Income Assistance National Program Guidelines 2023 to 2024
1.1 These guidelines set out the delivery requirements and standards for funding recipients of the Income Assistance program who have entered into a funding agreement with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
When recipients of the New Fiscal Relationship Grant are provided contribution and grant funding for the Income Assistance program outside of their regular 10-year grant, they must follow the guidelines in this document.
1.2 This document will be in effect as of April 1, 2023. It replaces the Income Assistance National Program Guidelines published in previous fiscal years.
1.3 This document is to be read alongside:
- the funding agreement signed by the funding recipient
- applicable provincial or Yukon legislation
- ISC's regional office program manuals or guidelines
- other ISC-approved documents
These documents offer information about provincial and Yukon services, supports, and rates to help funding recipients align the delivery of services and supports with those of provincial and Yukon programs, where applicable.
To get a copy of these documents, use the contact information provided in section 15.
1.4 Where ISC has entered into agreements with provinces, the obligations set out in the agreements take precedence over the delivery requirements and standards of the Income Assistance program, as explained in this document.
- In Ontario, the Memorandum of Agreement Respecting Welfare Programs for Indians guides ISC's reimbursement to the Government of Ontario for social services cost-shared in accordance with the agreement. This agreement (referred to informally as the "1965 Agreement" or the 1965 "Indian Welfare Services Agreement"), supports cost-sharing of the on reserve Income Assistance program delivered in First Nations communities under the overall management oversight and responsibility of the Government of Ontario: Ontario Works.
- In Alberta, the Arrangement for the Funding and Administration of Social Services (referred to informally as the "1991 Alberta Reform Agreement") guides ISC's reimbursements to Alberta for social services that the Government of Alberta delivers to First Nations individuals who are ordinarily residents on reserve in the Province of Alberta.
- Other bilateral or tripartite agreements or memoranda of understanding may be developed in collaboration with, and must first be approved by ISC's Social Policy and Programs branch at ISC headquarters.
The Income Assistance program provides funds to individuals (known as clients) and families (clients and their dependents) who are ordinarily residents on reserve or Status First Nations living in Yukon, as a last resort where all other means of generating income to cover basic needs have been exhausted. The Income Assistance program is a component of Canada's social safety net meant to align with provincial and Yukon income assistance programs.
The objective of the program is to ensure that eligible individuals and families residing on reserve receive funds to cover the basic expenses of daily living and special needs, as well as pre-employment services designed to help them transition into the workforce.
- basic and special needs of clients and their dependents on reserve and in Yukon
- access to services to help clients transition to and stay in the workforce
3. Expected outcomes
The expected results of this program are that:
- eligible clients and dependents have access to the on-reserve Income Assistance program
- eligible clients and dependents have access to and use pre-employment supports and services
- capacity exists in First Nation communities to deliver the Income Assistance program
- basic and special needs of eligible clients on reserve are met
- eligible clients and dependents are transitioning into the workforce, education, and/or other support programs
- Indigenous people are self-sufficient
4. Funding recipients
A "funding recipient" means an individual or entity that has met the eligibility criteria of the program and has signed a funding agreement with ISC to deliver an initiative (a program, service or activity).
4.1 Eligibility criteria
Eligible recipients who can deliver the Income Assistance program include:
- chiefs and councils of First Nations bands recognized by the Government of Canada
- tribal councils
- provinces or Yukon
- Indigenous communities and organizations
- political or treaty organizations
5. Program recipients
An eligible program recipient is referred to as "client" throughout this document. A client is a person who receives the benefit of programs or services funded by the Income Assistance program.
5.1 Eligibility requirements
For purposes of confirming the eligibility for Income Assistance benefits, the client must demonstrate that they:
- are ordinarily resident on reserve or Status First Nations living in Yukon
- are eligible for basic or special financial assistance as defined by the province of residence or Yukon and confirmed by an assessment covering employability, family composition and age, and financial resources available to the household
- have no other source of funding to meet basic needs and therefore require income support under the Income Assistance program
For the purpose of providing Income Assistance services, "ordinarily resident" means that a client:
- lives on reserve and doesn't maintain a primary residence off reserve
- is off reserve for the primary purpose of obtaining required medical care or social service support because there is no reasonably comparable service available on reserve and lived on reserve immediately prior to receiving the medical care or social service support.
Definition of reserve
For the Income Assistance program, reserve is as defined in the Indian Act. It includes Yukon and excludes lands which were designated for commercial purposes (for First Nations operating under the Indian Act) or leased for commercial purposes (for First Nations operating under the First Nations Land Management Act).
