Bridge to benefits:
Implementing benefits access in social service
If you are an organization looking to help people living on low incomes access the benefits they are eligible for, this tool can help you get started.
Organizations play a vital role in providing community members with access to benefits. Tax clinics, homeless shelters, food banks, health centres and others can all do their part to provide these services.
Helping community members access the benefits they are eligible for can increase their income, improve their financial well-being and quality of life, and improve other life stabilization outcomes such as food security, housing security, and mental health.
For information on individual benefits a person may be eligible for, you can also check out our Benefits Wayfinder
How to use this tool
There are four main steps that people go through in accessing benefits. Your organization can help support clients at various stages of their benefits journey.
Why benefits matter
Benefits can make a huge difference in the income level of people living on low incomes. It can be the difference between housing and homelessness, feeding your family or going hungry. Access to benefits increase household income. Benefits help people and families achieve a better quality of life.
Any time an individual accesses any kind of social service, regardless of their situation, it is an opportunity to inform them of the benefits they might be eligible for, and how to access them.
"Jackie" contacted Thunder Bay Counselling looking for assistance to deal with her financial crises. Jackie had been experiencing health issues for many years. During this period, she lost her employment and started receiving financial assistance through Ontario Works. However, her income was insufficient to cover her expenses, and with her health issues she was no longer able to manage her finances.
Connecting with an organization
When she contacted the Financial Counsellor, she was at risk of losing her housing and was facing legal action on accounts in arrears. She was overwhelmed by the legal correspondence she was receiving and by the looming deadline for her eviction. The Financial Counsellor helped Jackie to understand her legal and financial situation, and to connect to community legal support. Together, they used the Benefit wayfinder to find a couple of benefits Jackie was not receiving, figuring out the steps needed to apply for them.
The counsellor then helped Jackie to communicate with the lawyers regarding her financial situation resulting in Jackie being able to maintain her housing. They continue to work on benefit applications and budget updates to ensure that Jackie has the tools and skills to maintain her finances going forward. Jackie says the support was a "lifesaver" and she is now looking forward to and planning for the future.
Get practical tools, methods, and advice. Learn from other organizations who are already providing access to benefits services by accessing this collection of their best practices.
6 supports you can start with
Not sure where to start? Here is where we recommend you take a look through first.