Archived - Evaluation of the National Child - Benefit Reinvestments Initiative

Archived information

This Web page has been archived on the Web. Archived information is provided for reference, research or record keeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Author: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Audit and Evaluation Sector
Date: (December, 2007)

PDF Version   (562 Kb, 38 pages)



Table of Contents

Return to Table of Contents

1 Introduction

The National Child Benefit Reinvestments (NCBR) Initiative is one of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's (INAC) suite of social programs for First Nations individuals and families on reserve. INAC spends approximately $1.3 billion on these programs which also include: Income Assistance (IA), Assisted Living (AL), First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) and the Family Violence Prevention Program (FVPP).

Launched in 1998, the National Child Benefit (NCB) Initiative is a federal/ provincial/ territorial initiative and encompasses two programs: a federally provided refundable tax- credit to low income families, referred to as the NCB Supplement; and First Nation and provincially provided initiatives, referred to as the NCB Reinvestments.

INAC is responsible for the NCB reinvestments on-reserve. Out of the total $3.4 billion invested by the Government of Canada in 2005-2006 for the entire NCB Initiative, the First Nations share of income from the NCB Supplement was approximately 1.6% ($55 million). First Nations families have access to the NCB supplement in the same way as other Canadian families through the income tax system administered by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The whole NCB initiative will come for renewal in the next two years. An evaluation led by Human Resources and Social Development Canada has been launched with results expected in 2008-09 and any resulting policy changes will affect INAC programming.

Under the federal Transfer Payments Policy, the terms and conditions for all federal transfer payment programs must be renewed every five years. At present, INAC's NCBR Initiative, along with the Income Assistance and Assisted Living programs, is operating under an interim authority, which must be renewed by March 31, 2008. One condition for the renewal of the programs is the completion of a program evaluation of each program.

Previous reviews of the NCBR component indicated a lack of performance data which impedes an evaluation of impacts. [Note 1] Further, the Audit and Evaluation Sector assessed the evaluability of the NCBR initiative in 2006-07 and found that NCBR funds are co-mingled with many other programs making attribution of results not possible. Given the constraints the evaluation focuses on program effectiveness and identifying ways to improve outcomes. The evaluation covers program activity from 1998-99 to 2005-06.

Return to Table of Contents

1.1 Evaluation Issues

In June 2007, the Audit and Evaluation Committee approved terms of reference which identified the following specific evaluation questions:

Return to Table of Contents

1.2 Methodology

In preparation for the evaluation, the Audit and Evaluation Sector completed an assessment of the evaluability of the NCBR which included:

The evaluation of the NCBR was conducted at the same time as the evaluation of the Income Assistance Program and data collection was coordinated to reduce duplication and to better assess linkages between the programs. The evaluation methodology included the following components:

Specific limitations for the NCBR Evaluation included the following:

Return to Table of Contents

2 The National Child Benefit

This section provides an overview of the National Child Benefit (NCB) and situates where INAC's NCBR for First Nations fits into the broader initiative.

2.1 Social Policy Reforms in Canada

The evaluation literature review notes that social programs that provide income support to those in need have gone through several transformations over the past 15 years with the objective of promoting greater labour force attachment and economic self-sufficiency and reducing reliance on government programs. Of major concern were also the interactions between programs and tax measures that led to the existence of unemployment traps and poverty traps for income assistance recipients, making it often irrational for them to accept a low-paying job. [Note 6]

In the 1990s, social welfare and child advocacy organizations called for government action to reduce the extent of child poverty. [Note 7] The 1995 federal Budget was a landmark event focusing on the importance of social policy and fiscal constraint. It established the Canada Health and Social Transfer as a new structure of federal-provincial fiscal transfers that combined the Canada Assistance Plan transfers for welfare and social services with Established Programs Financing transfer for health and post-secondary education into a single block fund. The Budget reduced federal transfers to provinces by $7.3B over the following three years dramatically altering social policy in Canada [Note 8].

Subsequently the Report on the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal called for structuring of the social security system and called for an established framework for inter-governmental cooperation on national social policy reform. From this was born a proposal for an integrated National Child Benefit.

