Living on low-income as a single mother

Navigating life as a single parent can be challenging, whether it be emotionally, socially or financially.  

The 2016 census reported that more than one million children aged zero to 14 were living in single-parent households across Canada. The poverty rate for single-parent families is four times higher than the rate for couples with children. 

The overwhelming majority of single parents are women. Many of them face financial barriers like the gender pay gap or unpaid leave and are living with a high risk of poverty.

Here are a few ways to manage living on low-income while raising children as a single mother in Ontario.

Make sure you’re receiving the benefits you’re eligible for

As a parent in Canada, you are eligible for the Canada Child Benefit through the Canada Revenue Agency. 

When you file taxes and list a dependent, you are automatically assessed for this benefit. You can receive up to $6,765 per child under age six and up to $5,708 per child age six through 17.

During the Canada Child Benefit assessment, you are also automatically assessed for the Ontario Child Benefit. You can receive up to $1,461 per child each year. 

Your income and the number of children in your care under 18 years old will determine the amount you receive.

You can also apply for the Ontario child care fee subsidy. To be eligible, your child must be under 13 years old. They must also be registered in a licensed child-care program, camp, or a before-and-after-school program. This subsidy also depends on your income. You can complete the application through your local child care service system managers.

If you qualify as low-income, you are also eligible for the Ontario Electricity Support Program. Apply online to get credits on your bill of $35 to $75 per month, saving up to $900 each year.

photo of woman with daughter
Photo by Sai de Silva

Make use of social media and buy and sell pages

Buying new toys, clothes and school supplies is expensive. If you don’t have friends or family to receive hand-me-downs from, you don’t have to resort to buying brand-new items that may cost more.

Facebook Marketplace is a great place to buy any household items you need. You can even sell things of your own to make some extra money. All you need is a Facebook account. It’s easier and more trustworthy than websites like Craigslist. 

Keep in mind items sell fast on Marketplace, and some sellers may be open to trading items as well.

Facebook groups for single moms are another helpful resource. You can meet other mothers in your area for emotional support or to trade goods.

photo of Facebook
Photo by Tobias Dziuba

Access resources for healthy eating support

If you face food insecurity, you’re not alone. From 2019 to 2020, 537,575 individuals accessed food banks in Ontario and 33 per cent of visitors were children. Regardless of your location, there are resources to help.

Feed Ontario is a non-profit that has a food bank finder and community programs such as the Rural Kids Food Program.

Food4Kids, servicing Southwestern Ontario, delivers healthy meals to schools and to kids’ homes on weekends and in the summer.

Feeding Canadian Kids has a new program called Families Feeding Families. A host family prepares and delivers a healthy meal to their assigned guest family approximately once a week.

Connect with your community

You are not alone in your experience. Though you may not know other single mothers in your area, there are women’s centres and groups across Ontario to access in-person support. 

Toronto Single Moms was started by a single mother who wanted to help other single moms find resources and support throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Single Women in Motherhood (SWIM) is a non-profit serving the London-Middlesex area. They help single mothers find economic stability and interpersonal support. 

The Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre is based out of Thunder Bay and helps women become self-advocates. 

Know where to go for emergency financial assistance

If you are in acute financial distress, you can apply for emergency assistance from the Ontario government. 

You can receive approximately $733 for one month if you are a single person and need help paying for food and shelter. Increased amounts are also available for people with children.

More info is available here, or you can head right to the application.

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