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Financial Empowerment for People with Disabilities Project

22 November 2023

Prosper Canada, in collaboration with Disability Alliance B.C., (British Columbia), Plan Institute, and Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, through funding provided by the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program Disability, undertook the Financial Empowerment for People with Disabilities project, spanning three years.

The primary objective was to develop an effective benefits service, with the potential for sustainable scaling, that can support people with disabilities (PWD) – at no or low cost to them – to access government benefits they are eligible for but not yet receiving. Here we want to highlight two resources that were the outcome of this project: Increasing Access to Benefits for People with Disabilities project: Insights and Recommendations and Clearing the Way: A Guide to Providing Access to Benefits Supports for Peoples with Disabilities.

Increasing Access to Benefits for Peoples with Disabilities Project: Insights and Recommendations

Our project team used service design to consider the experiences and perspectives of people with disabilities, systems experts, and service providers. A key goal in the successful use of service design in this project was to make it accessible. The project followed six phases which unfolded as follows:

Discover Phase (Months one to six): In this phase, we aimed to identify barriers and opportunities in the benefits process for people with disabilities in British Columbia. Activities included web research, interviews, and surveys, with additional feedback options for inclusivity. 

Define Phase (Months seven to nine): Building on the Discover phase insights, we documented the benefit journeys of people with disabilities in British Columbia, noting strengths and weaknesses in their perspectives. We identified urgent issues, outlined challenges beyond our scope, and set a clear objective: an access-to-benefits service. This service empowers self-advocacy through a benefits screening tool while ensuring one-on-one advocacy remains accessible when needed. 

Develop Phase (Months 10 to 12): The Develop phase broadened the project scope by identifying and refining potential solutions for the Access to Benefits Service. Through iterative activities like brainstorming, co-creation, prototyping, and testing, we adapted swiftly to virtual methods during the Covid-19 pandemic. The three-pronged Access to Benefits Service empowers people with disabilities to self-advocate for disability benefits, explore other benefits, and access one-on-one support when needed. Partner staff tailored the introduction of the new tool based on their clients and touchpoints in the end-to-end service model. 

Deliver Phase (Months 13 to 18): The Disability Benefits Compass, a new tool, evolved from valuable feedback, integrating relevant features, content, and navigation. People with disabilities and staff at DABC and Plan Institute contributed insights throughout the process, enhancing the tool with valuable tips, FAQs, challenges, resources, and examples. Rigorous testing and an accessibility review refined its functionality, navigation, and content. Training materials were developed for effective delivery. 

Pilot Phase (Months 19 to 36): Partner staff were trained on the new tool and its integration. DABC and Plan Institute piloted the three-pronged service model, adding the Disability Benefits Compass where it fit best. DABC shared tools online and in response to inquiries, while Plan Institute introduced them through their website, social media, client events, and helpline without ongoing one-on-one support.

Reporting and Knowledge Mobilization Phase (Months 34 to 36): The insights and knowledge acquired throughout the project will be disseminated widely through various channels, including the Prosper Canada communication channels and those of project partners.

The pilot demonstrated success in bridging service gaps and empowering individuals with disabilities to self-advocate for government benefits. The forthcoming steps involve knowledge mobilization and exploration of avenues to expand access to benefits services.

Read more of the report here

Clearing the Way: A Guide to Providing Access to Benefit Supports for People with Disabilities

This resource explains an Access to Benefits service model for organizations. The model incorporates the Disability Benefits Compass, enabling organizations to provide no-cost services supporting individuals with disabilities in accessing eligible government benefits. This guide serves as a valuable resource for organizations seeking to integrate benefits navigation support into their existing services. It addresses the complexities and challenges associated with providing such services to individuals with disabilities, offering a comprehensive blueprint for a streamlined approach.

The report outlines ways in which frontline workers and organizations can help people with disabilities:

  1. What you should consider before providing access to benefit services 
  2. The challenges one may face in providing these services
  3. Training recommendations including topics, staff onboarding, and entry points for clients to access benefits supports such as resources like Benefits Wayfinder and Disability Compass 
  4. Identifying the Limitations of access to benefits services for people living with disabilities 

Any organization interested in integrating benefits navigation support into their existing services can use this service model as a guide. Your organization can decide if the entire end-to-end model will be implemented or only elements of the model.

Access the guide here