A student who is registered and attending a secondary or post-secondary education or training program and is getting education funding from the federal government, a band or an Indigenous organization is still considered ordinarily resident on reserve if they meet 1 of the following qualifications:
- maintains a residence on reserve
- is a dependent of a family that maintains a primary residence on reserve
- returns to live on reserve with parents, guardians, caregivers or maintainers during the year, even if they live elsewhere while:
- attending school
- working at a temporary job
- meets the student eligibility requirements in the reference province or Yukon
Post-secondary student support program funding
A student receiving post-secondary student support program funding can only qualify for Income Assistance under exceptional circumstances. This decision is determined by reference to provincial or Yukon standards in which the reserve of which the student is a member is located.
The residence of a child who comes into the care of a mandated child welfare authority is derived from the residency of the child's parent or guardian at the time the child was taken into care.
In the case of children, clients must be formally assessed as needing such services, but only in cases where the responsibility for the funding and provision of such services does not lie with other agencies or programs. Children out of the parental home qualify for funding. This is determined by reference to the provincial or Yukon standards of the province or Yukon in which the reserve where the child lives is located.
Clients must also meet the qualifying requirements of the province of residence or Yukon. This includes an assessment covering:
- financial need (income and assets)
- family composition and age
- financial resources available to the client's household
Clients must confirm that they have not applied for and do not receive social assistance from any other source.
Clients must provide all information necessary to confirm:
- the eligibility requirements were met
- the information provided in their application is accurate
Child out of the parental home
Once a child receives supports as a child out of the parental home through Child and Family Services, they no longer qualify for supports through the Income Assistance program.
5.2 Members of specified communities
Specified communities: non-reserve communities or landless Indian bands whose members are eligible to receive Income Assistance program supports and services.
Specified communities whose residents are deemed eligible for ISC funding for on-reserve Income Assistance program supports and services based on unique circumstances include:
- Kitcisakik, Canton de Hamon
- Long Point First Nation, Winneway
- Pakua Shipi, Saint Augustin
- MaïganAkik, Barriere Lake
- Marcel Colomb Cree, Lynn Lake
- Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Granville Lake
- O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, South Indian Lake
- War Lake First Nation, Ilford
- Fox Lake First Nation, Gillam
- Ocean Man
- Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Ft. Chipewyan
- Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort Chipewyan
- Little Red River Cree Nation, Garden River
- Lubicon Lake Band, Little Buffalo
- Peerless Trout First Nation
- Tsay Keh Dene First Nation, Ingenika Band
- Old Massett Village Council
- Lax Kw'alaams
- Lake Babine Nation
- Wet'suwet'en First Nation, Bromon Lake
5.3 Minimum documents needed for funding recipients
Notwithstanding the minimum documentation requirements identified in this section, there may be additional ISC, provincial or Yukon requirements as per the recipient funding agreement or written notification to the recipient. Funding recipients shall ensure that all the documentation requirements are met.
Administrators must take all necessary steps and precautions to verify information and require supporting documentation to ensure that eligible services are only provided to eligible clients.
Funding decisions require that the administrator collect and keep information that supports the eligibility of the expenditures and the management of an applicant's and a client's circumstances.
- Funding recipients must keep any documents that support a requirement for Income Assistance in the client case file.
- Files must be kept and regularly updated to confirm a client's ongoing eligibility to receive Income Assistance.
When documentation isn't available
When documents needed for a requirement aren't available, you will need to justify the exception. To do this, make sure the file includes:
- a record of ongoing efforts to get the documents
- a clear explanation about why you can't get the documents
Make sure the exception notes include:
- the date of the event
- the person spoken to
- details of the conversation
Potential Income Assistance clients must fill out the application form in full. The application must include:
- the name of each person in the family
- the date of birth (DOB) for each person in the family (simply listing ages is not acceptable)
- signatures of the client and dependent spouse, dated as per ISC's formats and procedures
- a declaration, signed and dated by the client and dependent spouse, that the information given is correct to the best of the client's knowledge
- an authorization to release information to check the eligibility of the client signed by:
- the client
- dependent spouse
- a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN) for the client and dependent spouse, as required by the reference province or territory
Time to get a Social Insurance Number
If the client has not given the SIN and needs more time to get it, the file documents must show that the client is actively pursuing the missing SIN. After 60 days, the client is considered ineligible.
Exceptions beyond the 60 days should be evaluated on a case by case basis to ensure that:
- the client is actively seeking a SIN
- exceptional and unique circumstances have delayed the receipt of it
Client and dependent spouse
A copy of 1 piece of valid photo identification issued by the federal, provincial or Yukon government or a signed attestation by the administrator stating that they have verified the identity of the potential client and dependent spouse must be placed on the case file by the administrator.
