Systems advocacy and problem solving

Navigating the bureaucracies and processes involved in benefits systems can be challenging and may deter people from applying. Organizations can help clients navigate government systems, either through coaching or by joining calls with government representatives and advocating for the client.

Helping clients throughout the process can also affect how they are treated by system representatives, adding your professional credibility to your clients’ requests.

Here are some ways that organizations can help clients advocate and problem solve:

  • Accompany clients to appointments and advocate for them at government agencies
  • Go with clients to the bank when setting up a RESP, RDSP, TFSA or other registered savings plan.
  • Advocate on behalf of the client at a financial institution, for example if they have a poor credit history
  • Help clients self-advocate for their needs and escalate issues if their needs are not being met
  • Build clients’ understanding of what fair treatment by institutions should look like (e.g., requirements for organizations to make accommodations for client disabilities)
  • Create plain language letters or handouts to explain documents to clients
  • Reach out to other agencies to obtain information on behalf of the client, such as help getting ID verified
  • Work with a local registry office to help get fees waived (if in province where it is privatized)
  • Help clients find a medical professional who does not charge fees for disability documentation
  • Assist with financial or personal crises that arise that may require immediate support, such as locating a bed in a shelter or seeking legal representation
  • Help find an interpreter if required
  • Collaborate with a social assistance case worker or other service provider to coordinate efforts on behalf of the client

Note: Many of these tasks take time and patience. You may spend many hours on hold, write multiple emails, and spend time researching ways to obtain answers or information. It requires good relationships with other providers and the building of trust with your client.

Ensure a trauma-informed and empowered approach is taken with the client.