Q3 Meeting: On-Reserve Income Assistance Network

        On December 6-7, 2023, SFNFCI hosted the Quarter 3 Network Meeting at Prairieland Park. Elder support for the meeting was provided by Wally Awasis. Attendees consisted of Income Assistance/Social Assistance Administrators, Case Management, Pre-Employment Skills Coordinators, ISC Representatives, FSIN Representatives, and SFNFCI Staff. There was a total of 96 in-person and 7 online participants on the first day and 52 in-person, and 7 online participants on the second day. The quarterly meeting had representative from 47 First Nations and 5 Tribal Councils.

        On the first day we heard from FSIN Senior Researcher Policy Analyst. Isadore provided a summary letting us know FSIN has been receiving multiple intake calls, regarding disability, long-term continuing care, and homelessness. FSIN is developing a homeless strategy/network, a broad strategy in hopes of implementing it soon.

        Jason, Regional Program Development Team Lead of the Income Assistance Program at ISC let the group know that inflation relief funds were distributed for 2 months. There is no certainty when additional relief funds will be available. If administrators did not receive funds this could be because reporting that is due.

        Kim, Manager of Education at ISC presented on the Adult Education Fund. In 2021 Federal Budget announced $350 million over 5 years to “expand access to adult education by supporting First Nations people on reserve who wish to return to high school in their communities and complete their high school education”. This funding is intended to be an expansion of ISC’s Elementary and Secondary Education Program (K-12) in regions, and not a supplementary targeted program however funding is provided as START UP Funding to expand programming and recruit students. Implementation is being co-developed with the AFN, including the NIEC (National Indian Education Council) and the CCOE (Chief’s Committee on Education)

        Students can continue receiving Income Assistant support while attending school (Adult Basic Ed, upgrading or other). Some support will be covered under the education framework (meals, transportation, etc) however this is not an assumption so could still be covered under Income Assistance. Evaluation of this initiative and program is ongoing with our various technical tables.

        The network group then had a representative from the Ministry of Social Services join the meeting to talk about The Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program. The purpose of the program is to help people in need meet their basic needs while they become more self-sufficient and independent to the best of their abilities.

        Another topic that MSS covered was the new Saskatchewan Employment Incentive launching in early 2024, providing working families who have lower incomes with a monthly financial benefit, supplementary health benefits, connections to employment and housing supports. The Saskatchewan Employment Incentive will be available to parents leaving income assistance programs for employment and will assist others to remain in the workforce and not require income assistance. The Saskatchewan Employment Incentive will replace the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement and the Child Care Subsidy. Social Services will support eligible clients to transition to the new program over the coming year.

        Nina, Director of Income Assistance at ISC stated that First Nations IA providers shared that there is a need for supplemental supports in communities to help address clients’ needs. To help support clients in consideration of the rising cost of living, the Government of Canada provided temporary supports. During the Income Assistance Reform: Engagement period the budget 2018 committed $8.5M over two years for a First Nations-led engagement on IA, which brough forward five themes to help guide program reform including,

            > Adequacy of Provisions

            > Capacity

            > Case Management & Pre-Employment Supports

            > Wraparound Services

            > Self-determination/Governance


        Post Engagement demonstrated that further work was required to improve the IA Program. This provided insights on how income support services could be developed in the future. These insights helped inform the policy options developed for IA program reform.

        For the next steps in Income Assistance Reform ISC is currently awaiting a funding decision on program reform. ISC will continue to work in collaboration with the AFN and regional First Nations partners and stakeholders to shape future program changes and funding requirements. Throughout this process, ISC continues to be receptive of new information about the ways in which the current program falls short of addressing urgent pressures and providing additional support for on-reserve communities.

        Maxine, Research Analyst and Leslie, HR Consultant at SFNFCI presented on the reform project that the Institute is currently doing. The reform project was initiated in response to the five themes identified in the national report. Capacity building is the primary purpose of our project with a focus on staffing salaries, training and tools. The development of a competency dictionary is one of the key deliverables. HR activities to date are gathering data from advisory committee consolidating and analyzing for themes or topics, creating consistent accountability statements, discussing consistent approaches to job title, drafting proposed qualifications and experience reviewing validating with HR subcommittee advisory committee.

        Next steps are to continue to ensure that all materials reflect the perspectives and values of the First Nations communities. Work is being done close with advisory committees while seeking guidance from elders to keep our priorities straight as part of that process. We will continue to ensure that the institute's learning principles that our materials should be emotionally sensitive, culturally appropriate, and trauma informed are incorporated into our work.

        Our final presenter on the first day was Kelly from the Assisted Living program at ISC. He provided a summary informing the group of rate changes that were sent out via email and that they would soon be reflected in the policy manual.

        On the second day of the quarterly meeting, we focused on training needs. A survey was conducted so that participants could indicate what their training needs are for the new fiscal year. We then had a round table with the group providing space for attendees to give an update of activities happening in their community before ending the day. Wally closed our meeting with a song. 



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