Welfare to Work

Phase 1

Provincial and Territorial Summaries

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Phase 1 Provincial Summary

Supports for Independence (SFI) is one of an array of programs and services offered by Family and Social Services (FSS) in Alberta. SFI is designed to provide Albertans who are able to work with the short-term support they need until they become independent of government assistance. The focus is on the promotion of self-sufficiency and family responsibility rather than benefit administration. SFI began in 1990.

FSS and community partners have developed local strategies to maximize work opportunities for recipients. These strategies include a broad range of services such as job information, employment referrals, employment planning, assessment, counselling and orientation workshops on local resources. FSS is also responsible for financial supports including employment-related expenses, child-care supports, moving for confirmed employment, exemptions on earned or self-employed income, the Employment Skills Program, Alberta Community Employment and Alberta Job Corps.

Pre-employment training programs are offered by Advanced Education and Career Development (AECD). AECD, through Career Development Services, works with individuals, private employers and other government departments to increase the skill level of Albertans. Services appropriate for but not limited to welfare recipients include workshops (career planning, job searching, resume writing, etc.), a career information hotline and labour market information centres. AECD is also responsible for education and training, including basic foundation skills and post-secondary education.

Generally, recipients who are able to work are expected to move toward that goal. They are to work, prepare for work or train according to the employment plan they have developed. The government's role is to provide the support and the active measures recipients need to be successful. Recipients who refuse to look for or prepare for employment may lose their welfare benefits. Recipients are informed of their right to appeal; an appeals process has been established. Recipients not expected to work include those who are caring for a dependent child under six months of age or for a disabled family member, those who have been assessed as having unusual difficulty coping with the competing demands of family and work and those who have recently left an abusive situation and have been assessed as requiring a period of adjustment. Single recipients who are 50 or older with no dependents and who are assessed as unable or unlikely to obtain continuous employment for more than 20 hours a week are assigned to transitional support.

Participants are categorized in terms of their relationship to the labour market. SFI has four basic categories: supplement to earnings (employed recipients who are unable to meet their basic needs), employment and training support (unemployed recipients who must look for work or engage in training), transitional support (recipients who are temporarily unable to work) and assured support (recipients who are not able to work continuously in the normal labour force). SFI is delivered by a team of intake workers, financial benefits workers and employment and client support services workers.

The program is highly flexible in terms of local needs, design and implementation. Sub-programs must be designed to ensure that participants not displace workers already holding paid jobs in the local economy. Youth are targeted by some programs. SFI does not discriminate by gender.

AECD and FSS jointly fund public and private agencies offering employment preparation. The FSS welfare budget for 1996–97 was $487,175,000. The FSS employment and training budget was $48,798,000. The AECD budget for 1996–97 was 115,041,000. The welfare caseload in March 1996 was 48,773.

One-on-one orientation is provided to participants, and follow-up is consistent with the needs and circumstances of the individual. Evaluations are ongoing and are used to make resource allocation decisions, improve programs and services and improve accountability.

The province has recently completed work toward a new model of adult skills development, which it expects to begin as a pilot project in 1998–99. In addition, AECD and FSS have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will result in an expansion of the range of programs and services in response to the changing needs of recipients.

© Copyright Canadian Council on Social Development, 1999. All rights reserved.

Last Revised: Mon, Dec 10, 2001

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