that the respondents did not interpret the behaviour of welfare officials as deliberate harassment or racist/sexist behaviour, or that they are so used to this sort of behaviour that it is hardly worth mentioning to them. Several respondents indicated that they felt welfare case workers were overworked and that the entire system was structured in a way that did not provide adequate service. One respondent, in stating that he did not believe his case worker had harassed him, added, "they [case workers] just have bad attitudes and lack training." Another individual clearly saw a connection between the under-resourcing of the welfare system and the treatment he received. He stated:

It appears, then, that many income assistance recipients identify the root of their problems with the welfare bureaucracy not in terms of the personal characteristics and attitudes of their case workers, but rather in terms of the broader structure of the system itself.


The data presented in this study leads to a number of important conclusions regarding welfare services in the inner city. First, and perhaps most importantly, the solution to poverty and the reliance of individuals in the inner city on welfare services, will not be found in reforms to welfare itself. Over the past decade a number of governments have argued that restructuring of welfare from a passive form of income support to a more active labour market policy--in which the welfare system operates to link people to wage labour--is necessary. Underpinning such policies is the assumption that welfare recipients have become dependent on the system, lost the will to work, and need to be forced to enter wage labour through a variety of workfare type programmes.

Our data suggests that this approach is unlikely to address the needs of individuals in the inner city. The evidence presented here indicates that the welfare system is not an explanation for why individuals find themselves on welfare, nor is it the reason they are not in paid employment. Rather, individuals find themselves relying on income assistance for a range of reasons. Most of these reasons--illness, job loss, disability, poor education, marital breakdown--have nothing to do with the operation of the welfare system. Individuals consistently identified such things as child care, the availability of secure, long term jobs rather than part time, temporary jobs, the availability of better public transit systems, and better educational and training opportunities as the types of supports needed to get off welfare. Again, these point to structural problems in the nature of the economy and in broader state policies that go far beyond the operation of income assistance programmes. However, the welfare system may reinforce some trends that make it difficult for individuals to find full time work. Training programmes, for example, often are geared towards short term and relatively unskilled types of employment. Workfare schemes are often used to subsidize precisely this sort of insecure and short-term employment (Shragge 1997; MacKinnon 2000; Sheldrick 2000).

It is important to recognize that these sorts of structural explanations for poverty in the inner city will not be addressed by policies that are geared towards an understanding of welfare and poverty as an individualized problem. It is clear that individuals who rely on income assistance do not like it. Nearly every respondent indicated a desire to not be reliant on welfare. While they did feel trapped, relatively few saw the source of their difficulties as the welfare system itself, although they certainly did feel abused and ill-treated by that system. Moreover, the perception of welfare recipients as lazy and unwilling to work also seems to not fit the data we received. A large number of the recipients interviewed had worked, often in menial jobs. Moreover, they were also active participants in their community; volunteering and participating in a wide number of community based projects. It should not come as a surprise that many income assistance recipients might prefer to devote their energies to unpaid community and volunteer work, rather than to paid labour. For many of us, our jobs provide a certain degree of satisfaction and constitute an important part of our lives. For inner city residents such valourization cannot be found within the context of the sorts of job opportunities that are available to them. Community work, however, does provide an opportunity to work in a productive and useful context, while at the same time developing a sense of self-worth that employment simply cannot provide.

The lesson to be learned from this is that there needs to be a much broader approach to poverty in the inner city and welfare reform. That approach needs to combine notions of community service and economic development. It is also clear that inner city income assistance recipients are generally ill-informed of how the system operates. They generally do not have a good understanding of the system. Moreover, meetings with welfare case workers are often unhelpful and leave the individual confused and uncertain as to what is expected of them. The recipients clearly felt that their workers did not trust them, were impatient with their questions, and generally not inclined to provide real assistance. As a result, many respondents indicated frustration when their workers chastised them for failing to comply with the rules, and mystification as to why their benefits were cut off despite their best efforts to comply with the rules. In this context, however, the individual recipient was often hesitant to request clarification and elaboration from their workers. Far from the image of the conniving and dishonest individual who cheats the system, most welfare recipients in our survey were rather lost and confused within a mass of bureaucratic rules and regulations that they found incomprehensible.

