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Fewer people receiving AISH under UCP government

Since last summer, data shows the lowest increases in AISH caseloads numbers over the last 12 years, included 6 months of decreases.

Earlier this month, Alberta Community and Social Services released a dataset for monthly Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped caseloads in the province.

I thought I’d go through it and parse some of it out for you.

First, here’s what the monthly AISH caseload numbers look like between April 2008 and August 2021.

For about the first 11 years, the number of monthly cases rose fairly steadily, at about 0.4% more cases each month, on average. The largest monthly increase was 1.14% in March 2012 and the smallest was 0.08% in August 2014. There were only 2 months in the first 11 years that saw monthly increases over 1%.

Then starting at the beginning of 2019 things changed, and the caseload increased by 0.7% per month on average until June 2020. The largest increase was 1.13% in March 2019, and the smallest increase was 0.25% in June 2020. There were 5 months with increases over 1%.

Between last July and just this past August, caseload growth has nearly flatlined. In fact, the average increase was only 0.02% per month.

During that period, there were 6 months with declines in caseload numbers:

  • Aug 2020: -0.17%
  • Dec 2020: -0.05%
  • Feb 2021: -0.20%
  • May 2021: -0.01%
  • Jul 2021: -0.05%
  • Aug 2021: -0.08%

Until last summer, the number of caseloads had never decreased in this province (at least going as far back as 2008).

Let me repeat that. During the last 13 years, the only time the number of people receiving AISH dropped in Alberta was under the UCP. Not under the NDP, and not even the PCs. Not only did the numbers drop under the UCP, they did so 6 times in an 11-month period. Basically, every other month.

And the largest drop was just this past February.

Here’s what the numbers look like when we take the average of all the months for each year between 2008 and 2021.

Again, we see steady increases in the monthly average each year, with a slightly higher incline in 2019 and 2020, then a plateau in 2021.

But let’s look at the increases themselves.

Between 2009 and 2016, the monthly caseload oscillated between increasing by 4.21% as a low and by 5.79% as a high, averaging about 4.83% more monthly caseloads per year.

In 2017, that jumped to 6.66%, then jumped even more two years later to 7.72%. Those two increases were the largest increases to average monthly caseloads over the last 12 years, the first increasing over the previous year by nearly half, and the second increasing over the previous year by nearly two-thirds.

This year, the average increase is its lowest level yet, increasing by only 0.82% a month. There are only four months left in 2021, so it’s unlikely this average will change much.

That brings me to my next chart though.

Given that the 7-month period between January and August 2021 saw 4 months of decreases in caseload numbers, as well as the lowest increase in the period (0.20%), I thought I’d compare this 7-month period to similar periods of previous years.

Here we see not only that the only decreases to ever occur in this 12-year period happened during the last 7 months of the UCP administration, but every month in that 7-month period had a lower increase than its corresponding month in any other year of that 12-year period. This also makes two Augusts in a row with decreases.

And hence why the average increase in caseloads during that 7-month period in 2021 is only 0.03%. The is by far the lowest 7-month average during any year in this 13-year period; the next lowest average was 0.32% in 2015. In fact, during the previous 12 years, the monthly average was around 0.46%

All this after Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s minister of Community and Social Services, promised last September that “there will be no cuts to AISH financial benefits.”

A few final items from the report:

  • As of August 2021, 43.4% of those receiving AISH have a physical disability as their primary condition, 30.5% have a mental disability, and 26.1% have a cognitive disorder. This has been pretty consistent over the last year. Keep in mind, that this is only primary conditions; some people will have multiple conditions, which may overlap multiple categories.
  • 86.3% of recipients were single individuals, 6.2% were single parents, 4.9% were childless couples, and 2.6% were couples with children. These numbers were also consistent for most of the months over the last year.
  • The Edmonton region contained 34.9% of the AISH caseloads, followed by the Calgary region at 29.4%. The central region was at 13.3%, the south region was 10.6%, and all other regions were under 10%.
  • The 3 largest age groups of those receiving AISH are 60–64 (15.8%), 55–59 (15.0%), and 50–54 (11.0%). Combined, all those 50 years old and up comprise 41.8% of all caseloads.
  • Of those receiving AISH who are also receiving income, 38.5% of them were employed or self-employed in August 2021, which, again, was fairly consistent throughout the previous 11 months.
  • The gender breakdown is fairly evenly split, with 53.1% male and 46.9% female, as of August 2021, and that proportion changed relatively little over the last year.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.