Improving Income Assistance

The federal on-reserve Income Assistance program has remained unchanged for almost 50 years, but does not do enough to help First Nation individuals and communities achieve their full potential.

In Economic Action Plan 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 Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government will work with willing 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.

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

Under this approach, case-workers will work with clients to help identify any barriers to employment and to develop a personalized plan to address those barriers. There will be incentives and disincentives, modelled after social assistance programs in their province of residence, to ensure that the client follows their personal case plan. There will also be skills training funding specifically targeted to on-reserve income assistance recipients.

To support First Nations in their move to this new approach, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) will be providing $132 million over four years to support Enhanced Service Delivery to First Nations that will focus on identifying clients' individual 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 for the new First Nations Job Fund which is being administered by Employment and Social Development Canada. The First Nations Job Fund targets new investments solely for on-reserve income assistance clients primarily through its network and training providers under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy. The new First Nations Jobs Fund will fund a range of activities including; skills assessments, training, job coaching, and a number of labour market training supports for young clients. Income Assistance benefits for these clients will depend on participation in the case management approach as per current practice in most provinces.

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 will help ensure that young clients of income assistance who can work have the incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment.

The enhanced approach will focus on supporting 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.

Improvements will be made to how income assistance is delivered on-reserve, ensuring it is both streamlined and more personalized to meet client needs. Clients will 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.

This enhanced service delivery will be administered by a First Nation or a First Nation income assistance service provider. The process starts when a file is opened and a client's eligibility is determined. The client's employment readiness needs are assessed and a personal case plan is developed and implemented. Case management, referrals and compliance to the individual's case plan are then coordinated. 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 Economic Action Plan 2013 will support:

  • 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 will better support First Nation communities, ensuring they have the tools they require to focus on Active Measures and case management and to partner with skills development and training organizations.