Where Does It Come From?
Most of the social assistance in Alberta comes from the Provincial Government. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada partners with the Provincial Government in funding and delivering social programs, including income support, in First Nations communities.
Who Can Apply for Income Support?
Anyone who lives in Alberta and who is in need may apply for provincial social assistance. Alberta Works, a department of the Government of Alberta, helps people who can work, find and keep jobs, and helps individuals and families meet their basic needs. Depending on your situation, Alberta Works may provide you with income support.
Income Support helps people who have no other way to pay for basics such as food, shelter and clothing. You may qualify for income support in three general situations: (1) if you have difficulty working because of a chronic mental or physical health problem or because of multiple barriers to work, (2) if you are looking for work, working or unable to work in the short-term, or (3) if you need upgrading or training so that you can get a job.
If you are eligible, the income support benefits you would receive depend on the size of your family, the age of your children, any special needs, and your ability to work. The core shelter benefit is for rent, mortgage, utilities, damage deposit, fire insurance, etc. and the core essential benefit is for food, clothing, personal needs, transportation, telephone, and household supplies.
If you are living with your husband or in a common-law relationship (which would include a same-sex relationship) only one application should be made. The total assets and earnings of both of you would be taken into account to decide if you are in need. You may also receive health coverage benefits, information, and training to find a job as well as help obtaining child support payments. How Do I Apply for Income Support?
The first step in applying for income support is filling out the Income Support Application which is available at www.employment.alberta.ca, and can be obtained from a social worker or from a Government of Alberta Service Centre. When you complete and return the form to your local Government of Alberta Service Centre (you can find locations of Service Centres at www.employment.alberta.ca) you will be given a time to meet with a worker. The worker will then review the information you have provided in your application to determine whether you are eligible.
You will be required to bring the following documents to your meeting with a worker:
- The completed Income Support Application;
- A completed Direct Deposit Registration;
- Identification that has your name, picture, signature, and birth date (such as a driver’s license or passport);
- Proof of employment income and/or other income if applicable;
- Proof of assets;
- A medical form or letter from your doctor if you are unable to work because of health reasons; documents
- To show other needs (such as special diets, etc.);
- Your immigration papers if you immigrated to Canada in the past ten years.
While you may feel that the information required is too personal, the government views this information as essential to pinpointing the problems and needs of each applicant. If you refuse to cooperate, your application may be turned down. As well, the information you provide is protected. There are strict rules about what information is collected, how the information is used and who can access your information.
What Determines My Eligibility for Income Support?
The major factor in determining eligibility is your inability to provide yourself and your dependents with basic necessities but other factors may be considered. You may qualify under the following circumstances:
- You are doing everything you can to find a job if you are able to work;
- You and your spouse/partner have income less than the financial benefits provided under income support;
- You and your spouse/partner are eighteen years of age or older;
- You live in Alberta; You agree to apply for all resources available to support you and your family;
- You and your spouse/partner have assets lower than the limits allowed under income support.
An area of particular interest to women is that of maintenance. The government takes the view that a woman’s right to receive maintenance for herself and/or her children is a potential source of income. If you are separated or divorced, you will be encouraged to apply to the courts for spousal or child support. If you choose not to take legal action, the government may take over your right to sue for spousal support or child support while providing social assistance to you.
If your employment income is not enough to provide you with the necessities of life or if you are waiting for a paycheque, you may be entitled to receive income supplements or other assistance in the form of assistance in obtaining employment, vocational, technical, or any other training prescribed by regulations.
What Does Income Support Cover?
The basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities are all provided by income support. Medical and dental care and drugs may also be provided. If you are unemployable, you may receive a recreational allowance for any children as well as daycare, transportation, school supplies, laundry, and burial expenses. To receive an allowance for daycare, your social worker should be able to advise you on how to obtain the necessary approval, but generally, approval means that the facility or home must be licensed for daycare purposes. The persons or facility receiving payment for daycare services will have to report to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, any income received from social assistance for the daycare services.
In special circumstances assistance may be provided for appliances, seasonal clothing, and furniture. There is a general emergency assistance provision for special circumstances which may arise, but if you are given money under that provision, you may be required to pay it back.
You will also be required to pay back any damage deposit made by social assistance on your behalf for your rental premises. The Alberta Works Department may arrange for you to attend school or a retraining program if it is directly related to employment. If you wish to attend university on a full-time basis and do not have sufficient income or savings to finance our education, you will have to make an application for a student loan.
How Do I Appeal an Unfavorable Decision?
Any decision made by a welfare worker or agency may be appealed by the person affected by the decision. Appeal forms are available at all welfare offices. You have thirty days to appeal from the day you were notified of the decision. The forms must be filled out in writing, then mailed or delivered to your welfare office.
The appeal is first reviewed by the supervisor of the district office. The supervisor may be able to resolve the matter with you without an appeal hearing. If the matter is not resolved, you will receive a letter telling you the date, time, and location of your appeal hearing.
Your matter will be reviewed by a Citizen’s Appeal Panel made up of members of the community who are independent of the agency. The appeal procedure is very informal. At the appeal hearing you may speak for yourself or have someone else speak for you, and you can bring someone along for moral support. In the past, many appeals have been successful. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, do not hesitate to assert your right and appeal an unfavourable decision.