The introduction of the National Child Benefit (NCB) in 1998 was a major development in Canadian social policy. The Child Tax Benefit was crafted into a new federal child benefit under the NCB agreements, the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). The innovation was that the working income supplement was converted into an income-tested NCB supplement (NCBS). The NCBS not only supplements income from paid employment, as was previously the case, but supplements any source of income, including income from income assistance payments. The NCB supplement paid to low-income families was designed as a "portable benefit" in the sense that parents retain their supplement when they move off welfare into a paying job.

Return to Table of Contents

2.2 NCB Objectives

The National Child Benefit (NCB) has three goals:

Return to Table of Contents

2.3 NCB Components

As illustrated in Figure 1, the NCB has two components both targeted to low income families with children.

Overview of NCB Components Estimates from 2005-06

Overview of NCB Components Estimates from 2005-06

Note: (*) In 2005-06, First Nations investments and reinvestments on reserve were estimated to be $58 million.
Source: The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2006 (Fall 2007)

A number of provinces and territories are now providing child benefits outside of the income assistance system, so that families receive these benefits regardless of the parents' employment situation. Several provinces have restructured their income assistance systems so that they now provide child benefits to all low-income families with children, while benefits for adults continue to be provided through income assistance. As a result, families in these provinces keep their provincial child benefits-in addition to the NCB Supplement-when parents make the transition from income assistance to work. Several provinces/territories provide child benefits that top up the amount that families receive through income assistance in support of their children. In most of these cases, the provincial or territorial child benefit is combined with the federal CCTB in a single monthly payment, which is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The intent was to help ensure that families would always be better-off as a result of working. They would not receive added financial assistance by remaining on income assistance nor be penalized by moving off income assistance. In the latter case, they would continue to receive the NCB Supplement in addition to any employment income. Thus, the adjustments were designed to counteract disincentive effects to entering the workforce.

Return to Table of Contents

2.4 The NCBR for First Nations

The following describes how the NCBR for First Nations on-reserve works.

2.4.1 Objectives and Activities

The NCBR for First Nations has the same objectives as the broader NCB initiative initiatives - reducing child poverty, improving efficiency in service delivery and supporting transition to work.

For the INAC NCBR, reinvestments have been aligned to some extent with the federal/provincial guidelines but there is added flexibility to allow for cultural programming and to recognize the diversity of traditions, needs, and opportunities among First Nations. First Nations NCBR programming also targets the whole community, not just low income families, and defines eligibility broadly.

Provinces/territories fund supplementary health benefits and early childhood programs while on-reserve these benefits are the responsibility of Health Canada and fall outside of the NCBR. Earnings supplements are also not part of the NCBR.

Specifically, First Nations communities apply for funding that falls under one or more of the following five NCBR activity areas:

NCBR projects vary broadly in size and scope ranging from diapers for families in crisis and school breakfast programs, to job counselling and training programs. Many communities receive less than $50,000 a year and fund 1 or 2 projects while others have large budgets and fund many program initiatives.

In addition to the above-mentioned activities, when a province or territory supplements the federal payment with additional funding, INAC commits to reimburse the portion which reaches low-income families on-reserve. For example, INAC reimburses Saskatchewan and Yukon for integrated payments to low income families with children who ordinarily reside in First Nations communities. [Note 11]

2.4.2 Program Delivery

The administration of the NCBR involves a collaborative effort among INAC headquarters (HQ), INAC regions and First Nation recipients. Headquarters is responsible for program oversight, policy direction, the annual report, and to contribute to federal-provincial progress report. Regions are responsible for funding projects, review of proposals, and functional direction to communities, and compliance reviews and monitoring. First Nations are responsible for project design, submission of proposals, service delivery, monitoring project progress and meeting terms and conditions of their funding agreements

Program delivery varies among INAC regions. Some regions also integrate program delivery of the Income Assistance and NCBR programs, the following are examples:

There is no NCBR in Manitoba and New Brunswick, as these provinces do not make adjustments to income assistance savings. Nova Scotia has recently adopted this approach.

The actual amount of the NCBR funds is calculated on a regional basis, according to procedures and amounts by which provincial and territorial governments adjust to their income assistance rates because of the NCBS, and regions own resource allocation methods. The textbox below briefly describes some examples. The impact of various funding approaches is not known and it was beyond the scope of the evaluation to assess affect of the different allocation methods.

