How Do I Apply For Income Assistance?

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1 How Do I Apply For Income Assistance? What is Income Assistance in Nova Scotia? Income Assistance (IA) is financial support that is provided to eligible low-income residents of Nova Scotia. The Department of Community Services (DCS) is responsible for delivering assistance to persons in need through the Employment Support and Income Assistance Program (ESIA). Some people call this program: welfare or social assistance. Income Assistance is delivered by the Provincial Government through the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. DCS provides both income support and employment support. Income support provides money for living expenses, food, and housing. Also, depending on your circumstances you may receive money to help pay for prescription drugs, some dental services and other reasonable special needs. Income support has two categories: Basic Needs and Special Needs. Employment support provides money to help you find and keep a job, and upgrade your work skills. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 1 of 12

2 How Can I Get Income Assistance? If you are a person in need and you are eligible you have a right to receive Income Assistance. For information on how to contact DCS: Contacts. Am I Eligible to Receive Income Assistance? To get Income Assistance from the Department of Community Services, you must qualify financially. This means that you must be in financial need and meet other rules about income and assets. To be eligible you must: 1. Be over 19, If you are between the ages of and are not dependent on your parents for money, you may be eligible for Income Assistance. For more information, see Youth. 2. Be in Nova Scotia at the time you apply for Income Assistance. 3. Be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or Convention refugee, and, 4. Be a person in need. The law says a person in need is someone whose income is not enough to meet their basic living expenses and any additional special needs. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 2 of 12

3 You are not eligible if: 1. You separate from your spouse/partner in order to receive more Income Assistance. 2. Your caseworker decides your current income is enough to live on without any social assistance. 3. You have secondary (non-essential) assets that could be sold and used as income. For more information, see Assets. 4. If you are on strike, or locked out by an employer. 5. If you or your spouse quit your job without cause, or were fired from your job with cause within 4 months of your application for Income Assistance, or live with someone who is employed and can support you. IMPORTANT If you disagree with the caseworker about whether you qualify for Income Assistance, you should get legal advice. Find information on how to contact your local Legal Aid Office for advice and/or information and for information on other community resources here: Contacts Last Updated: August 2014 Page 3 of 12

4 What Steps Do I Take to Get Income Assistance? Step 1: The Phone Call or Office Meeting Call your local DCS Office and say you want to apply for Income Assistance. For contact information for the regional DCS offices click here: Contacts or check out the Nova Scotia DCS website at DCS IMPORTANT You may have more success in requesting Income Assistance if you set up a meeting in person with your caseworker. However, if you have to speak to a caseworker, or DCS employee, over the phone and you are denied assistance, you should ask for your decision in writing with any reasons why the decision was made. Step 2: The Telephone Conversation or Meeting Be kind. Be patient. You will be asked personal questions on your current financial situation. These questions are to help DCS understand your needs, and assign you a caseworker. You may be told if you are eligible for Income Assistance, or you may be contacted by a caseworker who will set up a meeting to discuss your needs. Step 3: If You Are Told You Are NOT Eligible by the Caseworker If you are told you can t receive Income Assistance by your caseworker, or DCS employee over the phone, then you should ask for this decision in writing. Ask for details on why you were refused assistance. This information may be sent to you by mail Last Updated: August 2014 Page 4 of 12

5 or by . Remember, you have a right to assistance, if you are eligible. Step 4: Required Information (And Documents) The caseworker will ask for information to prove that the information you are giving the caseworker is correct. The following is a list of documents the caseworker WILL ask for: Social Insurance Number (SIN) (for you, spouse, and dependent child). Nova Scotia Health Card (for you, spouse, and dependent child). Income Tax Notice of Assessment Form (for you and spouse). Consent Release Form: This form allows the caseworker to call anyone they believe to be relevant to proving your financial eligibility. This is done to make sure the information you give to DCS is correct. When you sign this document you are giving DCS permission to investigate your claim for Income Assistance. The caseworker may ask for: Proof of age, or your children s Birth Certificates. Proof of death (of someone who used to support you). Proof of marriage, divorce, or Child Support Court Order. Proof of cohabitation (living together with another person, as a spouse/partner). Proof of disability, or ability to participate in employment services (work program). Proof of any hospitalization. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 5 of 12

6 Proof of parentage, citizenship, residency. Proof of income, or assets (assets are things you own that can be sold for money). IMPORTANT If you do not provide the caseworker the information requested, the worker can make the decision that you do not qualify for Income Assistance. If you are uncertain about the information the worker is asking for or you are having difficulty with getting the information asked for, you should get legal advice. Click here for Contacts. When Will I Know I Am Able To Receive Income Assistance? Once the caseworker has all the information, it can take 3-7 business days (not including weekends) for a decision to be made by a caseworker. The caseworker will either call you, or send a letter with the decision. If you are told you are not eligible, then you can appeal the decision. For a total overview of the appeal process, see Administrative Review and Appeals What If I Have Trouble Getting The Documents That DCS Ask For? You should not have to provide a document that you cannot get or that you cannot afford to get. If you are asked to do this, ask the caseworker to get the information another way or ask them to pay for the cost of getting the document. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 6 of 12

