Step 2: Applying for benefits
Documentation access

Cover cost of document fees


Accessing benefits often requires applicants to have documentation (such as a Social Insurance Number or a birth certificate). However, vulnerable populations often don’t have these documents and it often costs money to get new copies. Perhaps your organization can help cover document fees for people living on low incomes, helping them to get the documents they need to access income-boosting benefits.

  • Funding — It will require funding to cover the costs of documentation fees.
  • Staff time — To administer the program requires staff time, including time to work one-on-one with clients to complete applications.
  • Technology — A system is required to keep track of financial aspects of the program.
  • Policies and Procedures — Develop policies around who you give money to, and what the protocol for giving out money will be. For example, will you require a staff member to make the payment directly, or will you distribute cash to clients? The more barriers you put in place the harder it will be for clients to benefit, but you may need some controls to make sure this money is distributed fairly to those who need it.

  • Seek and complete funding applications for financial resources to support this kind of program/service. Some organizations have used Trillium grants or Vancity grants to get started
  • Establish what specific document fees will be covered by this funding based on highest need in your community or what your funding allows for.
  • Establish an accounting and evaluation process to keep track of the financial aspect of this service as well as who in the community has accessed this funding and the impact it has had (to report back to funders).
  • Create samples of document applications to demonstrate how forms need to be filled out; provide tips on where to access required information or contact information for where to seek help if needed.
  • Establish relationships with local documentation providers so you have a contact person to work with and refer clients to.
  • Train staff to provide people with one-on-one assistance to clients seeking their documentation fees covered as applications can be complicated to complete, or clients may have barriers to accessing the information they require to fill out the forms (i.e., refugees may have difficulty getting their passports).

  • Completing applications for birth certificates takes considerable time, especially if the person does not have the information required to complete the application. This is an area where training and expertise are crucial for troubleshooting these more complex situations.
  • Sometimes funding for documentation can be accessed through other programming proposals. For example, a proposal to support Canada Learning Bond access could include funding to help pay for ID (birth certificates) in order to reach the outcomes that are expected from the project.
  • In some cases, benefits programs (e.g., Ontario Works) will cover the cost of documentation fees, but usually not for a replacement document. It can be challenging if a client must pay upfront and then seek reimbursement if they don’t have the money to cover the cost. You can help by focusing your services on covering upfront costs.
  • It can be challenging to get sustained long-term funding to provide this service.
  • Future work: You may want to consider investing time and energy into lobbying the government to remove the barrier of documentation fees for low-income Canadians.

  • In Edmonton, E4C has formed a close relationship with their local registry office. The office will waive registry fees (e.g., for identification or driver’s licenses) for certain clients, if those clients are being represented by E4C.
  • Family Service of Greater Vancouver (FSGV) refers their clients to specific health care practitioners who do not charge fees for documents for individuals seeking the Disability Tax Credit
  • Organizations in Ontario can apply to participate in a fee waiver program. Individuals who are marginally-housed or experiencing homelessness are eligible. For more information on eligibility email or contact Service Ontario at 1-800-461-2156.
  • Some MP and MPP offices may also support people getting their ID and are strong advocates for helping people access what they need.

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Best practices

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.

Best practices