Step 4: Maintaining benefits
Documentation access

Help gather documentation (for application, maintenance or appeal)


Documentation is required to apply for and maintain benefits, file taxes and open a bank account, such as a Social Insurance Number (SIN), birth certificate, or a secure certificate of Indian Status.

Sometimes a person may also require medical information, rent receipts, or proof of residence, to apply for a benefit or appeal if their application is declined.

Often clients will need help to gather the required documentation or to obtain it. Your organization can help by clarifying documentation requirements, included explaining what each type of documentation is and how to access it.

To find out what documentation is required, visit the Benefits wayfinder.

Assisting community members with gathering paperwork to apply for, maintain or appeal their benefits requires staff time and a certain level of expertise. You should be prepared with the following:

  • Staff time — Time is required to get familiar with the benefit application, maintenance and appeal forms and the documentation/information required to complete them. Time (30-60 min per session) is also needed to provide people with one-on-one assistance with filling out applications for documentation. Note: it can take multiple hours to trouble-shoot issues with government offices.
  • Expertise — It is important to have some knowledge of common forms of documentation in Canada. This can be difficult and different for each process so often staff will require time to learn about specific programs and processes.
  • Partnerships — It is helpful to have a list of contact information for government and benefit administrators and with documentation provider to help troubleshoot unique situations or barriers.
  • Technology — You will require access to computers (for the Benefits wayfinder and other research and communication).
  • Referrals — For highly complex cases, especially for appeal of benefits it might best to refer a client to a legal clinic in your community.

  • Browse the Benefits wayfinder to find benefits that are relevant to your community and review the documentation that is required to obtain them. For example, if you primarily serve seniors, click on the “senior / retired person” Starting Point on the main page to find related benefits and the documentation required.
  • Familiarize yourself with the common types of identification
  • Review the relevant benefit application, maintenance and appeal forms and what documentation is required to complete them. Perhaps create sample forms for reference.
  • Create a guide on how to obtain documents in your community and develop relationships with these agencies to help make positive referrals or to seek information or clarification for your clients.
  • Create resources for your staff to use and share with clients around benefit application, maintenance and appeal.
  • Create a handout for community members with the most common benefits accessed in your area and a checklist of the documentation required for each one, for both application and maintenance. Remember to include information on where to go should one need to access or apply for this documentation.
  • Allocate time for staff to meet with clients one-on-one to review what documents are needed and the process for acquiring the documentation, if required.

  • You should be prepared to deal with specific and complicated situations for each client, especially if it is an appeals process. Or, if this is beyond your scope, know where you can refer your client to receive this kind of assistance.
  • Helping to gather benefit documentation requirements can range from providing clients with resources to seek needed documents on their own to supporting them throughout the entire process. This could include making calls, following up with local agencies, responding to letters, and advocating for clients when needed. You will need to decide what level of service you would like to provide based on the clients/community you serve, as well as your capacity.
  • Sometimes it is complicated to identify what documents are needed for a client, however, generally this information is available. The more difficult and time-consuming part is gathering the necessary documentation.
  • People in vulnerable situations may have experienced trauma and may not be willing to talk or work with you on benefits unless they can trust you. Properly supporting these clients takes time and understanding of trauma-informed practices, as well as their complete consent.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may request documents to confirm things when a person is applying for benefits, such as marital status, residency or citizenship. This website can assist with understanding what documents are acceptable.

Often people are denied disability benefits on their first application. Check out the Disability Benefits Navigator for tips on how to appeal if denied the Canada Pension Plan – Disability Benefit. (Click on the tab that says, “If your application is denied.”

There is also information on other disability benefits as well, including the Disability Tax Credit.

Other supports that might interest you

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Crtitical supports you can provide throughout your client's entire journey

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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