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An evaluation of a municipal work-for-relief project Lautard, Emile Edouard Joseph

Abstract

A recurring demand in the field of public assistance is the request that recipients should be expected to work for their allowances. A project based on this principle was operated by a municipality in the Lower Fraser Valley during the winter of 1961-62. This study attempts to evaluate the results achieved. The historical background of work-for-relief has been reviewed -particularly the experience of the United States and Canada. It is usually found that attempts to meet unemployment with a policy of work-relief are soon abandoned because available funds are quickly exhausted and it is never possible to provide work for all who apply for it. Direct relief is resorted to because it is less costly. When large numbers of persons become dependent upon public assistance the belief persists that many do so because they are unwilling to work. Policies are subsequently advocated which urge that recipients should be put to work to earn their allowances. Experience during the depression of the thirties indicated that, in fact, people wanted nothing so much as a job. The project under study was based on the assumption that the persons assigned were "chronic recipients of social assistance". The project operated from November, 1961 to May, 1962. A study carried out in the following August, 1962 indicated that anumber had not returned to social assistance rolls by that date. The inference was made that their work-for-relief assignment had contributed to a lessening of dependency. This study suggests that the lessening of dependency had actually begun five months prior to the operation of the project and was probably due to improved economic conditions. It was suggested that the primary causes of dependency were poor physical and mental health as well as adverse employment conditions. The study emphasized the need for adequately trained professional personnel in administering public assistance.

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