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Measurement of need in social assistance : an approach to the definition of adequacy in relation to social allowance budgets Brown, Beverley Blake

Abstract

Poverty continues to be a social problem in North American society, although a network of social allowance programs has now been developed to provide financial assistance to various categories of people in need. A number of definitive studies are now available on food minima and household essentials required for health and welfare maintenance. However, in British Columbia there is no fixed policy to incorporate the use of standard budgets into the social allowance program. The needs of financially dependent persons vary greatly according to the personal and family circumstances, etc., though some basic components are constant; rehabilitative casework also requires flexibility. The present study reviews a sample group to secure data on (1) the nature of the needs of dependent families; (2) the effects of financial dependency; and (3) the cost of providing maintenance at the level of minimum standard budgets. The study is directed to two kinds of families, (a) those in which the father for any reason is not in the home, and (b) those in which the father is part of the family unit but unable to support his family. Three-member families were chosen for the former sample and six-member families for the latter. For this initial study, a semi-rural area was selected from the Lower Mainland Region of the Provincial Department of Social Welfare. With the important survey on the adequacy of social allowance made by the Vancouver Community Chest and Councils in 1958 as a starting point, standard budgets were calculated for each of the sample families. An analysis of their expenses was completed in relation to this, and patterns of expenditure were then compared to those of the lowest-earning income-group (as determined by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics family income surveys). In addition, experiential aspects of family living were recorded, and an initial framework set up on the dependency characteristics of social assistance families as these affect adjustments to their situations and rehabilitation prospects. The study shows that, in addition to need which varies directly according to the sex and age of the members, other important variables are the type of family accommodation, previous levels of living, management ability, and personal assets or liabilities. Despite these variations, the needs of families were categorized and, to some extent, itemized. This made it possible to calculate money amounts required by each family for a minimum level of living. It was found that where personal inadequacies exist, they are exacerbated by the deprivation inherent in an inadequate income. When this is the case, the families require supplementary services to enable them to become functionally independent. On the other hand, some social assistance recipients require only an adequate income to render them capable of coping with their problems.

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