How to Apply for Income Assistance

To apply for Income Assistance, call the nearest office of Community Services and make an appointment. The easiest way to do this is to call our toll-free number at 1-877-424-1177 or find your local office.

Tell the person who answers the phone that you want to apply for Income Assistance. (Let the office know if you have an emergency.) Someone will then ask you questions about your situation.

Have these things by the phone when you make the call:

  • bank statements for your account
  • your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • your Nova Scotia Health Card number
  • any other information that can help the person understand your financial situation and your family situation

You may find out from this call if you seem to be eligible. (Read about eligibility.) You may get a meeting with a worker. Or you may have to wait until someone calls you back.

What to bring to your first meeting with a caseworker

The caseworker needs the documents that show whether you are eligible. You can only get Income Assistance after they have all the documents they need to complete your application.

When you make your appointment, the caseworker should tell you what you need to bring. You may want to check off all the things the caseworker asks you to bring on this list

  • your Health Card number
  • your Social Insurance Number (also known as your SIN)
  • the SIN of your spouse
  • the SIN of any dependent children who have one. To replace a Social Insurance Card call toll free 1-800-206-7218.
  • your Health Card
  • the Health Cards of all your family members To replace a lost Health Cardc call 496-7008 or toll free 1-800-563-8880.

To look at your finances, the caseworker may need to see your

  • bank account statements
  • insurance policies
  • Registered Retirement Saving Plans or RRSPs
  • Registered Education Saving Plans or RESPs
  • the final cheque stub from your last job
  • income tax assessment forms

To look at what you pay for shelter, the caseworker may need to see

  • a copy of your lease
  • the name and address of your landlord
  • bills or receipts that show the extra costs you pay – for heat and electricity, for example

To understand your situation, the caseworker may need to see your

  • birth certificate
  • drivers license
  • marriage license, divorce order
  • adoption papers
  • school documents

To replace a lost birth certificate, marriage certificate, or death certificate, call Vital Statistics at 424-4381 or toll free at 1-877-848-2578

The caseworker will photocopy all the documents you bring and keep the copies in a file. This information is kept confidential. Keep the originals for your records.

What happens at the first meeting

Your caseworker will fill out the 'ESIA Intake/Application form' using the information you give them. Both you and your spouse must sign the form if you are married and living together or living common law.

Read the information to make sure it is correct before you sign the form. This form will ask you questions about your personal situation and whether you have any reasons that you can not work on a plan to become more self-sufficient.

You sign a 'Release of Information Authorization' form. This form allows Community Services to confirm the financial information for your application. The caseworker will read the form to you and explain what it means.

It is important that you understand it. Keep asking questions until you are sure.

The caseworker will ask where you are looking for work. They will also ask if you have looked for support from programs like Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits, or Worker’s Compensation.

You will likely be asked to complete other forms, depending on your circumstances. For example, you may be asked to complete a ‘Client Personal and Financial Statement’ form.

How long before you know if you'll get Income Assistance

The caseworker collects all the information. After that, it usually takes three to seven days.

Your caseworker will call you or send a letter. You may also call the office.

You will be told one of two things:

  • that you are eligible, and the amount you will be getting
  • that you are not eligible and the reasons for that

What if I get turned down?

The letter you receive will tell you why. You can also ask the caseworker to explain the reasons.

You can also appeal the decision. If you appeal, there are two steps to the appeal process:

  • Step 1 – Administrative Review – the administrative review is done by someone new to your file, such as a local supervisor. That person will make sure that the department did all the right things to arrive at its decision
  • Step 2 – Appeal Hearing – if you are not satisfied with the decision of the administrative review and wish to continue with your appeal, then you must tell us in writing. This appeal goes to the Assistance Appeal Board. The Board will listen to your side of the story and decide if the Department’s decision should be changed.

After you've been accepted

When can I expect the assistance to start?

That depends on your situation. Monthly assistance usually comes three working days before the end of the month. It may come as a cheque or direct deposit.

How do I get the money?

You can get the money in one of two ways

  • have it deposited directly into your bank account. This is called 'direct deposit.' Community Services recommends this because it is safe, you get your money on time, and it is confidential. Your caseworker will help you set up direct deposit if you want to use it
  • have your cheque mailed to you

Keep notes! We recommend that you keep notes of appointments, the names and telephone numbers of people you talk to, and a list of resources in your community that may help you. Your caseworker will help you.