Examples regional allocations of NCBR funding

First Nations are funded through two funding arrangements:

2.4.3 How NCBR Works in communities

Community approaches for identifying needs and designing projects varies. Key informants stated that most First Nations use a mixed approach where both political leaders and program staff identify needs and decide on relevant projects in which to invest NCBR funding. Some key informants believed that when the income assistance administrator was involved, there tended to be a stronger focus on home to work transition projects that aim to attach individuals to the labour market.

A wide variety of projects are supported. Many First Nation communities use NCBR funding to "top-up" or augment activities supported by other existing programs. A 2005 review conducted by INAC surveyed a sample of 37 First Nation and INAC administrators in five regions and the Yukon, and, in the context of harmonization, most respondents held the view that that NCBR funding is critical to ease pressure on various community programs and that, through "topping up" other programs, success is more easily attained.

The evaluation found that a number of program areas on-reserve are topped with NCBR funding, including programs in the area of health, employment and training, education, youth programming, basic needs (e.g., food, clothing and shelter), and cultural events.

Return to Table of Contents

3 Evaluation Findings

This section presents the main evaluation findings.

3.1 Changes in Expenditures

Total NCBR expenditures remained stable over the past several years; however, as shown in Table 1, regional expenditures have changed markedly since 1998/99.

Table 1: Actual First Nations NCBR Expenditures by Year and Region, 1998-99 and 2005-06 (in $000s)
Region 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05 2005/06
Atlantic [Note 13] 1,000 2,100 3,000 1,549 991 757 3,908 2,574
Quebec 6,824 8,540 8,540 8,540 8,161 6,202 3,315 3,134
Ontario 2,700 3,500 5,218 7,355 8,118 7,344 8,856 9,168
Manitoba [Note 14] 4,300 8,400 7,786 5,322 3,209 1,764 0 0
Saskatchewan 4,400 8,600 11,441 15,392 16,851 18,816 19,763 22,710
Alberta 1,700 7,000 9,667 8,566 9,757 10,174 9,423 10,080
British Columbia 2,300 3,470 4,324 4,174 5,973 6,269 6,919 6,604
Yukon 200 300 264 341 489 439 565 345
Sub-total 23,424  41,910  50,239  51,239  53,549  51,763  52,748  54,615 
YK investment 0 240 240 240 240 240 240 240
SK investment 6,700 8,100 3,799 5,523 2,199 1,174 2,139 3,194
Total NCB 30,124  50,249  54,228  57,001  55,988  53,177  55,127  58,049 

Source: First Nations National Child Benefit Reinvestment Initiative, Progress Report for the Year Ending March 31, 2005, and INAC departmental data.

Note: Some numbers may not add up due to rounding.

Overall, Saskatchewan Region accounts for a large share of the total First Nation NCBR expenditures (39.1% in 2005-2006). When provincial reinvestment is added to the INAC reinvestment, the Saskatchewan share was 44.6%. The majority of Saskatchewan's expenditures was on home-to-work transition projects, which represents $12.1 million, about half of its NCBR expenditures and about 70% of the national total spent on this category in 2005-06.

The Quebec region's participation in the NCBR has steadily declined from 17% to 5.4%. Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have all shown steady growth in NCBR expenditures.

Return to Table of Contents

3.2 Changes in Program Activity

Program data indicate that 1,429 NCBR projects were carried out in 2005-06, the majority in British Columbia with 499 projects (35% of total), and 331 in Alberta (23% of total).

Fiscal year 2004/05 marked the first year that expenditures in Home-to-Work Transition activities exceeded expenditures for Cultural Enrichment activities. Table 2 provides a breakdown of expenditures by activity area over the past two years. For 2005-06, the three middle categories are the largest with the recent increase in funding to the Support to Parents Category.

There are also notable differences in the type of NCBR program activity funded by each region, including the following:

Table 2: NCBR projects carried by activity area and year
Category 2004 - 2005  2005 - 2006 
  $000's % $000's %
Child/Day Care $2,320 4.4 $3,246 5.9
Child Nutrition $12,450 23.6 $12,762 23.4
Support to Parents $4,990 9.5 $12,584 23.0
Home-Work Transition $17,500 33.2 $17,102 31.3
Cultural Enrichment $15,460 29.3 $8,919 16.3
TOTAL $52,720 100 $54,614 100

Cultural Enrichment accounted for 30% to 50% of funding in early years but declined to about 16% in 2005-2006. The Child Care category is relatively small and accounts for just over 5% of expenditures, which may be due in part because the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreements fund child care through the First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative.

