October 13, 2011

Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty

A major report from the National Council of Welfare argues that it makes far greater sense to invest in measures to solve poverty than it does to pay the cost of leaving millions of Canadians in poverty.

This report is about the high dollar cost we are currently paying for the consequences of poverty, and why investments to end poverty make better economic sense. There are different approaches to poverty. An approach based on short-term spending to help people in poverty get by can often carry indirect costs. It does not do a good job of reducing poverty itself.

The Council is a citizen advisory body to the Federal Government. Its flagship reports include Poverty Profile and Welfare Incomes. Those reports document the extent of poverty in Canada. The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty reframes the conversation. It demonstrates that is makes more sense to invest in solving poverty than it does to keep paying for the consequences of poverty.

What are the consequences of poverty?

  • Poor health. Twenty percent (20%) of Canada's health care spending can be attributed to poverty.
  • Homelessness. Housing first strategies have proven far more cost effective than keeping people homeless and in poverty.
  • Lost talent and potential of people caught in the daily grind of surviving poverty.

The key to solving poverty? Shift from a "short-term spending model that enables people to survive" to an investment model geared to the longer term.

Dollars and Sense offers some examples of that investment approach:

  • Broad-based incomes solutions such as Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement that have dramatically reduced the rate and depth of poverty for seniors to Child Tax Benefits which are beginning to have the same effect for  families with children.
  • Provincial child care programs which help families balance parenting and earning responsibilities.
  • Some provincial prescription drug plan that have been expanded to make medicine affordable to anyone with low income.

John Rook, Chair National  Council of Welfare
To learn more you can read the full report or the 8-page summary report.

Listen to National Council of Welfare Chair John Rook interviewed on Radio Canada International.

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