CALGARY – New data from the University of Calgary shows social assistance cases are on the rise in Alberta. Researchers at the School of Public Policy suggest it’s a clear sign the province is still in a recession.

According to the Social Policy Trends study, social assistance provided to people who are struggling to find work and are not inhibited by a disability has nearly doubled over the last decade. 

"It is important data especially when the government is thinking about presenting a budget, which they’re doing very soon. These numbers are important to them because it’s an expense and it’s also an issue for public policy," said Ron Kneebone, the scientific director of the social policy and research group at the School of Public Policy.

The data shows social assistance cases for those Albertans has gone up from two per cent in April of 2007 to 3.7 per cent as of July 2019. 

The first notable spike in the need for social assistance occurred following the 2008 financial crisis where it peaked at 3.0 per cent in March 2010. Social assistance then rose sharply for the second time after the fall in energy prices in 2015. 

"If greater percentages of households in Alberta rely on social assistance the government needs to be thinking, well certainly not thinking about cutting back on those programs, but maybe thinking about new and imaginative programs to help these people get by," said Kneebone.

The School of Public Policy says the largest part of the increase in the reliance on Alberta Works benefits is due to the recession in the energy sector and prolonged uncertainty surrounding pipeline construction and approval of other energy projects. 

Researchers suggest the 2015 recession is continuing for households on social assistance and there's little hope of improvement unless policy makers in the province provide more support to families in need.