Noticeable in the above is a marked increase in funding to the Support to Parents category and a corresponding decrease to the Cultural Enrichment category. Data for earlier years (not shown) does not include reports from bands funded via CFNFA agreements.

The file review indicates that information captured in the Cultural Enrichment category was diverse and often seemed to better fit under other categories so it is possible that more accurate project reporting may explain some of the change.

Return to Table of Contents

3.3 Number of Beneficiaries

Program data for 2005-06 indicate that a total of 226,566 families and 501,170 children on-reserve benefited from the NCBR Initiative. The data, which exceeds the total population on-reserve, over-represents the actual number of beneficiaries that benefit from the Initiative because in many cases First Nations include duplicate counts where a family and/or child has benefited from more than one service in the community.

The evaluation and previous studies of the NCBR on-reserve do however indicate that the reach of the NCBR goes beyond low income families with children to include income assistance recipients, individuals in need, school children, and youth.

Return to Table of Contents

3.4 Reported Project Outcomes

The only sources of information regarding NCBR outcomes are project reports submitted by First Nations and stakeholder perceptions. There are no data regarding immediate or intermediate outcomes of the NCBR, such as improvements in employability, improved family situation, changes in poverty, improvement to child well-being.

A file review of NCBR projects (2006) examined a total of 327 annual project reports from 2004-05 for two regions (Ontario and Alberta) and provides an overview of the types of NCBR projects funded. The review examined 161 project reports from Ontario and 166 from Alberta. The following summarizes the findings according by program activity area:

The file review suggests that project reports provide information on immediate outcomes of NCBR projects, but limited insight on longer term outcomes such as a reduction in the incidence of poverty or increased attachment to the labour force. This is not surprising given many NCBR projects are small and work in tandem with other community initiatives.

Key informants in regions generally believed that the NCBR was a positive initiative. The comments of one respondent sum up widely held views:

The program had a positive impact in terms of community-building, as well as strengthening the relationship between INAC and the communities. NCBR projects bring community members together and create linkages between elders and youth. They are also considered "feel good" projects that are oriented towards positive actions -- compared to simply financial supports to individuals.

INAC is unable to determine the extent NCBR is used to top up projects (or individuals) funded by other programs but the sense is that top up is a common and useful approach to using the funds. Regions believe home to work projects mostly focus on job creation. This usage helps augment other programs to do things needed in the community like housing construction while providing productive jobs. Some home to work projects target single mothers, youth, and summer employment for students to help them develop employability skills.

Return to Table of Contents

3.5 Effective Practices in First Nations Communities

The evaluation included case studies in three communities which were identified as having employed effective practices in implementing active measures in delivery of their local IA services and also as having effective NCBR activities.

Evaluators selected communities for study using criteria such as: significant spending on the NCBR projects; linkages between NCBR, Income Assistance and other programs; community size; and urban/rural representation. At the same time of the evaluation, the department also completed a study on active measures and their consultants visited many communities. Therefore, to avoid duplication, evaluators worked with regions to visit places that had not yet been contacted and which they could arrange within the evaluation's timeline.

The case study communities included Tsawwassen, Tsuu T'ina, and Carry the Kettle, [Note 15] each briefly profiled in Figure 2.

3.5.1 Reductions in welfare dependency rates

All three communities have had some success in reducing welfare dependency rates in recent years. For example, Tsawwassen had a history of a high dependency on IA (40% dependency rate on IA was typical) but more recently, IA dependency has fallen to around 10%.

Community Profile
Location Adjacent to Delta, British Columbia Adjacent to Calgary Alberta 100 Km east of Regina, Saskatchewan
On-reserve Population [Note 16] 455 2500 794
Unemployment Rate [Note 17] 5.5% 7.4% 34.4%
Economic opportunities Access to employment in nearby Vancouver Access to band operated businesses and employment in Calgary Access to band operated businesses; some travel to jobs in resource sector
Welfare dependency rate [Note 18] 7.3% 19.2% 25.9%
NCBR funding and projects by activity area
Total funding [Note 19] $30,000 $250,000 $319,170
Child Care None reported Day care and child care None reported
Child Nutrition Healthy Habits (school lunch), Food bank Community Kitchen fees Community Kitchen, Feast, Home economics, and Hot lunch fees School lunch program
Support to Parents None reported Parent/Student resource centre, Young mothers group Support for parents
Home to Work Transition Help for individuals securing employment off-reserve, such as gas vouchers, clothing or equipment Training in early childhood education Workshops on parenting, cultural activities, addictions Youth summer employment Transportation for individuals taking training or work Life skills Youth Program Mentorship Program Student Enrichment Program to tutor students Youth Development/ Parental Aid Career Counselling Attachment to Workforce Training/Workshops for parents
Cultural Enrichment Workshops in different areas Range of activities, events, and classes Community cultural events

