The on-reserve Income Assistance program is delivered by Indigenous Services Canada, and intends to alleviate poverty in First Nations by providing families and individuals the means to meet their basic needs. ISC also delivers the Pre-Employment Supports Program, which enables young people (18-24 years of age) to prepare to enter the workforce by providing them with such services and activities as counselling, education, training, etc.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has been active in advocating for improved income assistance programming for First Nations, and acknowledges the persistent gaps between income assistance programs and real needs in First Nations. The AFN continues to advocate for increased funding and First Nations-driven approaches to income assistance to enable First Nations to break cycles of poverty and income assistance dependency.
The AFN Technical Working Group on Social Development has met periodically since December 2017. Its focus has changed and developed over the years, from providing input on the Data Collection Instrument (DCI), used by ISC, to collect information on the on-reserve Income Assistance program, to recently providing advice and recommendations to ISC as it reviews and plans to reform the Income Assistance program. The Working Group seeks to improve ISC social programming through its recommendations, which are grounded in years of experience and knowledge. The Working Group supported the planning and hosting of a National Forum on First Nations Income Assistance in February 2018, with the next National Forum taking place in March 2019, in Enoch Cree Nation, Alberta.
Budget 2018: $86.9 million over two years beginning in 2018-19 for on-reserve Income Assistance program reform, including:
$8.5 million over two years (2018-19 and 2019-20) to engage with First Nations to understand how to make the on-reserve Income Assistance program more responsive to individuals and families, and how best to support First Nations individuals and families to transition to employment and/or education from Income Assistance.
$78.4 million over two years to support case management services for First Nations individuals transitioning to employment and/or education from Income Assistance.
Budget 2017: $39.2 million for Youth Case Management (a facet of the on-reserve Income Assistance program).