Step 2: Applying for benefits

Fill out applications for documentation


Many people do not have the necessary documents for benefits applications, especially for those who are experiencing homelessness or are precariously housed, those with psychiatric issues, the elderly, Indigenous peoples, or those who have been recently incarcerated. Filling out applications for these documents can be intimidating. Organizations can help by offering 1-on-1 support with filling out forms and clarifying what parts of these forms mean, helping participants feel more comfortable with the process.

  • Funding — Since it takes time to meet with clients individually, having funding to provide this service or embedding it in other programs is advisable.
  • Technology — Your organization will require access to computers to fill out documents with clients online, and a secure system to keep any personal information and documentation
  • Staff time — Staff will require time to provide people with one-on-one assistance with filling out applications for documentation and to compile contact information for local organizations who can help with related documentation needs (Note: if you do not provide this service; include information on where to obtain documentation forms as well as support services for filling out the applications.)
  • Staff training — It will be important to train staff on supporting clients online, through the phone and in person, as well as on common form requirements. They will also require training on handling confidential information, accessing relevant platforms (like CRA), and storing this information in a safe place.
  • Partnerships — Create relationships with other organizations in your community who may offer related services required to successfully complete documents, such as ID clinics or CRA; it may be important to have contacts within the government organizations to answer any questions, as an individual’s personal circumstances create unique challenges.

  • Encourage staff to set aside specific appointment times (30 – 60 minutes) for people who require this assistance.
  • Familiarize staff with how to fill out the documentation forms. It would be helpful to have sample forms for reference.
  • Have printed copies of the documentation application forms available for community members who may not have access to a printer; help with mailing the documents if required
  • Provide technical assistance filling out the documentation forms online for those that may have low digital literacy.
  • Create FAQ sheets on how to fill out the various documentation forms to support staff and/or community members.

  • Have one or two staff members or volunteers within your organization designated as experts in this area to develop expertise and efficiency.
  • Create short letters that go along with benefit forms with plain clear language explanations – with sticky note tags to help navigate
  • Mail in the applications for clients to pay their postage and supplying clients with additional pre-paid postage. This can help reduce barriers to clients successfully submitting their applications.

The government has some resources to help people fill out documentation forms, such as videos and documents. Here is an example of a video on how to complete a citizenship application.

Click here to get information on how to apply for CPP benefits.

Click here to get information on how to apply for GIS benefits.

The Disability Benefits Navigator has information on how to fill out documents for disability benefits.

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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