7 If you need extra time to get the documents, then ask the caseworker for an extension of time or call Legal Aid for more information at Contacts. What Happens If I Refuse, Or Do Not Provide, The Information The Caseworker Asks For? If you choose not to sign the Consent Release Form, or do not provide the caseworker the information requested, then the caseworker can stop the Income Assistance you are getting or decide that you do not qualify for assistance. If you can t provide these documents right away, you may be given more time to find them and give them to your caseworker. However, your caseworker may not allow you more time. So have them ready as soon as possible. What Happens If I Give The Caseworker False, Misleading, or Wrong Information And Documents? You need to always give correct and honest information. If the caseworker finds out that you have given wrong or false information, the caseworker can stop all Income Assistance. NOTE If the caseworker finds out you have been dishonest about your information you can be charged with a criminal offence (such as fraud). DCS can make you pay back Income Assistance paid to you in error. This is called an overpayment. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 7 of 12

8 IMPORTANT DCS can take up to $45/per month from your cheque to go towards paying off your overpayment. If taking this amount will result in personal hardship, you can ask DCS to have the monthly amount reduced and pay over a longer period. For more information on where to get legal advice: Contacts What If DCS Will Not Accept My Application? DCS is required to take your application. If you meet the eligibility requirements, then you have a right to Income Assistance. If a DCS employee, over the phone or in person, tells you that you are not able to apply, then ask to speak to their supervisor, or get legal advice at Contacts. What If I Do Not Have A Permanent Address? You should not be refused Income Assistance just because you do not have a permanent address. If DCS does not let you apply then you should call Nova Scotia Legal Aid for legal advice at Contacts. If you know you have a certain room or apartment when you have money for rent, get a note from the landlord and take it to DCS. This note should say: The address of the place you want to rent; The date you can have the place; How much the rent will be; If you have to pay for heat or other utilities; If you have to pay last month s rent up front, as a damage deposit; Last Updated: August 2014 Page 8 of 12

9 The landlord s name and phone number; and, That the landlord is prepared to rent the room or apartment to you. IMPORTANT DCS may have a form that you can give to your landlord to fill out instead of asking for a signed note. If DCS tells you that you are not eligible for Income Assistance and you need information on where to receive legal advice, go to Contacts. Can I Bring Someone With Me When I Am Dealing With DCS? Yes. You can bring someone to support you. For example, you can bring a relative, a friend, a community or spiritual leader, or social worker. When you apply for Income Assistance you will be asked to sign documents and provide important information that will determine your eligibility so you need to clearly understand what DCS or your caseworker is telling and asking you. If you believe a support person will help, you are entitled to bring one. If you need an interpreter, make sure you tell DCS before your meeting. You may need to make your own arrangements to bring your own interpreter. If you need help or more information on interpreter services, contact the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) at ISANS or call at If you have a spouse/partner, you should bring them because they will also have to sign documents to complete your Last Updated: August 2014 Page 9 of 12

10 application. However, living with someone can affect your eligibility for Income Assistance. For more information seek legal advice at Contacts. Can My Caseworker Come To My House Without Letting Me Know Ahead Of Time? A caseworker can decide to visit your home without giving you notice. However, these visits should be done within normal DCS hours (8:30 am - 4:30 pm). DCS employees or caseworkers are not allowed to enter your home without your permission. But, if you refuse a home visit without a valid reason, DCS can cut off or suspend your Income Assistance. Some examples of valid reasons are: You or someone in your home is ill; You have visitors and you want your Income Assistance to be private; If the visit will interfere with religious holidays, observances, or practices. For more information about the process of applying for Income Assistance, see DCS website. Can My Caseworker Change The Amount Of My Assistance? Yes. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 10 of 12

11 A caseworker may stop or reduce your assistance if: 1. You have misinformed, or did not provide correct information to the caseworker. 2. You leave Nova Scotia for more than 30 days in a row. 3. You have been hospitalized for more than 30 days in a row. But, your caseworker is required to assess eligibility for a shelter allowance during the period you or a spouse/partner is hospitalized. 4. You have been imprisoned for more than 30 days in a row, in any penitentiary, jail, lockup, or adult reformatory institution Where Can I Get Further Help, Information and Resources? Legal Aid helps low-income people get legal assistance through a broad range of services. You can find your local Nova Scotia Legal Aid Office by looking under Lawyers in your phone book. You can also check the Nova Scotia Legal Aid website at Legal Aid Offices ( or phone: Nova Scotia Legal Aid Toll Free: Halifax: Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (DLAS) Website: DLAS Halifax: Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia You may be able to get free advice about your family law issue from a lawyer for up to 20 minutes. This service is provided over Last Updated: August 2014 Page 11 of 12

12 the phone. Call the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia at , to find out if you qualify for this service. Website: LISNS Toll Free: (within Nova Scotia) Halifax: Dial-a-Law Website: Dial-a-Law How LISNS Can Help Not Toll Free: Nova Scotia Family Law The Nova Scotia Family Law is an online resource available on the Nova Scotia government website, Family Law Nova Scotia. This program is designed to help you make informed decisions about legal issues and practical family issues. Department of Community Services Website: DCS Toll Free: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) Website: ISANS Toll Free: Nova Scotia Website: Homepage Nova Scotia Toll Free: Disclaimer: This site contains general legal information for residents of Nova Scotia, Canada. It is not intended to be used as legal advice for a specific legal problem. Last Updated: August 2014 Page 12 of 12

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