The case study communities have seen reductions in dependency rates in part because they have direct and indirect access to economic opportunities in Canada's western provinces which have booming economies, and due to practices they have put in place (Refer to textbox for example).

Carry the Kettle has done several things to assist individuals move into the workforce:

The case study communities also recognize that who is left on their welfare rolls are individuals with multiple barriers to employment and hard to employ. Accordingly, they have made changes to their Income Assistance and NCBR programming to help these clients. Tsuu T'ina and Carry the Kettle are larger communities and have also targeted NCBR projects, in particular home to work transition activities, to help youth and implementing preventative activities to help them stay off welfare. Tsawwassen reported that increased high school completion rates have had a significant impact on welfare reduction.

The communities reported having the support of political leadership to make changes to social programming.

3.5.2 Integrated Program Delivery

The communities also have to a large extent integrated delivery of IA and NCBR and employment and training programs funded through the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy (AHRDS). There are also linkages with other programs including training programs from community colleges, the INAC's Work Opportunity Program, INAC's family violence funding, Health Canada programs, schools, etc. The three case study communities also have competent and professional staff able to identify individual needs and make referrals to appropriate services.

Tsawwassen First Nation has implemented an integrated approach to service delivery including liaisons with the AHRD and VanASEP [Note 20] and links between IA and NCBR.

The integrated service delivery approach includes the delivery of NCBR programming. Health and social services, education and skills development, language and culture, and AHRDA programming are all delivered by staff working together in the same building. The Social Development officer is usually the first point of contact for clients. After an initial assessment to determine how best to assist the individual, clients are then referred to the appropriate program/staff.

3.5.3 Variety of Projects funded

The number and scope of projects varied among the three communities. Tsawwassen is a small First Nation with a small budget for NCBR and reported a few projects in the areas of child nutrition, cultural enrichment and home to work transition. Tsuu T'ina and Carry the Kettle are larger communities and reported funding a number of projects. For example, Carry the Kettle reported a total of 13 projects, eight of which were in the home to work transition category. Tsuu T'ina reported a long list of projects in all five NCBR categories. All three communities provided some funding to help low income individuals and IA recipients transition into the workforce.

Carry the Kettle home to work transition projects focussed on youth and included the following:

Tsuu T'ina had a variety of projects including training in early childhood education, babysitting, life skills, and CPR. The NCBR also funds a variety of workshops on parenting and dealing with addictions. The community also funds a number of youth summer employment positions so they can gain work experience. The community also provides funds for transportation for individuals taking training or work

All three communities funded a range of cultural enrichment activities. For example, Tsuu T'ina funded the following: Camp; Smoke House; Round dances; Women's Day; Beading and Language classes; and Elders storytelling. Tsawwessen funded workshops on activities such as drum making, story-telling and medicine.

3.5.4 Results

Communities did not track NCBR outcomes or provide any data to demonstrate results. Key informants believed that overall NCBR projects had a positive impact on individuals that secure low paying employment and provide a range of supports that can reduce the impact of poverty. Some other observations included the following:

Tsuu T'ina Nation has learned that short term programs which were the norm in the past do not work as participants have a lot of issues that cannot be dealt with quickly - self- esteem, social issues, drug and alcohol addictions, family violence, and parenting skills. They recognize the need for more holistic and long term interventions but have not yet developed the capacity to implement this. One option suggested was that they try to target a more limited number of families with intensive programming rather than try to help large numbers. They recognize that more collaboration with other programs such as community wellness (health centre), the spirit healing lodge, treatment centre, and the museum (cultural programs) are needed and are working towards this.

