Income Assistance Program - Frequently Asked Questions

Income Assistance Reform – Enhanced Service Delivery

Process for Accessing New Investments

Q.1) What is the process for accessing Enhanced Service Delivery funds?

Access to these funds is contingent upon a First Nation or service delivery provider meeting the eligibility criteria, which includes the capacity to offer case management services and oversee mandatory participation of the client group, as well as a willingness and formal commitment from the First Nation's leadership.

As part of the incremental approach for rolling out this initiative nationally, a targeted proposal-based approach is being used, with the intake of new proposals occurring at selected times throughout the four years.

The most advanced First Nations and/or service delivery organizations were invited to submit funding proposals for an initial intake round in 2013-14. Criteria for assessing the readiness of these organizations included:

  • Current service delivery capacity
  • Income Assistance client caseload
  • Excellence in program management
  • Commitment of the local leadership
  • Labour market potential
  • Relationships with and capacity of potential training network providers

Q.2) What are the benefits of this new approach?

  • The improved program helps ensure that youth have the incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment.
  • The enhanced approach will focus on supporting approximately 14,000 youth aged 18-24, including young new entrants to income assistance, who require less than one year of training to become employable.
  • In Alberta, for example, this approach has reduced the income assistance dependency by 5% over three years.

Q.3) Is the process the same for Ontario First Nations given the agreement with the Province of Ontario on social program delivery?

AANDC's role in the delivery of social services in Ontario First Nations differs from the Department's role in other regions of Canada. The Government of Ontario is responsible for delivery of Ontario Works by First Nations, and provides funding directly to First Nations. Under a federal-provincial agreement in Ontario (known as the "1965 Agreement") AANDC reimburses a share of provincial expenditures on First Nations Ontario Works programs.

Currently, most First Nations in Ontario deliver the enhanced employment services as part of the Ontario Works program. Funding under Enhanced Service Delivery has been set aside so that additional Ontario First Nations are able to implement employment services within Ontario Works. In 2013-14, over $5 million was invested 21 First Nations in Ontario so that they may deliver these provincial services.

In addition, in Fall 2013, applications for the First Nations Jobs Fund were solicited from six training network organizations, which are aligned with groups of First Nations already implementing Ontario Works employment services. Applications received from five proponents have been reviewed, four have been approved, and one is currently under review.

Q.4) Who is participating?

Youth from 88 First Nations from across the country are participating in skills training and job readiness activities.

See also:

Q.5) What about communities/organizations not invited to the initial intake round?

A targeted proposal-based approach will be used with the intake of new proposals occurring at selected times throughout the four years. If an organization demonstrates that they meet the criteria to deliver Enhanced Service Delivery (ESD), they may be invited to submit a proposal to access funds for implementing an enhanced service delivery system. Availability of resources to support additional Enhanced Service Delivery uptake in the host region, and the current level of service available through existing service providers – among other criteria – will also be taken into account.

Income assistance service providers that currently do not have a sufficient level of program readiness and capacity to meet the criteria for Enhanced Service Delivery, may still be eligible for pilot project funding. These funds would be used to develop, implement and evaluate modified approaches to enhanced service delivery to meet the specific needs of less ready providers.

Over the four years of this initiative it is expected that approximately 60% of First Nations will have access, at varying degrees, to the enhanced service delivery approach.

Q.6) Will funding for ESD be on a multi-year basis or will Service Providers have to re-apply each year?

ESD funding includes three eligible expense categories: Case Management, Client Supports, and Service Delivery Infrastructure. Expenditures are to be forecast on an annual basis, but proponents are being asked to submit multi-year budgets as part of their applications. For some organizations, approval of the initial proposal will mean that only an update of the budget forecast, rather than a full proposal, will be required in subsequent years.

Case Management and Client Supports funding is only available to organizations that are delivering Income Assistance, or, organizations, such as Tribal Councils, that propose to provide to their First Nation members, on a shared services delivery basis, some elements of the Enhanced Service Delivery (e.g., assessment, case planning, referral).

Q.7) What is an acceptable case management approach and why is it important to the delivery of income assistance?

Enhanced Service Delivery is a streamlined approach to deliver Income Assistance on to willing First Nation reserves. It consists of a continuum of services and programming that aims at increasing an IA client's employability so he/she can move to the labour force. A key component of ESD is the use of case management to guide the IA client throughout the continuum. Case management supports the client's achievement of safe, realistic and reasonable goals within a complex health, social, and fiscal environment.

IA providers who receive funding under ESD will be encouraged to implement the core stages of case management practices, which have been implemented and tested extensively and proven successful worldwide. These cores stages are:

  1. Intake and Eligibility determination, where the basic eligibility will be confirmed and financial needs will be assessed based on the rules of the reference province or territory.
  2. Client assessment: where the barriers to employment and employability needs of the client will be assessed. At this stage, eligibility of the client for the mandatory stream and access to ESD supports and services will be determined.
  3. Planning, where a mandatory case plan will be collaboratively developed by the case worker and the client.
  4. Implementation of the mandatory case plan, which entails referral to the FNJF service provider or any other agencies who can support the implementation of a client's case plan, as well as client follow up and monitoring.

