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Municipal policy in social assistance : a comparative review of social assistance policy in selected major cities of Western Canada, 1959 Wiedeman, Frank Victor


Municipalities have always been the crucial element in social assistance. But recent events which make a comparative study of social assistance policy timely are (a) the current community interest in the adequacy of social assistance allowances in Vancouver, and (b) the passage of the Unemployment Assistance Act amendment of 1958. The cities studied comprises cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, Edmonton, Regina, and Winnipeg. The aspects of policy particularly examined include: the determination of need, the extent to which the cities are willing to meet that need; residence policy; relatives' responsibility; assistance given to the able-bodied unemployed; income to low-income families; and the rehabilitation services offered the client. As introduction material the historical impact of the Poor Law tradition in Canada is reviewed, also the legal background of provincial social assistance. Questionnaires were formulated and submitted to the city welfare departments. Interviews were held with the public assistance administrators in Vancouver, Burnaby, Edmonton and Regina. Policy manuals are utilized wherever available. Several studies on rehabilitation approaches to public assistance clients in the United States were examined for comparative purposes. The similarity of social assistance legislation in the provinces shows as the first finding of this study. Only British Columbia and Saskatchewan, however, have so far abolished the local residence qualifications to comply with the signed Unemployment Assistance agreements. All the cities have made an effort to standardize and liberalize policies respecting assessment of resources and income. Limited dental and optical services are provided under each city's health program, which should be expanded. It is argued that the budget-deficit method for determining grants meets the clients’ needs more adequately than the flat-grant-plus-supplement method. Each city now provides financial assistance to the able-bodied unemployed but it is suggested that each city should examine their policy on supplementing income to low-income families. Multiple-purpose agencies (illustrated by Burnaby and Edmonton) appear as most effective in providing services to "multiple-problem" families. Coordination of services, public and private, optimum innovations in the use of personnel and the initiation of research are necessary for the most effective rehabilitation program. One informational contribution is the description of some of the components of resources and budget items within the social assistance program.

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