More Support for Expecting and New Mothers

August 22, 2013

New and expectant mothers receiving income assistance will benefit with an increase to the province’s maternal nutritional allowance.

Effective Oct. 1, the province will increase the allowance to $51 a month, about a 76 per cent increase, to ensure that low-income Nova Scotian women who are pregnant can better afford healthy food.

“We know how important it is for pregnant women and new mothers to have access to nutritious food,” said Denise Peterson-Rafuse, Minister of Community Services. “By increasing the maternal nutritional allowance, we are making it a priority to improve the health of pregnant women and new mothers on income assistance.

“We know that more can and should be done and now that we have a balanced budget we can do more to make life better for Nova Scotians most in need.”

The maternal nutritional allowance is now $29 a month and is available for the duration of a woman’s pregnancy and during the year after the birth of a child. About 850 women receive the maternal nutritional allowance each month. This increase brings Nova Scotia in line with other areas in Canada.

“I think this is fantastic news,” said Ceilidh Lewis, a new mother. “This allowance is so important, even after the baby is born, for nutrition reasons.”

“Eating a variety of healthy foods can help give a woman the nutrients she needs to support a healthy pregnancy,” said Catherine Walsh, clinical dietitian, Women’s and Newborn Health Program at the IWK Health Centre. “Choosing healthy food also promotes optimal weight gain during pregnancy, contributing to a baby’s growth and development and lifelong health.

“Healthy futures really start well before birth, supported by a mother’s healthy lifestyle, including eating healthy food. Healthy eating ultimately has profound benefits – both short and long term – for Nova Scotia families, including contributing to positive well-being and in the prevention of chronic disease.”

The province also recently increased the personal use allowance for income assistance recipients by $17 a month. This is the third year in a row the province has increased the allowance, part of an overall 22 per cent increase in income assistance since 2009.

The personal allowance for an individual receiving income assistance, which can also be used to purchase food, is now $255 per month, per adult. In addition, expecting and new mothers receiving income assistance may be eligible for funding to cover the cost of prescribed prenatal vitamins and foods required for special dietary needs such as gestational diabetes.

Since 2009, the government has increased investments to help more low-income Nova Scotians including introducing Nova Scotia’s first housing strategy, increasing minimum wage, adding 250 child care subsidies, building more affordable housing and removing the provincial portion of the HST from home heating, children’s shoes, clothing and diapers.

The province also announced in July that the number of Nova Scotians living in poverty is at its lowest level in decades. The number of people with low incomes in Nova Scotia dropped by more than 7,000 to 64,000 in 2011, a decrease of 10 per cent over 2012 according to Statistics Canada data. This means that about seven per cent of the population is considered to be living in poverty, the lowest percentage of low-income Nova Scotians on record.