Research and Insights

Introduction

Over the course of several months in 2014 community partners in Hamilton collaborated to arrange and host a series of community events that would invite and assist eligible families with young children to register for the Canada Learning Bond (CLB). Registration events were held by community partners in five selected neighbourhoods that were identified as having a high concentration of eligible families with children. This project was successful in improving access to benefits for children in selected neighbourhoods. A report was created to document this pilot project. SPRC continues to offer free, year-round financial problem-solving services including help completing government forms to access benefits (such as the CLB) through its Financial Empowerment Program. This bulletin provides an update on the current participation in the CLB within Hamilton.

Canada Learning Bond

The Canada Learning Bond (CLB) is an education benefit available to children born on or after January 1, 2004, who are from low-income families or getting benefits under the Children’s Special Allowance Act. CLB money will be deposited directly into a child’s RESP, which needs to be opened in order to access the CLB. However, parents do not need to put additional contributions to the RESP that is used for the CLB.

The CLB provides an initial payment of $500, and $100 for each year of eligibility up to age 15 (to a maximum of $2,000) and is retroactive. This means CLB payments can be requested for years the beneficiary was eligible, even for years before they were named in RESP. Personal contributions are not required to receive the CLB.

As of January 1, 2022, individuals eligible for the CLB who were born in 2004 but did not receive it yet can apply for the benefit when they turn 18. As a result, adult beneficiaries (i.e., those who receive it between the ages of 18 and 20) are included in beneficiary counts from 2022 onward. Nationally, the CLB take-up rate was 42.6% in 2021.

The Hamilton Story

The following chart shows the average CLB participation rate across the 21 Forward Sortation Areas (FSA) whose boundaries are fully in the City of Hamilton. There are several FSAs whose boundaries extend beyond the borders of Hamilton and are not included in this chart. The chart shows data as of December 31 of a given year. As of December 31, 2022, the CLB participation rate in Hamilton was 39.4%. That means 60 percent of eligible children in Hamilton are not accessing the CLB. This translates to 36,800 children not participating in the CLB.

The map below shows the participation rate of children for the Canada Learning Bond in Hamilton as of December 31, 2022. Each area is a Forward Sortation Area (FSA), which is the boundary of the first three characters of a postal code. The number in each FSA represents the number of children that are eligible for the CLB and but are not currently participating. As can be seen on the map, the north end (L8L, L8H) and lower city (L8M, L8K, L8T, L8V) FSAs have the lowest participation rate. As well, these FSAs have the some of the highest number of children that are not participating in the CLB program. We also see that two east end FSAs (L8E, L8J) that have a participation rate over 40%, also have a large number of children not participating.

To use this map, you can zoom to a FSA and click on the area to bring up a popup that provides information on the number of eligible children, those participating, including a rate, and the number of children eligible, but not participating. The home button zooms the map back to view the entire city of Hamilton. Use the button with the three lines to show the legend of the map.

Barriers to Enrolling in the Canada Learning Bond

Enrollment barriers to the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) are significant, particularly for families living in poverty or facing financial challenges. One of the most significant barriers is the lack of information and awareness about the program, which makes it challenging for eligible families to apply. Other barriers include difficulty accessing the internet, language barriers, and a lack of documentation. In some cases, families may not have access to a bank account or a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which are required to receive the CLB. Additionally, families who move frequently or who have unstable housing situations may have difficulty providing a consistent mailing address or other information required for the application process. Finally, the complex and time-consuming application process itself can be a barrier for some families, particularly those who may have limited literacy or education levels. Addressing these barriers requires a comprehensive approach, including public awareness campaigns, simplified application processes, and targeted outreach efforts to underserved communities.

Practical Solutions

The CLB has the potential to be an effective poverty reduction strategy, providing a subsidy for postsecondary education. While barriers exist in its current implementation, providing a comprehensive approach could expand access for young people living in low income households. Recommendations include but are not limited to:

  1. Providing public awareness campaigns to educate families on the CLB;
  2. Providing a simplified application process with community supports to help families navigate the application process or, better still, an automatic enrollment process;
  3. Investing in ongoing targeted outreach efforts to underserved communities.

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