The data suggest, therefore, that the welfare system needs to make a greater effort to educate and empower welfare recipients. Case workers need to enable their clients, rather than simply policing them. In the absence of significant restructuring in the welfare office, however, more resources need to be devoted to those community organizations, such as LIIP, that provide advice and advocacy services for inner city welfare recipients. This sort of advice and assistance is critical if the demeaning qualities of the welfare system are to be decreased.

In conclusion, our data would suggest that the various welfare myths that underpin most public policy in this area are largely without foundation. A closer look at those individuals in the inner city of Winnipeg who rely on income assistance demonstrates that poverty is a deep, structural problem. It is tied up with questions of race, processes of urban growth and relocation from rural/northern communities, and the spatial reorganization of industry and economic activity away from the inner city. It is also related to important questions of health and education. In short, it reflects a much broader issue of community well-being that cannot begin to be addressed by a focus on the individual.


Thanks to the generous support of a grant from the Winnipeg Inner City Research Alliance and the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers who provided comments on the paper. I would also like to thank Harold Dyck for his work with the Low Income Intermediary Project and his work in managing the project. I would also like to thank my research assistant, Kevin Warkentin, who collated the interview data.

Appendix 1

Welfare in the Inner City of Winnipeg Questionnaire

1) Basic background information

a) Age

b) Gender

c) Are you married/divorced, single, living common law?

d) Do you have any children?

How many and what ages? Do they live with you?

e) How far did you get in school?

f) Have you worked recently?

What sorts of jobs have you had over the past 5 years?

g) Are you currently on income assistance?

How long have you been on income assistance?

Have you been on income assistance continuously, or has it been on and off again?

What is the average lengths of time you spend on and off income assistance?

2) Experience with the income assistance bureaucracy

a) How well do you think you understand the rules about welfare entitlements?

b) Have income assistance officers been helpful in explaining the rules to you ?

c) Where else have you learned about the welfare system:

i) personal experience

ii) other welfare recipients

iii) advocacy groups/community organizations (if so which ones)

d) When you go to the income assistance office would you say you are treated well? With respect?

If no, how would you describe your treatment? How are you made to feel?

e) Does your case worker explain things to you in language you understand?

f) Have you ever experienced harassment/racism/sexism in dealing with the welfare office?

Can you give examples?

g) How would you change the welfare office to improve things?

h) Have welfare officials ever come to your home? Why? How were you treated when this happened? Were you given advance notice? Did you feel you had a choice about letting them into your home?

3) Experience/knowledge of other resources

a) Have you ever had your benefits cut off or reduced? Have you been threatened with these things? Have you ever been refused benefits?

b) Did you appeal when this happened?

c) Did your case worker tell you that you could appeal the decision?

e) Were you ever given the names and addresses of any organizations that could help you?

f) You ended up coming to LIIP (Low Income Intermediary Project) for help. How did you find out about them?

g) Did you get help from anyone else? i.e. legal clinics, other community organizations, churches, etc.

(it may be that they used these other organizations in previous situations where they were having difficulty)

h) How did you find out about them?

i) Was LIIP able to help solve your problem?

j) Did you feel you learned more about the system as a result of working with the people at LIIP?

k) Would you feel more confident about dealing with the welfare bureaucracy as a result of that experience?

4) Why on welfare/income assistance

a) Tell me, in your own words, why you are on income assistance?

b) Is it hard to get off welfare? What makes it so difficult?

i.e. Lack of jobs? Lack of training/education? Child care responsibilities/absence of day care? The welfare bureaucracy itself?

c) What sorts of things do you think would make it easier/possible for you to get off welfare?

d) What sorts of changes to the welfare system would make it easier for you to get along now?

e) Have you ever been on a job training programme?