Carry the Kettle community representatives believed the NCBR program benefited from several factors:

3.5.5 Summary

Case study communities offer several lessons learned and effective practices:

Return to Table of Contents

3.6 Program Guidelines

Up to this past year, the regional role was mainly to roll-up the project proposals and send these to Ottawa. Some regions are now implementing a more structured review process. However, because of the lack of clear guidelines regarding what specific things can be funded in each of the five broad categories, some regional staff said they have often received weak proposals in the past which has necessitated going back to First Nations for revisions. This has sometimes led to projects not being approved until November or December for a one year project.

Some respondents mentioned that recreation activities, transportation, and clothing purchases are not eligible under NCBR.

INAC Saskatchewan Region in 2005-06 completed a review of NCBR activity based on annual project reports [Note 21] and identified a number of issues of concern. The first issue was reporting: at the time of the analysis, 30% of the funds allocated (15% of projects) had not been reported on by First Nations (reports have since been received on the majority of these. The review also identified a number of ineligible costs (e.g. recreation, direct subsidies to parents, exceeding the 15% administration fee ceiling). Subsequently, the region refined its Social Development management regime (guidelines for program management) in 2007-08 to provide more specific guidelines to First Nations on NCBR as part of the move of the region to active measures. The guidelines set out the intent of each category and more clarity on types of eligible costs, and also include percentage targets for each of the five NCBR categories. Home to Work Transition has been given a target of 43% of program funding allocated by each First Nation. A ceiling of 15% has been set on administration costs.

Return to Table of Contents

3.7 Monitoring

INAC has very limited information on the NCBR Initiative. Project reporting by communities is done on an annual basis. Information provided is essentially a description of the projects and identification of numbers of families and children benefiting from the project. Because these counts are project-based and not aggregated to a community level, there is extensive double-counting.

Regional offices have been more active in providing direction to communities on the nature of projects which link best to NCB objectives. In 2005-2006 there has been a substantial reduction in funding allocated to Cultural Enrichment projects and a corresponding increase in Support to Parents projects. Nevertheless, the Department has not been active in providing guidance at a project level as to how projects might be improved and/or respond better to community needs. Several regional officials identified the need for more monitoring including community visits. An alternative approach would be for the Department to work with external organizations which could provide this guidance to communities.

The administrative burden of a project-based approach requiring applications and end-of- project reporting was noted by informants, recognizing that the projects can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. They stated this reflects the flexibility of the program and some believed a common template for reporting on very different projects was not helpful.

They also noted that annual reports almost always concluded that the project had accomplished what the proposal had said it would. However, for many projects, in particular small ones, evaluative information beyond that may not be warranted. Some INAC regional staff indicated that NCBR reports are not currently reconciled with project proposals and felt this would be a useful activity.

The National Manual developed by INAC, which provides INAC employees with NCBR history, objectives, eligibility criteria and key definitions, alludes to results like "fewer" families in a low-income situation, "higher" disposable income and a decline in the income assistance caseload for families with children. [Note 22] While work on a performance measurement strategy for INAC social development and individual programs is ongoing, presently there are no clear performance expectations outlined for the NCBR for First Nations.

Return to Table of Contents

4 Lessons from other jurisdictions

The following section identifies some lessons learned from the experience off-reserve.

4.1 Insights from the International Experience

The evaluation literature review sought to identify effective ways other jurisdictions use to attach individuals and families to the labour force and to reduce poverty. The intent was to provide insights regarding the effectiveness of INAC's NCBR in achieving similar objectives. The NCB and much of literature is based on the assumption that attaching parents to the workforce will enable them to become self-sufficient and lead to better outcomes for children, the ultimate being a reduction in child poverty. The literature indicates that reality is more complex.

Some key observations from the international literature include the following:

Return to Table of Contents

4.2 Provincial and Territorial Programming

Provinces and territories fund a range of programs through the NCB reinvestment components. Table 3 provides and overview of the activity categories funded by provinces and territories and what percentage of funding is spent in this area.

In recent years, child care initiatives are the most significant provincial / territorial expenditures followed by early childhood and children at risk programs. Provincial/territorial reinvestments focus in areas broadly defined by the literature as being important.

The evaluation has identified several differences with Provincial and Territorial programming.