Any other dependents
A copy of one identification document or a signed attestation by the administrator stating that they verified the dependent's identification must be placed on the case file by the administrator for all dependents.
The following identification documents may be presented as acceptable proof of identity for each dependent:
- One piece of valid photo identification issued by the federal, provincial or Yukon government
- certificate of live birth
- school records
- report cards
- school identification
- Canada child benefit
- tax assessment
- verification of the family composition from:
- the Indian Registry Administrator
- the Nation's Band Membership Department
- the Indian Registry Administrator
- status card
Financial needs assessment
The administrator must maintain a file that clearly demonstrates financial need. Documents needed on file include:
- supporting documents for the client and their dependent spouse at the time of benefits approval
- completed and signed budget and decision forms as per ISC's procedures
- documents showing:
- how much money was received from Employment Insurance (EI)
- that the client and dependent spouse are not eligible for benefits
- how much money was received from Employment Insurance (EI)
- documents showing how much money a client got from Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Old Age Security (OAS) or Canada Pension Plan (CPP), or that the client or dependent spouse is not eligible for benefits, when it looks like the client or dependent spouse could qualify for 1 or more of these benefits
- current bank account statements, when the client or their dependent spouse has a bank account
- current and complete income tax assessment that shows total income and deductions, when the client or the dependent spouse has filed a tax return
- the application for maintenance enforcement as per ISC's procedures
Documents are needed to prove that the client is ordinarily resident on reserve before issuing benefits.
When no documents can be obtained, a band council resolution verifying the client's residency on reserve may be accepted by ISC. However, documents must be on file showing that other methods of checking residency were exhausted.
Employability and education
The case file must identify:
- the client's highest level of education
- any trades training or other special skills the client has
Hardship or emergency supports
Hardship or emergency supports may be available as an interim measure in accordance with provincial or Yukon requirements. Documents on file must follow provincial or Yukon requirements to show client eligibility for hardship, or emergency supports.
The Income Assistance program has 4 components providing:
- funds to meet basic needs for:
- shelter (utilities and rent)
- special needs allowances for goods and services essential to the physical or social well-being of a client
- employment and pre-employment supports
- funding for service delivery, including case management, provided by ISC to funding recipients to enable them to administer the on reserve Income Assistance program
For employment and pre-employment services, including case management, eligible activities for funding recipients are set out in the funding recipient's approved work plan, or approved proposal.
In accordance with program authorities, funding recipients are provided with funding to cover specific costs to support Income Assistance clients and their dependents.
Eligible expenditures for basic and special needs are determined by the applicable standards of the province in which the reserve is located, or Yukon.
Eligible expenditures may include:
- food allowance, including special diets
- clothing allowance, including children's winter and school clothing
- shelter allowance (rent and utilities), in accordance with the National Directive on the Administration of Shelter Allowance to Income Assistance Clients on-Reserve
- personal incidentals
- essential household items
- transportation (non-medical) and moving costs
- funeral and burial costs of no more than $3,500 and, when necessary, no more than $6,000 to repatriate the remains of a deceased person by:
- vehicle transport
Medical or health services
Medical or health services are to be provided by First Nation Inuit Health Branch or by the province of reference or Yukon in which the reserve is located.
Employment and pre-employment eligible expenditures are determined by reference to the provincial or Yukon standards where the reserve is located.
Eligible expenditures may include:
- child care and accommodation
- transportation and equipment
- employment-related relocation
- career and job-seeking skills counselling
Employment and pre-employment financial assistance eligible expenditures are determined by reference to the provincial or Yukon standards in which the reserve is located.
Eligible expenditures may include:
- training allowances
- a wage subsidy linked to work experience
- transfers to employers, other institutions and governments for training and employment services
Service delivery, including case management, and administrative costs directly resulting from program and service delivery.
Eligible costs may include:
- salaries, wages and benefits
- travel, transportation, accommodation
- training and professional development
- office supplies
- instructional and information materials
- office equipment
- computer systems
- printing and professional services
- data collection and management activities needed for program:
- system maintenance and upgrades
- development and implementation of case management systems, such as:
- structured client assessments
- job placements
- re-assessments and counseling
- training and professional support for administrators and case managers
- funding to support the development of operational policy guidelines and projects to encourage local integration or aggregation of services for more effective delivery and administration of the programs, for example:
- management control framework
- aggregation models
- income support and labour market programs
Eligible program expenditures for employment and pre-employment services, including case management, are set out in the approved work plan, or the proposal referred to in the funding agreement.