What was the training for? Was it useful/did it lead to a job? Were you treated with respect in the training programme

f) Do you have any experience working with computers?

Do you have access to a computer? Would you like more training on computers? Is this something you would be interested in?

5) Have any of the job training programmes you've been involved in offered this?


(1) More recently the Social Assistance in the New Economy project has documented the experiences of welfare recipients in Toronto through a series of reports. See in particular, Lightman et al (2004).

(2) For a summary of some of the most common welfare myths and evidence as to there invalidity see the very useful fact sheet put out by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice in New York: (NCLEJ, 1996). See also the excellent review article by Sylvia Law "Ending Welfare as We Know it" (Law 1997).

(3) The research project grew out of the advocacy work of the Low Income Intermediary project (LIIP). LIIP is a grassroots, community based organization that provides advocacy services for income assistance recipients in their dealings with the welfare office. In some instance this involves fielding phone calls and requests for information, and meeting with welfare recipients to explain their entitlements. In other instances it involves advocating on behalf of the individual with welfare case workers. In some cases LIIP workers appear on behalf of welfare claimants in welfare appeal cases. LIIP approaches its mandate from a self-help perspective. It attempts to empower individuals to represent themselves. However, in many instances it needs to intervene and provide direct assistance and representation. The research project was housed at LIIP, which has its offices in the Workers Organizing Resource Centre in downtown Winnipeg. Interviews were conducted at the organization's offices. Harold Dyck, the executive director at LIIP had expressed an interest in documenting the experiences of his clients with the welfare bureaucracy. David Northcott, then of Winnipeg Harvest, and Sid Frankel of the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba were brought on board as additional community partners. Utilizing LIIP as the vehicle through which the research took place provided an important window on the difficulties and experiences of welfare recipients and highlighted the lack of advocacy services available to these individuals and the tremendous demand/need for those services.

(4) The total number was actually 110, but a number of interviews were sufficiently incomplete that they were discarded.


Deane, Lawrence. 2006. Under One Roof: Community Economic Development and Housing in the Inner City. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Income Security Advocacy Centre. 2004. First Steps: Recommendations for Social Assistance Reform. Toronto: Income Security Advocacy Centre.

Kerr, Don and R. Beajot. 2001. Child Poverty and Family Structure in Canada. London: Population Studies Centre, University of Western Ontario.

Law, Sylvia. 1997. Ending Welfare as We Know It. Stanford Law Review 49 (2): 471-494.

Lezubski, D, J. Silver and E. Black. 2000. High and Rising: The Growth of Poverty in Winnipeg. In Solutions that Work, Fighting Poverty in Winnipeg, ed. Jim Silver. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing and CCPA.

Lightman, Ernie, Andrew Mitchell and Dean Herd. 2004. One Year On: Leavers, Mixers, Cyclers and Stayers: Tracking the Experiences of a Panel of Ontario Works Recipients. University of Toronto: Social Assistance in the New Economy. http://www.socialwork.utoronto.sane.

Loxley, John. 2000. Aboriginal Economic Development in Winnipeg. In Solutions that Work, Fighting Poverty in Winnipeg, ed. Jim Silver. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Mackenzie, Michael, Byron Sheldrick, and Jim Silver. 2005. State Policies to Enhance the New Economy: A Comparative Perspective. Winnipeg: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives--Manitoba.

Mackinnon, Shauna. 2000. Workfare in Manitoba. In Solutions that Work, Fighting Poverty in Winnipeg, ed. Jim Silver. Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

National Center for Law and Economic Justice. 1996. Welfare Myths: Fact or Fiction? Exploring the Truth about Welfare. http://www.benchmarkinstitute. org/t_by_t/pb/welfare_myths.pdf#search=%22%22welfare%20myths%3A% 20fact%20or%20fiction%3F%22%22./ (accessed Sept 1, 2006).

Shragge, Eric (ed.). 1997. Workfare: Ideology for a new Under-Class. Toronto: Garamond Press.