Cultural Enrichment Projects

This category of projects is unique to First Nations. In the early years of INAC's NCBR Initiative, the category accounted for over 50% of funding. This has reduced steadily over the years and these projects accounted for 29.3% of funding in 2004-2005 and 16.3% of funding in 2005-2006. Based on file reviews in two provinces, many of these projects are actually structured programs for youth and adolescents. The literature indicates that these projects can be very effective. On balance, it appears that the value from projects in this category is improving over time and offers additional potential. Consideration should be given to: acknowledging the importance of cultural appropriateness in all categories of projects; and, changing the current Cultural Enrichment category to Children and Youth at risk.

Table 3 - Provincial and Territorial NCB Reinvestments and INAC Program Focus
Category Purpose /focus Average % spent on INAC focus Average % on category
Child/day care initiatives
  • allows low-income parents to enter and stay in the labour market
  • provide in a variety of forms in jurisdictions (e.g. subsidies to child care facilities, direct
    assistance to families, or combination).
25 - 30%  [Note 23] Child care projects most prevalent in Alberta Past two years between 4.4-6%
Child benefits/ earned income supplements
  • provide financial support to low-income families through monthly cash payments to parent or guardian of child
  • eligibility typically tied to earning a certain minimum employment income
  • to improve financial stability of low-income families by helping subsidizing low wages that often come with entry level jobs
  • support parents to stay in labour market and work toward higher wages
28.7% in 2002-2003 dropping to an estimated 16.8% in 2005-2006 Home to work transition projects (include work experience, wage subsidies) Past two years 31-33%
Supplementary Health benefits
  • benefits that go beyond basic Medicare coverage, such as optical care, prescription drugs, dental care or other benefits.
  • Some provinces/ territories provide benefits to all children in low-income families so they do not lose important health benefits for their children when they move from income assistance to the labour market.
(Approximately 45% attributed to Alberta's Child Health Benefit)
Not funded, these benefits fall under Health Canada's First Nation and Inuit Branch 0%
Early childhood/ children-at-risk programs
  • early support to children in low-income families optimize child development and give young children a healthy start in life
  • range from prenatal screening to information on mother and child nutrition and parenting skills, and, early literacy classes and recreation programs
last four years averaging between 15 - 20% Includes categories child nutrition and support to parents total 33%- 46% (Child nutrition- 23% and support to parents 10% to 23%
Youth Initiatives
  • range of benefits and services designed to assist and support youth, with particular attention to youth-at-risk
  • alcohol and drug strategies to transitional support for youth leaving child welfare
comprise slightly less than 5% Not funded 0%
  • flexibility to address particular challenges facing their jurisdictions
  • range from early intervention and child care to employment supports and prevention programs
15% over each of past four years Cultural enrichment encompasses a range of projects Past two years drooped from 29% to 16%

Child Care

In First Nation communities, only a small portion of NCBR funding is allocated to child care programs. In 2005-2006, $3.25 million (5.9% of total NCBR spending) was spent in this category. In contrast, provincial/territorial child/day care programs accounted for the largest share of all NCB Reinvestments and Investments and comprised an estimated $275 million in 2005-2006 which is 31.7% of the total spend under NCBR for provinces, territories and First Nations.

Consideration should be given to consulting with First Nation communities and other partners responsible for child care on-reserve as to the barriers in developing child care and how NCBR funding could be more fully utilized in this area. Lack of access to adequate child care is an important barrier to employment in many First Nation communities.

Child care on-reserve is funded in large part through other programs outside of the NCBR for First Nations. The First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative (FNICCI) is a component of the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy (AHRDS). The Initiative provides access to child care services of parents entering the labour market or who have entered into a training program. FNICCI is a $50M program which supports over 7,000 child care spaces in 407 First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada. [Note 24]

Provincial funding is available through agreements between INAC and Ontario and Alberta. FNICCI and INAC funds are pooled at the community level. INAC funds over 800 on-reserve day care spaces in Alberta at an annual cost of $2.7M. In addition, Alberta bills INAC for day care services provided to children who are ordinarily resident on-reserve but access day care services off-reserve, this cost was $682,000. [Note 25]

Earning Supplements

Earning supplements are an important component of NCB Reinvestments in Provinces and Territories and do not exist in First Nation communities. The literature indicates that these supplements are important in allowing parents to leave welfare and accept work. This is especially the case if parents have low education and limited work experience and thus are likely to find work at low wages. Since these characteristics are more common in many First Nation communities, earning supplements would appear to be of particular merit in First Nation communities.

