Pride comes with benefits
Back to welfare basics with community control

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (DEC 04/96) - A community-based welfare program designed for "people in transition" rather than the "jobless" was unveiled by the territorial government on Friday.

Charles DentEmployment Minister Charles Dent (left) says the new program -- scheduled to be implemented this January -- will do more to encourage pride, a desire to work and a sense of initiative.

He also expects to transfer the administration of the program from the government to several communities over the next few months.

"Income support will be largely a transitional program, designed to assist people who need help while they develop new skills to become more independent," he said.

Under the plan, community-based workers will help those on welfare develop career plans and identify "productive choices", such as hunting, education, training and community service work.

"The new income support program will provide basic benefits for people in transition who need financial help for a short time," said Dent.

"Extended benefits will be available to people who need help over a longer period, if they are involved in activities that contribute to their personal or community growth," he added.

For example, those who decide to pursue training or go back to school or participate in a healing program may be eligible for extended benefits.

"The individual and the income support worker will work together to develop an individual plan, and then choose a productive activity that will help that person progress towards future goals," said Dent.

Local control and delivery of welfare will allow each community to set its own definitions of "productive choices".

"This means the program will meet local priorities and use available resources in the best way possible to help people in need," he said.

Dent pointed to the 1993 Special Committee on Health and Social Services and the 1995 Ministers Forum on Income Support Reform as the basis for welfare changes.

The forum and committee concluded that in future, welfare must:

"By linking benefits to productive choices, it will help people develop the skills they need to become more independent," said Dent.

"The new program should be an important step in helping individuals and communities reach their goals."