Sheldrick, Byron. 1998. Welfare Reform Under Ontario's NDP: Social Democracy and Social Group Representation. Studies in Political Economy 55: 37-63.

Sheldrick, Byron. 2000. The Contradictions of Welfare to Work: Social Security Reform in Britain. Studies in Political Economy 62:99-122

Silver J, D. Klyne and E Simard. 2003. Aboriginal Learners in Selected Adult Education Centres in Manitoba. Winnipeg: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives--Manitoba.

Silver, J. J. Hay and E Gorzen. 2004. Aboriginal Involvement in Community Development: The Case of Winnipeg's Spence Neighbourhood. Winnipeg: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives--Manitoba.

Stienstra, Deborah and Rhonda Wiebe. 2004. Finding Our Way Home: Housing Options in Inner City Winnipeg for People with Disabilities who are Dying. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Inner City Research Alliance.

Byron M. Sheldrick Department of Political Science University of Guelph

Harold Dyck Claudette Michell Troy Myers
"It makes me feel alone, like I'm not worth anything."

   "I feel low, like the bottom of the barrel."

   "It makes you feel like less of a person."

   "My worker acts like she owns the money. It doesn't make me
   feel right, it gets me mad."

   "My worker is kind of degrading. I'm just getting out of jail and
   they even treat you better in jail. At least they explain things to
   you there and here they just give you a piece of paper and tell
   you to go."

   "It makes me feel low, it gives me low self-esteem. It makes me
   feel helpless. There's not much you can do about it. I don't know
   if everyone else uses these words but they should because you
   leave there feeling very depressed."

   "It makes me feel like dog shit."

I remember when I was younger and I first got on the system. I
   was 18 and the social workers really wanted to know what was
   going on in your life and what was happening with you. Now
   they just want to give you your cheque and what you are entitled
   to. I'm sure they are overloaded now but they used to sit down
   and talk with you. And now they don't explain what you are
   going to be entitled to.

Table 1: Interview Respondents by Category

Category                      Aboriginal   Non-Aboriginal   Total

Single Mothers                   25              6           31
Disabled (Female)                 6              7           13
Disabled (Male)                   9              4           13
Single Employable (Female)       14              4           18
Single Employable (Male)         14              6           20
Total                            68             27           95

Table 2: Average Age of Respondents

Category                                    Average Age

Single Mothers Aboriginal                       31
Single Mothers Non-Aboriginal                   29
Disabled Females Aboriginal                     45
Disabled Females Non-Aboriginal                 43
Disabled Males Aboriginal                       37
Disabled Males Non-Aboriginal                   51
Single Employable Females Aboriginal            40
Single Employable Females Non-Aboriginal        40
Single Employable Males Aboriginal              32
Single Employable Females Aboriginal            36
Total                                           38.4

Table 3: Average Number of Children in the Household

Category                                    Average Number of
                                           Children in Household

Single Mothers Aboriginal                          3
Single Mothers Non-Aboriginal                      3.3
Disabled Females Aboriginal                        4
Disabled Females Non-Aboriginal                    3.28
Disabled Males Aboriginal                          0.6
Disabled Females Non-Aboriginal                    1.75
Single Employable Females Aboriginal               3.7
Single Employable Females Non-Aboriginal           2
Single Employable Males Aboriginal                 2.7
Single Employable Males Non-Aboriginal             1
Total                                              2.2

Table 4: Length on Income Assistance

                             0-2 years    3-5 years

Single Mothers                9 (29%)      5 (16%)
Disabled Females              3 (23%)      1 (7.5%)
Disabled Males                9 (69%)      3 (23%)
Single Employable Females     7 (39%)      1 (5.5%)
Single Employable Males      12 (60%)      5 (25%)
Total                        40 (42%)     15 (16%)

                             6-10 years   11-15 years   More than
                                                        15 years