Early Childhood Services and Children-at-risk Services

This is an important part of Provincial and Territorial Reinvestments but is not included in INAC's NCBR. This has not been examined in detail by the evaluation but it would appear that many of the services provided or funded by Provinces and Territories in this category are supported by Health Canada in First Nation communities.

Supplementary Health Benefits

This is an important part of Provincial and Territorial Reinvestments but is not included in INAC's NCBR. The services provided or funded by Provinces and Territories in this category are supported by Health Canada in First Nation communities.

Child Nutrition and other Poverty Supports

Child nutrition projects account for a large share of total NCBR spending in First Nation communities. For 2005-2006, expenditure in this category was $12.7 million (23.4% of total spent). NCBR projects in First Nation communities provide breakfast and lunch programs to children; support community food banks; provide Christmas hampers and other financial supports to poor families. Initiatives of this type are not included in Provincial and Territorial Programs. The voluntary sector tends to provide these services and supports off-reserve and such a sector is not prominent in First Nations communities.

While the NCBR Working Group Research Report noted that "nutrition programs have demonstrated only small effects on child outcomes," their research does note that: "Nutrition programs reduce the depth of child poverty by providing for one of the basic necessities of life, and by freeing up financial resources for other needs." They also note that: "it is possible that nutrition programs have a larger positive impact on physical child outcomes or that they also have an impact on learning readiness outcomes."

Return to Table of Contents

4.3 Effective NCB reinvestment initiatives to combat poverty

The Federal/Provincial/Territorial NCB Working Group published a report in 2005 [Note 26] which examined benefits and services available to low income families and their effectiveness. The study reports the following types of in-kind benefits and services were demonstrated to improve child outcomes by a) preventing or reducing the depth of child poverty and/or b) promoting labour force attachment by ensuring families are always better off as a result of working.

The following types of programs were not found to improve child outcomes:

Of the six programs that were found to improve child outcomes, the researchers determined that two were of little interest since, in their words: "integrated employment services were beyond the mandate of NCB, and nutrition programs have demonstrated only small effects on child outcomes."

Guiding principles were identified for each of the four other in-kind benefits and services. Since Affordable Housing and Supplementary Health Benefits are not provided by NCBR projects in First Nation communities, the guiding principles for only two of these are described below.

Return to Table of Contents

5 Conclusions and Recommendations

The following are evaluation conclusions and recommendations.

5.1 Conclusions


The National Child Benefit is a major federal social policy that includes both an income supplement to directly assist low income families by making sure it is more paying to work than to be on welfare, and investments in programs to support families and children. The intent was that all the NCB components would work toward achieving the objectives of reducing poverty and increasing attachment to the labour force. INAC's NCBR initiative works independently of the national Initiative.

The Department has no information on what role NCB supplements play on-reserve. In effect, the NCBR for First Nations alone cannot achieve the broad objectives set out for it, objectives which are also influenced by factors such as economic and employment opportunities, and early childhood educational policies and other strategies to address poverty, in particular child poverty.

In the context of INAC programming which may in the future focus on active measures that further supports individuals to transition to work, the NCB supplement and other earnings benefits will increasingly become important to help income assistance leavers maintain employment and keep them from returning to income assistance. Therefore, it is important for INAC to have a sense of how these affect families and IA and NCBR programming.

Program Effectiveness

The NCBR funds a range of diverse projects. NCBR funds projects that provide basic needs and services for low income families on-reserve, examples include funding to individuals to buy food, clothing, to pay for transportation to get to work. The Initiative also helps attach individuals to the work force, often augmenting programs funded through the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy or INAC Work Opportunity Program. Finally, NCBR is often a "top up" for a range of social programs generally geared toward improving the well-being of families and children, and, at times, the broader community.

NCBR guidelines are broad and allow First Nations flexibility to address families' needs and helps alleviate gaps and shortages in other program areas. Some communities fund many projects with small amounts of money that "top up" existing programs. The effectiveness of NCBR programming under these circumstances becomes impossible to ascertain.

Regions and First Nations representatives suggested that NCBR needs to broaden the scope of activities funded and to make the program guidelines clearer. However, watering down funding into even more categories and types of projects will make it even harder to achieve results. