Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC

Social assistance on reserve

If you don't have enough money for food, clothing, and shelter, social assistance can help you. Social assistance is money and other benefits. It includes regular monthly benefits, Persons with Disabilities benefits, Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers benefits, and hardship assistance.

If you don't have enough money for food, clothing, and shelter, apply for social assistance immediately. There are people in your community who can help you and your family.

You don't have to be Aboriginal in order to get social assistance. Anyone who lives on reserve can get social assistance, even if they're not Aboriginal.

For more information or in-person help with getting social assistance, see Who can help.

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If this is an emergency

If you don't have enough money for food, clothing, or shelter, get help right away. Don't wait until you have no money left, you've sold your belongings, or you lose your home. You can:

  • apply for social assistance immediately,
  • call 211, and
  • find an advocate.

Apply for social assistance immediately

Call your band social development worker to apply for social assistance immediately. You can reach them by calling the band office for the reserve you live on. It's a good idea to make an appointment.

If you don't know how to contact your band office, call Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (sometimes called INAC) at 1-800-567-9604 (no charge). The person you speak to can give you the contact information. They can also answer any questions you may have about the benefits available.

Call 211

BC211 is an information and referral service. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you call, the person you speak to can let you know about services in your community that can help you.

BC211 is only available to Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Squamish-Lillooet. If you don't live in these areas, find an advocate to help you.

Find an advocate

An advocate can help you. Someone from your band office can help you find the services you need. PovNet also has links to groups that deal with issues like social assistance and housing.

Find out more


What is social assistance?

Social assistance is money and other benefits for people who:

  • live on reserve,
  • don't have enough money to meet their needs, and
  • have no other reasonable way of getting money.

Social assistance is sometimes called welfare or SA.

Social assistance benefits include:

Each benefit has its own standards for determining whether you can get that benefit. This means you may be able to get some benefits and not others.

For each benefit, your social development worker will look at your assets and income. You won't be able to get benefits if:

  • your assets are worth too much,
  • your monthly income is too high, or
  • you get rid of assets to make yourself eligible for social assistance.

How much you get for each benefit depends on your circumstances and how many people are in your family unit.


What are social assistance benefits?

Social assistance is the monthly benefit most people get when they live on reserve.

Who can get social assistance benefits?

You don't have to be Aboriginal in order to get social assistance. Anyone who lives on reserve can get social assistance, even if they're not Aboriginal.

To get social assistance benefits, you must be an adult (19 or over). And you must live on reserve in BC.

You must also be:

  • a Canadian citizen,
  • a permanent resident,
  • a Convention refugee, or
  • a sponsored immigrant whose sponsor can't or won't provide support. (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will decide whether this is the case.)

Your social development worker will also look at your assets and income.

How you apply

You can apply for social assistance with the band social development worker for the reserve you live on. You can reach them by calling the band office for your reserve.

How much you get each month — Social assistance amounts

Family size Shelter
allowance
maximum
Basic needs
(support)
allowance
Total
payment
If you're single
Employable single person under 65 $375.00 $235.00 $610.00
Single person 65 or over $375.00 $531.42 $906.42
If you're a single parent
Employable single parent under 65, and 1 child $570.00 $375.58 $945.58
Single parent 65 or over, and 1 child $570.00 $672.08 $1,242.08
If you and your spouse don't have children
Employable couple under 65 $570.00 $307.22 $877.22
Couple, both 65 or over $570.00 $949.06 $1,519.06
Couple, 1 person under 65, 1 person 65 or over $570.00 $700.56 $1,270.56
If you and your spouse have children
Employable couple under 65, and 1 child $660.00 $401.06 $1,061.06

The basic needs (support) allowance doesn't increase if you have more than one child.
These rates are current as of May 2013.

If you're turned down for or cut off of your benefits

There are a number of reasons why your worker might turn you down or cut off your benefits. For example:

  • If you quit a job without a good reason
  • If you were fired from a job because of something you did
  • If you turned down a job you could do

You might still be able to get hardship assistance or other benefits.

If you don't agree with your worker's decision, you can appeal (see our booklet Social Assistance on Reserve in BC).


What are Persons with Disabilities benefits?

Persons with Disabilities benefits are often called PWD benefits. These are monthly benefits for people with certain types of physical or mental disabilities. These benefits help people who can't work or look for work because of their disability.