Single Mothers               10 (32%)      5 (16%)       4 (13%)
Disabled Females              4 (31%)      1 (7.5%)      4 (31%)
Disabled Males                1 (7.5%)     0 (0%)        0 (0%)
Single Employable Females     2 (11%)      4 (22%)       2 (11%)
Single Employable Males       0 (0%)       1 (5%)        1 (5%)
Total                        17 (18%)     11 (11.5%)    11 (11.5%)

Table 5: Employment History

                                      Food         Labour
                       Retail       Services     unskilled

Single Mothers         6(19%)        6(19%)        5(16%)
Disabled Females       3(23%)        1(7%)         2(15%)
Disabled Male          0(0%)         2(15%)        6(46%)
Single Employable      1(5%)         3(16%)        4(22%)
Single Employable      1(5%)         4(20%)       11(55%)
Male Aboriginal
Totals               11(11.5%)      16(17%)      28(29.5%)

                     Industrial/      New
                      skilled       Economy/
                       labour          IT        Professional

Single Mothers         0(0%)         2(6%)         3(9%)
Disabled Females       0(0%)         0(0%)         0(0%)
Disabled Male          1(7%)         0(0%)         1(7%)
Single Employable      0(0%)         0(0%)         0(0%)
Single Employable      5(25%)        0(0%)         0(0%)
Male Aboriginal
Totals                 6(6%)         2(2%)         4(4%)

                     Childcare      Fishing       Clerical        None

Single Mothers         3(0%)         0(0%)         5(16%)       11(35%)
Disabled Females       2(15%)        0(0%)         0(0%)         7(54%)
Disabled Male          0(0%)         0(0%)         0(0%)         2(15%)
Single Employable      2(11%)        0(0%)         2(11%)        8(44%)
Single Employable      0(0%)         2(10%)        0(0%)         4(20%)
Male Aboriginal
Totals                 7(7%)         2(2%)         7(7%)        32(33%)

Table 6: Volunteer Participation by Category

Category                                  Volunteer      Average
                                           Partici-       Number
                                            pation      Volunteer

Single Mothers                             15 (60%)        1.53
Single Mothers Non-Aboriginal              3 (50%)         1.66
Disabled Females Aboriginal                4 (66%)         2.0
Disabled Females Non-Aboriginal            6 (86%)         2.6
Disabled Males Aboriginal                 5 (55.5%)        2.4
Disabled Males Non-Aboriginal              2 (50%)         1.5
Single Employable Females                  8 (57%)         1.25
Single Employable Female Non-Aboriginal    3 (75%)         2.0
Single Employable Male Aboriginal          9 (64%)         1.6
Single Employable Male Non-Aboriginal      2 (50%)         3.5
Total                                      57 (60%)        2.0004

Table 7: Reasons on Welfare

                      Support        Health/        Marital
                       Child       disability     Break-down

Single Mothers        9 (29%)                       1 (3%)
Disabled Females      2 (15%)        5 (38%)        1(7.5%)
Disabled Males                       5 (38%)
Single Employable     2 (11%)        2 (11%)        1(5.5%)
Single Employable                    5 (25%)        1(5%)
Total               13 (13.6%)      17 (18%)       4 (4.2%)

                      Lack of                      Job Loss/
                    Education/        Jail        can't find
                     Training                         job

Single Mothers        1 (3%)
Disabled Females     1 (7.5%)
Disabled Males       1 (7.5%)       1 (7.5%)        6 (46%)
Single Employable                                   4 (22%)
Single Employable     2 (10%)        3 (15%)        5 (25%)
Total                5 (5.2%)       4 (4.2%)        15(16%)

Table 8: Educational Attainment by Category

                     Less than       Grade 9       Grade 10
                      Grade 9

Single Mothers        5 (16%)        3 (10%)        4 (13%)
Disabled             3 (11.5%)       5 (19%)        5 (19%)
Single Employable     6 (16%)       4 (10.5%)       7 (18%)
Total                 14 (15%)       12 (13%)      16 (17%)