Q.8) Can organizations who are not under Enhanced Service Delivery receive funding under the First Nations Job Fund?

No, First Nations organizations must first be approached by AANDC and invited to participate in Enhanced Service Delivery. Applications for Enhanced Service Delivery and the First Nations Job Fund must be submitted jointly to AANDC and ESDC by an invited First Nations organization and its partner training provider under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS).

If the proposals are approved for funding the two organizations then work jointly to support the young income assistance clients who are being case managed.

In Ontario, funding for Enhanced Service Delivery is being used to expand the implementation of employment services within Ontario Works to those First Nations who have yet to implement the full suite of Ontario Works. Ontario First Nations who have been delivering Ontario Works, have been assessed in the same manner as other ESD applicants elsewhere in the country. These First Nations were invited to work with Ontario ASETS agreement holders who then submitted a First Nations Job Fund application for consideration.

Q.9) How is on-reserve income assistance delivered and how has this changed for communities who are now implementing ESD?

First Nations are generally responsible for providing income assistance to their on-reserve members. In the majority of communities, the income assistance program does not currently provide people with support necessary to help them enter the workforce. Except in a few communities, individuals who apply for income assistance are only assessed to determine eligibility for basic and special needs, according to criteria of their province or territory. Most communities have not conducted personalized assessments of individuals' skills and training needs.

Equipping First Nations people so they can fully participate in the economy is a priority for the Government and for First Nations. That's why, through Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government is working with First Nations to improve the on-reserve Income Assistance Program to help ensure First Nation youth between the ages of 18 and 24 can access the skills and training they need to secure employment.

Under this approach, case-workers are working with individuals to help identify barriers to employment and to develop a personalized plan to address those barriers. There are incentives and disincentives modeled after income assistance programs in the province of residence, to ensure that the individual follows their personal case plan. There are dedicated resources to support skills training specifically for income assistance clients.

For those First Nations who take advantage of this approach, participation is mandatory for youth who are 18-24 and who will be job-ready with a year or less of skills and pre-employment training.

Q.10) Is this approach similar to what is offered by the provinces and territories?

All provinces' income assistance programs provide for this type of pre-employment measures programming, in various forms. Generally speaking, provinces have restricted eligibility for social assistance among those deemed to be ready to work.

Many provinces also have additional supports in place to help move income assistance clients to training and employment. Experiences at both the provincial and First Nation community levels have demonstrated that individuals with personalized support can receive the training they need to find and keep long-term jobs.

These changes are designed to align with experiences in provinces and territories that have demonstrated the long-term value of helping young adults gain access to the labour market.

Q.11) What is AANDC's approach for reforming the income assistance program?

Through Economic Action Plan 2013, the reforms provide skills and pre-employment training support to participating First Nation youth between the ages of 18 and 24 so they can successfully apply for available jobs and reduce reliance on Income Assistance.

Q.12) How many First Nations are expected to take advantage of this opportunity?

Between 2013 and 2017 it is estimated that approximately 60 per cent of First Nation youth will have access, at various degrees, to this enhanced approach.

Through these reforms, the government plans to provide enhanced support to approximately 14,000 clients aged 18-24, including young new entrants to income assistance, who require less than one year of training to become employable.

It is expected that over a period of 10 years, all First Nations should be positioned to provide enhanced services under this new approach.

Q.13) Once a community commits to the program, is it able to withdraw?

Access to these funds will be contingent upon a First Nation meeting the eligibility criteria, which includes the capacity to offer case management services and oversee mandatory participation of youth aged 18 to 24, as well as a formal commitment from the First Nation's leadership.

If a First Nation decides to no longer deliver the enhanced program, the new investments would be reallocated to other eligible communities.

Q.14) What are Pre-Employment Supports?

Pre-employment supports, often called "active measures", are activities that help income assistance clients increase their employability and find jobs.

These measures can include basic and life skills training, formal education and career counselling, apprenticeship, as well as voluntary work. They may also include wage subsidies to encourage employers to hire program participants, as well as specified training supports.

AANDC has been carrying out a limited series of pilots and other active measures activities since 2003. The funds provided in Economic Action Plan 2013 will make it possible to offer these benefits to a larger number of First Nations across the country through both Enhanced Service Delivery and the First Nations Job Fund.

Q.15) What are the criteria used to determine if a community is ready to participate in Enhanced Service Delivery?

The program is being rolled out incrementally across the country, starting with communities that are the most ready and willing, and where there are specific opportunities to access the job market. It also builds on examples that are already demonstrating success, drawing from those First Nations that have implemented case management and active measures on an ongoing basis or through pilot projects.