Families on PWD benefits get a higher basic needs (support) allowance.

How you qualify

You may be able to get PWD benefits if you live in BC and you:

  • are 18 years of age or older, AND
  • have a severe mental or physical disability that:
    • a doctor confirms will last for two years or longer, AND
    • a prescribed health professional says directly and significantly limits your ability to do daily activities.

Your social development worker will also look at your assets and income.

How you apply

Applying for PWD benefits can be very difficult. It's a good idea to talk to an advocate before starting your application.

You need to get a Persons with Disabilities Designation Application. Your social development worker can give you this form. They can also give you information on how to complete it. Your worker will sign the cover page. Applications without this signature won't be processed.

How much you get each month — PWD amounts

Family size Shelter
allowance
maximum
Basic needs
(support)
allowance
Total
payment
If you're single
Single person $375.00 $531.42 $906.42
If you're a single parent
Single parent on PWD and 1 child $570.00 $672.08 $1,242.08
Single parent on PWD and 2 children $660.00 $672.08 $1,332.08
If you and your spouse don't have children
Couple, 1 on PWD $570.00 $700.56 $1,270.56
Couple, both on PWD $570.00 $949.06 $1,519.06
Couple, 1 on PWD, the other 65 or over $570.00 $946.06 $1,516.06
If you and your spouse have children
Couple, both on PWD and 1 child $660.00 $1,043.06 $1,703.06
Couple, 1 on PWD, the other 65 or over, and 1 child $660.00 $1,043.06 $1,703.06

The basic needs (support) allowance doesn't increase if you have more than one child.
These rates are current as of May 2013.

If you're turned down for or cut off of your benefits

You might still be able to get hardship assistance or other benefits. If you don't agree with your worker's decision, you can appeal (see our booklet Social Assistance on Reserve in BC).


What are Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers benefits?

Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers benefits are often called PPMB benefits. These are benefits for people who have a medical condition that seriously affects their ability to find or keep a job. But you can't get these benefits if your only condition is an addiction.

PPMB benefits are a temporary benefit. This means they're short-term. They're only approved for up to two years at a time.

If you get PPMB benefits, you don't have to look for work.

How you qualify

You may be able to get PPMB benefits if:

  • you've been on social assistance (on or off reserve) for 12 out of the last 15 months; AND
  • you have a medical condition (other than an addiction) that:
    • seriously affects your ability to look for, take, or keep a job; AND
    • has lasted for at least a year and will likely last for two more years; OR
    • has been a problem regularly for the last year and will likely continue for the next two years.

Your social development worker will also look at your assets and income.

How you apply

If you think you may be able to get PPMB benefits, contact your worker. Your worker will probably want to meet with you to talk about your medical condition and the PPMB standards.

Your worker will then give you a medical report form. Your doctor must complete this form. Make sure to tell your doctor how your condition stops you from looking for or taking a job.

When your doctor has completed the form, take it to your worker. Your worker will look at it and decide if you can get PPMB benefits.

How much you get each month — PPMB amounts

Family size Shelter
allowance
maximum
Basic needs
(support)
allowance
Total
payment
If you're single
Single person under 65 and on PPMB $375.00 $282.92 $657.92
If you're a single parent
Single parent on PPMB and 1 child $570.00 $423.58 $993.58
If you and your spouse don't have children
Couple, both under 65 and on PPMB $570.00 $452.06 $1,022.06
If you and your spouse have children
Couple, both on PPMB, and 1 child $660.00 $546.06 $1,206.06

The basic needs (support) allowance doesn't increase if you have more than one child.
These rates are current as of May 2013.

If you're turned down for or cut off of your benefits

You might still be able to get hardship assistance or other benefits. If you don't agree with your worker's decision, you can appeal (see our booklet Social Assistance on Reserve in BC).


What is hardship assistance?

Hardship assistance only covers basic needs such as food and shelter. It's for people who will suffer undue hardship (such as hunger or eviction) without some financial help because they can't get other benefits.

Hardship assistance is only meant to be short-term. In most cases, hardship benefits are limited to three months in a row.

How you qualify

To get hardship assistance, you must:

  • be unable to get other monthly benefits, and
  • live on reserve when you apply,
  • have no other source of money, and
  • be facing undue hardship if you don't get financial help.

For example, you may be able to get hardship assistance if you're:

  • waiting for a Social Insurance Number or other documentation,
  • waiting for money from other sources (such as Employment Insurance), or
  • on strike or locked out.

