Income assistance should be available to 19 year olds and not 18 year olds as soon as possible, Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie said in the legislative assembly on Monday.
“I find it very disheartening to hear from our youth who should be using their final years of high school to get the best out of their education so that they can move on to productive career choices, saying instead that they can’t wait until they turn 18 so that they can sign on for income assistance,” said Towtongie.
Changing the age of eligibility to 19 was one of several income assistance reforms that the Department of Family Services proposed in 2016. Towtongie inquired about the status of that particular amendment in October 2019 and again earlier this week.
Family Services Minister Elisapee replied, “I have read this. I have read how it has changed things, but I just don’t remember if the age was changed. I will look into it and get back to you.”
Department staff informed Nunavut News that “the work is ongoing. The changes are not minor and will be in the queue with other legislative changes for the next government.”
The department’s statement added that income assistance workers offer referrals for 18-year-old applicants to discuss training and employment opportunities with career development officers.”
Sheutiapik pointed out that Family Services takes part in an annual GN career fair to help inform young adults of alternative options and the department also funds Skills Canada, which promotes various trades.
Towtongie said she recognizes that income assistance is intended as an “option of last resort” for those with no prospects for jobs, training or further education.
“I do appreciate that providing support and benefits is absolutely necessary to ensure that Nunavut residents are not left destitute. However, I am concerned that many of our youth find it so easy to access income assistance without trying to consider other options,” she said.