This incremental approach focuses first on those First Nations most engaged with this new approach, increasing the chance of success, and providing best practices for engaging with more First Nations in the future. Criteria for early adopters include minimum recipient case loads, demonstrated excellence in income assistance program management, and links with a network of training and employment service providers like Aboriginal Skills employment Training Strategy (ASETS) holders. As a part of implementing Enhanced Service Delivery, new models of aggregated or shared service delivery will be explored to assist smaller income assistance providers or those which operate in remote or isolated areas.

Q.16) What are "personalized job supports"?

Personalized support is when a trained case worker or social worker works directly with an income assistance recipient to find out what their needs are and develops a plan for them to get a job. Most provinces and territories provide this type of service. The proposed funds would provide support for First Nations to provide this enhanced level of service to their communities. Experiences at the provincial level and in the First Nation communities already providing this support, have demonstrated that individuals with personalized support can get the training they need to find and keep long-term jobs.

Q.17) Why isn't this new initiative mandatory for all First Nations at the same time?

Changing the delivery of income assistance to one which helps transition clients into the workforce will take time. The Government is incrementally introducing program reform, starting with communities that are the most ready and willing, and where there are specific opportunities to access the job market. We will build upon examples that are already demonstrating success, drawing from those First Nations that have implemented case management and Active Measures on an ongoing basis or through pilot projects.

This incremental approach is allowing us to focus our spending on the most engaged First Nations, increasing the chance of success, and providing best practices for engaging with more First Nations in the future. As a part of implementing Enhanced Service Delivery, new models of aggregated or shared service delivery will be explored to assist smaller income assistance providers or those which operate in remote or isolated areas.

Q.18) Why is participation in Enhanced Service Delivery focused on 18-24 year olds?

This approach focuses in the first instance on helping First Nation youth obtain training and jobs before they become dependent on income assistance over the longer-term. Most provinces and territories are also placing greater attention on young people.

Q.19) How will effective compliance and accountability for the reforms be ensured?

AANDC is currently developing and implementing a more rigorous compliance regime. To support these improvements, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is undertaking a number of efforts to strengthen program management of the Income Assistance program, ensuring that assistance is made available and better targeted to support those who truly require it.

These efforts include working with all First Nations that deliver income assistance to ensure that activities are being managed appropriately and are in compliance with the program's terms and conditions. Compliance reviews are also being carried out across the country with the goal of reducing the risk of overpayment and program non-performance in the future. Program compliance reviews in First Nation communities will ensure that appropriate income assistance benefits are going to eligible clients.

Q.20) What will be the consequences if an income assistance client does not comply with their mandatory action plan?

For those communities that adopt the new approach, all eligible clients accepted for participation will have to fully comply with the personal case plan that they develop with their case worker. Incentives to encourage participation and compliance (e.g., supplemental monthly benefits), as well as measures to respond to non-participation or non-compliance (e.g., reduction or suspension of benefits) will be employed as required, and will align with provincial provisions.

Q.21) What happens after 2017?

The Government of Canada will evaluate the income assistance reform initiative prior to the end of 2016. This, combined with annual performance results, will be used to determine progress to date and if future investments will be required to complete the uptake of Enhanced Service Delivery with all remaining service providers outside of Ontario after 2017. Funds will also be made available to continue the implementation of Ontario Works in remaining First Nations in Ontario.

Q.22) In addition to ESD, what other Government of Canada programs are there to help Aboriginal people get the skills needed to find jobs?

The Government of Canada supports several programs to help Aboriginal people get the skills and training they need to find and keep good jobs, including:

  • The Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS) supports 85 Aboriginal organizations that deliver services to prepare First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals to find sustainable, meaningful employment. ASETS focuses on three strategic priorities: supporting demand-driven skills development; fostering partnerships with the private sector and the provinces and territories; and putting emphasis on accountability and results.
  • The Skills and Partnership Fund (SPF) creates innovative, partnership-based projects that increase Aboriginal participation in labour market activities and is available to all Aboriginal organizations. SPF projects focus on new and emerging opportunities that are sufficiently flexible to respond to workforce demands as well as new and innovative approaches to support skills development, training, and employment. SPF builds on the success of earlier Aboriginal employment programs and has greater flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the Canadian economy. SPF is project-based and funding is awarded through Calls for Concepts, with the last one having taken place in 2012.
  • The Canada Student Loans Program provides loans and grants to post-secondary students who qualify.
  • The Post-Secondary Student Support Program supports First Nations and eligible Inuit students by providing funding to seek education and skills development at the post-secondary level.
  • Through the Post-Secondary Partnerships Program eligible post-secondary institutions can apply for funding to design and deliver university- and college-level courses tailored for First Nations and Inuit students.
  • The Aboriginal Bursaries Search Tool is a searchable list of more than 750 bursaries, scholarships and incentives available across Canada which are offered by governments, universities and colleges, private and public companies, individual Canadians, organizations and others.