You must also be:

  • a Canadian citizen,
  • a permanent resident,
  • a Convention refugee, or
  • a sponsored immigrant whose sponsor can't or won't provide support. (Indigenous and Norther Affairs Canada will decide whether this is the case.)

Your social development worker will also look at your assets and income.

How you apply

Apply for hardship assistance with the social development worker for the reserve you live on. Apply as soon as you need financial help that you can't get somewhere else.

You must reapply each month that you need it.

How much you get each month — Hardship assistance rates

Family size Shelter
allowance
maximum
Basic needs
(support)
allowance
Total
payment
If you're single
Single person under 65 $375.00 $235.00 $610.00
Single person on PPMB $375.00 $282.92 $657.92
Single person 65 or over, or on PWD $375.00 $531.42 $906.42
If you're a single parent
Single parent under 65, and 1 child $570.00 $375.58 $945.58
Single parent on PPMB $570.00 $423.58 $993.58
Single parent 65 or over, or on PWD, and 1 child $570.00 $672.08 $1,242.08
If you and your spouse don't have children
Couple, both under 65 $570.00 $307.22 $877.22
Couple, both under 65, both on PPMB $570.00 $452.06 $1,022.06
Couple, 1 65 or over, or on PWD $570.00 $700.56 $1,270.56
Couple, 1 on PPMB $570.00 $396.22 $966.22
Couple, both on PWD $570.00 $949.06 $1,519.06
If you and your spouse have children
Couple, both under 65, and 1 child $660.00 $401.06 $1,061.06
Couple, 1 65 or over, or on PWD $660.00 $794.56 $1,454.56
Couple, both on PWD, and 1 child $660.00 $1,043.06 $1,703.06
Couple, 1 on PPMB, and 1 child $660.00 $490.06 $1,150.06
Couple, both on PPMB, and 1 child $660.00 $546.06 $1,206.06

The basic needs (support) allowance doesn't increase if you have more than one child.
These rates are current as of May 2013.

When you have to pay back hardship assistance

You may have to sign an agreement to pay back your hardship assistance. For example, if you expect to get money from another source in a few weeks, you'll be expected to pay back the hardship assistance when that money arrives.

Sometimes you don't have to pay back hardship assistance. You should not have to pay back hardship assistance if:

  • you're a survivor of family violence and going after assets or support would likely lead to further violence against you,
  • you're on strike or locked out,
  • you don't have proper ID to get social assistance, or
  • your sponsorship agreement broke down.

Ask your worker if you'll have to pay back your hardship assistance.

If you're turned down for or cut off of your benefits

If your worker turns you down for hardship assistance or requires you to pay back money you don't believe you should have to pay back, you can appeal. Or you can file a complaint. (See our booklet Social Assistance on Reserve in BC.)


Other benefits

You may be able to get other benefits. This will depend on your needs and what kind of assistance you get. You may be able to get other benefits even if you're not able to get social assistance. These benefits include:

  • special allowances;
  • additional benefits, allowances, and services; and
  • health benefits for people who aren't status Indians.

For a full list of these benefits and how to get them, see Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada's National Social Programs Manual. (Go to the Income Assistance Program (IA) chapter.) Or see our booklet Social Assistance on Reserve in BC.

Find out more

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada — See their National Social Programs Manual (go to the Income Assistance Program (IA) chapter)


Who can help?

Get support

Get answers to your questions
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, British Columbia Region — Phone, fax, or email your questions
Support for people with disabilities

BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society — Support services to Aboriginal people with disabilities

Disability Alliance BC  — Support and information for people with disabilities — See their fact sheets on money and income supports

Find an advocate

BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211

PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help

BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation — See their A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help

Legal help

Legal information

Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services

Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals

Parent Support Services Society of BC — Information and support to parents and caregivers. If you're caring for a relative's child, call the society's Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line at 1-855-474-9777 (no charge)

Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre — Learn about your rights and options if you have problems with your landlord — Call 604-255-0546 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-800-665-1185 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)


Legal advocacy and advice

Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help — Various locations

BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre — Free legal help

Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794

First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help — Victoria

Multiple Sclerosis (MS Society) — Free legal help for people with MS

Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Legal advocacy on a variety issues — Bella Coola

UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)

Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society —Legal advocacy on a variety issues — Hazelton

Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794