Backgrounder - Income Assistance Reform: Enhanced Service Delivery

Date: June 12, 2013

The federal on-reserve Income Assistance program has existed relatively unchanged for almost 50 years, and has not kept pace with the changing needs of Canada's job market, or the needs of the country's young and growing First Nation population. While approximately 20% of First Nations delivering Income Assistance currently provide some additional case management support to help Income Assistance recipients find work, more needs to be done.

Through Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government committed to working with First Nations to improve the on-reserve Income Assistance Program to help ensure that First Nation youth can access the skills and training they need to secure employment.

Building on successful pilot projects and partnerships underway across the country, AANDC is introducing Enhanced Service Delivery for First Nations and their service providers. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) will be providing $132 million over four years to support First Nations in identifying individuals' employment readiness and overcoming current barriers to employability.

This additional investment will help First Nations and First Nation service providers move service delivery away from the current model, which focuses solely on assessment of eligibility for Income Assistance and arrangement of payment of benefits, towards a proactive approach that focuses on identifying individuals' employment readiness and the jobs and skills training they require to find and keep a job.

Specifically, case-workers will work with individuals to identify any barriers to employment and to develop a personalized plan to address those barriers. There will be incentives and disincentives, modeled after social assistance programs in their province of residence, to ensure that the individual follows their personal case plan.

Individuals will have access to a range of services and programs, often referred to as active measures, aimed at increasing their employability and guiding and supporting them as they move into the workforce. Active measures are activities that help Income Assistance recipients get the skills and training they require to get jobs. These can include basic life-skills training, formal education, skills training, and career counseling. They may also include wage subsidies to encourage employers to hire Income Assistance clients.

Enhanced Service Delivery will be administered by a First Nation or an on-reserve income assistance service provider. The process starts when a file is opened and an individual's eligibility is determined. To best support that individual'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.

For those First Nation communities that choose to take advantage of this new approach, participation will be mandatory for those aged 18-24 and who will be job-ready after a year or less of skills and pre-employment training. To implement this approach, First Nations, groups of First Nations or other income assistance service providers must have strong organizational capacity. A proposal-based process will be used for allocating funding.

The $132 million for Enhanced Service Delivery will support:

  • the introduction or reinforcement of the case management function as well as case management capacity development; and
  • the costs for individuals' assessments and basic pre-employment training costs and supports; and
  • Ontario Works will continue to apply to First Nation communities in Ontario. Funds will also be made available to continue the implementation of Ontario Works in remaining First Nations in Ontario.

A second key component of this reform is the new First Nations Job Fund. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) will be providing $109 million over four years to support a range of activities including skills assessments, training, job coaching, and a number of other training supports for youth. Income Assistance benefits for these individuals will depend on participation in the necessary training as per current practice in most provinces. The improved program will help ensure that youth who can work have the incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment.