Improving Income Assistance

The federal on-reserve Income Assistance program has remained unchanged for almost 50 years.

In Budget 2012, the Government of Canada committed to helping young First Nations members to achieve their full potential through training and improved incentives for labour market participation.

Through Budget 2013, the Government is working with willing First Nations to improve the on-reserve Income Assistance program to help ensure on-reserve First Nation youth between the ages of 18 and 24 can access the skills and job-training they need to secure employment.

For those First Nations taking advantage of this approach, participation is mandatory for youth who are 18 to 24. Youth will receive up to a year of skills and pre-employment training activities needed to successfully apply for available jobs.

Under this approach, case-workers are working with clients to help identify barriers to employment and to develop a personalized plan to address those barriers. There are incentives and disincentives, modelled after social assistance programs in their province of residence, to ensure that the client follows their personal case plan. In addition, there is funding for skills training specifically targeted to on-reserve income assistance clients.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) will be providing $132 million over four years for Enhanced Service Delivery to support Enhanced Service Delivery to First Nations in identifying individuals' employment readiness and overcoming current barriers to employability.

For those clients requiring access to skills training, the federal government has committed $109 million over four years to the First Nations Job Fund, administered by Employment and Social Development Canada. The Job Fund is providing personalized job training to young Income Assistance recipients in participating First Nation communities, so they can develop the right skills to secure jobs.

The Job Fund is being implemented through a phased-in approach, from 2013 to 2016.

To participate in the Job Fund, First Nation communities must meet certain criteria for success, including demonstrating that demand-driven employment opportunities are available in reasonable proximity to the community, so that these youth can get jobs following their training.

While the First Nations Job Fund is separate from the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS), it is being implemented using the ASETS infrastructure. ASETS supports 85 Aboriginal organizations throughout Canada to increase workforce participation and help First Nation, Métis and Inuit people prepare for, find and maintain jobs. ASETS agreement holders design and deliver employment programs and services best suited to the unique needs of their clients.

The Enhanced Service Delivery and First Nations Job Fund investments are complementary and will help ensure that young clients who can work have the incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment.

What are the benefits of this new approach?

The improved program helps ensure that youth between the ages of 18 and 24 and who are on income assistance have incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment.

The enhanced approach focuses on supporting approximately 14,000 clients aged 18 to 24, including young new entrants to income assistance, who require less than one year of training to become employable.

Improvements are being made to how income assistance is delivered on reserve, ensuring it is both streamlined and more personalized to meet client needs. Clients who are participating in Enhanced Service Delivery have access to a range of services and programs, often termed Active Measures, aimed at increasing their employability and guiding and supporting them as they move into the workforce.

Enhanced Service Delivery is administered by a First Nation or a First Nation Income Assistance service provider. The Enhanced Service Delivery process begins with a client eligibility assessment following with an employment readiness needs assessment. Based on the needs assessment, a case plan is then developed and implemented through an action plan. Case management, referrals and compliance to the individual's case plan are then coordinated through Enhanced Service Delivery and First Nations Job Fund service providers. Enhanced Service Delivery and First Nations Job Fund service providers are key partners given their complementary responsibilities to provide skills training and employment services support.

To implement this approach, First Nations, groups of First Nations or other income assistance service providers must have strong organizational capacity.

The $132 million announced in Budget 2013 supports:

  • the introduction or reinforcement of the case management function as well as case management capacity development;
  • the costs for client assessments and basic pre-employment training costs and supports; and
  • the continued implementation of Ontario Works in Ontario First Nations.

These enhancements to service delivery for income assistance on reserve better support First Nation communities, ensuring they have the tools they require to focus on skills training and case management and to partner with skills development and training organizations.