Child out of the parental home
Eligible expenditures pertaining to a child out of the parental home, for purposes of Income Assistance, are according to the provincial or Yukon guidelines and do not include a child taken into care under Child and Family Services.
Eligible expenditures pertaining to a child out of the parental home should not result in a duplication of payments or services (for example, the child is counted for Income Assistance benefits while receiving supports through Child and Family Services).
8.1 Maximum amount of funding
The maximum amount of money to be provided to a funding recipient in a fiscal year is described in the funding agreement. The agreement must be signed by the recipient.
8.2 Stacking limits and duplication of funding
The maximum funding that will be provided to a funding recipient by ISC are 100% of the eligible costs associated with a particular program (activity, initiative or project) to be funded.
A funding recipient is required to declare any and all sources of funding for the program that are expected to be received or that are received, including all funding from the Government of Canada and from provincial, territorial, and municipal governments. Annual financial reporting must show all sources of funding received.
Provision for repayment will be made when ISC's contribution is in excess of $100,000 and when funding from all sources exceeds eligible expenditures. Funding recipients must provide ISC with information showing the amount to be repaid and the basis for calculating that amount. The reimbursement should be proportionate to ISC's contribution, expressed as a percentage of the total funding obtained by the funding recipient from all government sources for that program.
9. Reporting requirements and monitoring and oversight activities
9.1 Indigenous Services Canada
The reporting requirements (program and financial reports) and their respective due dates are listed in the recipient's funding agreement and details on these requirements are available in the Reporting Guide.
All funding recipient reporting requirements are subject to monitoring and oversight activities to determine the accuracy of the information provided to ISC.
9.2 Other government departments or agencies
Pursuant to Section 233 of the Income Tax Regulations, recipients shall administer T5007 "Return of Benefits" information returns for Income Assistance payments in accordance with the Canada Revenue Agency's T5007 administration guide. This includes preparing and issuing T5007 slips to Income Assistance clients, and filing a T5007 information return with the Canada Revenue Agency.
10. Personal information
10.1 ISC's collection and use of personal information and other records for the purposes of program compliance reviews will be limited to what is necessary to ensure program delivery requirements are met, in accordance with the Privacy Act.
10.2 ISC is responsible for all information and records in its possession. The confidentiality of the information will be managed by ISC in accordance with the Privacy Act and other related policies on privacy. Funding recipients are responsible for the protection of personal information per the privacy legislation, regulations or policies that govern them up to the point that it is transferred to ISC.
10.3 Funding recipients shall develop and implement by-laws, policies and procedures to protect personal information, collected in the course of complying with program delivery requirements, from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.
11.1 ISC is committed to providing assistance to recipients in order for them to effectively carry out obligations set out in this document and funding agreements.
ISC has a responsibility to:
- provide funding to funding recipients as authorized by approved policy and program authorities
- lead the development of policy and provide policy clarification to funding recipients
- provide oversight to ensure programs operate according to authorities and Canada's financial management requirements, by ensuring that reporting and accountability requirements are met
11.2 Funding recipients must deliver the programs in accordance with the provisions of their funding agreement and the program delivery requirements outlined in this document while also ensuring that the necessary management controls are in place to manage funding and monitor activities. Funding recipients are required to exercise due diligence when approving expenditures and must ensure that such expenditures are in accordance with the eligible expenditures set out in this document.
Funding recipients have a responsibility to ensure that program administrators are properly trained, and possess the skills and knowledge to deliver the programs.
12. Official languages
Funding recipients have a responsibility to provide access to services in both English and French where there is significant demand and Part IV of the Official Languages Act is applicable.
13. Intellectual property
Where a grant is provided for the development of material in which copyright subsides, conditions for shared rights will be set out in the funding agreement.
Where a contribution is provided for the development of material in which copyright subsides, conditions for shared rights will be set out in the funding agreement.
14.1 For the purposes of this document, the definitions in the Indian Act and the funding agreement apply.
14.2 Additional definitions necessary to interpret the delivery requirements and standards set out in this document include:
- age of majority: the age at which a person is granted the rights and responsibilities of an adult in accordance with provincial or Yukon legislation
- authorities: ISC funding and program authorities received from Treasury Board
- child: a person under the age of majority in the relevant province or territory
15. Contact us
To contact a local representative, refer to: Regional offices.
You can also call or write to:
Céline Hurtubise, Director, Income Assistance
Indigenous Services Canada
10 rue Wellington
Gatineau QC K1A 0H4
16. More information
Learn more, visit Social Programs.
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