                      Grade 11       Grade 12

Single Mothers        10 (32%)      7 (22.5%)
Disabled             3 (11.5%)       5 (19%)
Single Employable     7 (18%)        8 (21%)
Total                 20 (21%)       20 (21%)

                     Some Post     Certificates/
                     Secondary       Training

Single Mothers         2 (6%)        10 (32%)
Disabled             3 (11.5%)      9 (34.5%)
Single Employable      0 (0%)       9 (23.5%)
Total                  5 (5%)        28 (29%)

Table 9: Obstacles to Paid Employment

               Child Care      Education/       Welfare
                                Training         System

Single          20 (65%)        16 (52%)        5 (16%)
Disabled        1 (7.5%)        4 (31%)          0 (0%)
Disabled         0 (0%)         6 (46%)         2 (15%)
Employable      1 (5.5%)        10 (55%)        1 (5.5%)
Employable       0 (0%)         8 (40%)         4 (20%)
Totals          22 (23%)        44 (46%)        12 (13%)

              Lack of Jobs     Transport      Disability/

Single          11 (35%)         1 (3%)          0 (0%)
Disabled        3 (23%)          0 (0%)         3 (23%)
Disabled        6 (46%)         1 (7.5%)       8 (61.5%)
Employable      4 (20%)          0 (0%)        3 (16.5%)
Employable       7 (3%)         5 (25%)         8 (40%)
Totals          31 (33%)         7 (7%)         22 (23%)

Table 10: Supports for Moving off Income Assistance

             Education        Day         Transp.      Full Time
                              Care                     Employment

Single        14 (45%)      13 (42%)      4 (13%)      3 (9.5%)

Disabled      3 (23%)        0 (0%)        0 (0%)       9 (69%)

Disabled      4 (31%)        0 (0%)        0 (0%)       2 (15%)

Single        4 (22%)       1 (5.5%)       0 (0%)      3 (16.5%)

Single        8 (40%)        0 (0%)       2 (10%)       6 (30%)

Totals          35%         14 (15%)       6 (6%)      23 (24%)

                                            More         Don't
                            Improved      Support        Know/
                Life         Health         From          No
               Skills         Care        Welfare       Answer

Single         2 (6%)        0 (0%)        0 (0%)       2 (6%)

Disabled       0 (0%)       1 (7.5%)       0 (0%)      8 (61.5%)

Disabled       1 (7.5%)      2 (15%)       4 (31%)       2 (15%)

Single         0 (0%)       1 (5.5%)       0 (0%)       7 (39%)

Single         0 (0%)       3 (15%)       5 (25%)       3 (15%)

Totals         3 (3%)        7 (7%)        9 (9%)      22 (23%)

Table 11: Training Programs

                           Been on Training Program

                               Yes            No

Single Mothers                  15            14
Disabled Females                 7             4
Disabled Males                   5             7
Single Employable Females       10             8
Single Employable Males         13             7
Totals                       50 (53%)      40 (42%)

                              Useful/Led to a job

                                Yes            No

Single Mothers                   7             7
Disabled Females                 4             2
Disabled Males                   2             3
Single Employable Females        3             7
Single Employable Males          4             8
Totals                       20 (40%)      27 (54%)

Note: Percentages for utility of training programs are calculated
based on the number of respondents actually participating in
training programs so numbers may not add up to 100%.

Table 12: Training Experience by Type of Program

                    Food        Job       Construc-
                   Service     Search       tion      Computers

Single Mothers        1          3           1

Disabled Females                 1

Disabled Males        1          1           1           2

Single                2          2

Single                1          4           1           3
Males Aboriginal

Totals             5 (10%)    11 (22%)     3 (6%)     5 (10%)

                   Forklift   Clerical     Hair-      Industrial

Single Mothers                   2

Disabled Females                 4           1           1

Disabled Males        1


Single                3                                  2
Males Aboriginal

Totals             4 (8%)     6 (12%)      1 (2%)      3 (6%)

Table 13: Understanding of Welfare System

                 No Answer      Not Well

Single Mothers                  16 (52%)

Disabled             3             8

Disabled Males                     8

Employable           6             6

Employable           1             9

Total            10 (10.5%)    47 (49.5%)

                  Somewhat        Good       Very Well

Single Mothers    4 (13%)          7             2

Disabled             1             1           0 (0%)

Disabled Males       1             2             2

Employable           2             3             1

Employable           3             5             2

Total            11 (11.5%)     18 (19%)      7 (7.4%)

Table 14: Helpfulness of Welfare Officials

                 No Answer        Not         Somewhat        Very
                                Helpful       Helpful       Helpful

Single Mothers    4 (13%)       23 (74%)      4 (13%)        1 (3%)

Disabled          3 (23%)       7 (54%)       2 (15%)       1 (7.5%)

Disabled Males    1 (7.5%)      10 (77%)      1 (7.5%)      1 (7.5%)

Employable       3 (16.5%)     10 (55.5%)     1 (5.5%)      4 (22%)

Employable                      13 (65%)      4 (20%)       3 (15%)

Totals           11 (11.5%)     63 (66%)     12 (12.6%)    10 (10.5%)

Table 15: Sources of Information

                  Friends/     Community     Pamphlets
                   other        Organi-          &          Personal
                 Recipients     zations      Brochures     Experience

Single Mothers    20 (65%)      10 (32%)       4 (3%)       10 (32%)

Disabled          6 (46%)       4 (31%)       1 (7.5%)      4 (31%)

Disabled Males    6 (46%)       7 (54%)       3 (23%)       7 (53%)

Single            10 (55%)      2 (11%)        0 (0%)       2 (11%)

Single            15 (75%)      3 (15%)        1 (5%)       5 (25%)

Totals            57 (60%)      26 (27%)      9 (9.5%)     28 (29.5%)

Table 16: Incidents of Harassment


                         No             Yes

Single Mothers           8 (32%)        13 (52%)

Single Mothers           0 (0%)         1 (16%)

Disabled Females         2 (33%)        1 (16%)

Disabled Females         1 (14%)        1 (14%)

Disabled Males           4 (44%)        5 (55%)

Disabled Males           2 (50%)        2 (55%)

Single Employable        6 (43%)        3 (21.4%)
Females Aboriginal

Single Employable        3 (75%)        1 (25%)
Females Non-Aboriginal

Single Employable        7 (50%)        7 (50%)
Males Aboriginal

Single Employable        3 (50%)        3 (50%)
Males Non-Aboriginal

Totals                   36 (38%)       37 (39%)

                         Racist Treatment

                         No             Yes

Single Mothers           7 (28%)        4 (16%)

Single Mothers           1 (16%)        1 (16%)

Disabled Females         1 (16%)        1 (16%)

Disabled Females         1 (14%)        1 (14%)

Disabled Males           2 (22%)        1 (11%)

Disabled Males           2 (50%)        0 (0%)

Single Employable        2 (14%)        2 (14%)
Females Aboriginal

Single Employable        0 (0%)         1 (25%)
Females Non-Aboriginal

Single Employable        2 (14%)        4 (28.5%)
Males Aboriginal

Single Employable        1 (16%)        1 (16%)
Males Non-Aboriginal

Totals                   19 (20%)       16 (17%)

                         Sexist Treatment

                         No             Yes

Single Mothers           6 (24%)        2 (8%)

Single Mothers           1 (16%)        0 (0%)

Disabled Females         1 (16%)        0 (0%)

Disabled Females         1 (14%)        0 (0%)

Disabled Males           2 (22%)        2 (22%)

Disabled Males           2 (50%)        0 (0%)

Single Employable        3 (21.4%)      0 (0%)
Females Aboriginal

Single Employable        1 (25%)        0 (0%)
Females Non-Aboriginal

Single Employable        0 (0%)         0 (0%)
Males Aboriginal

Single Employable        1 (16%)        0 (0%)
Males Non-Aboriginal

Totals                   18 (19%)       4 (4%)
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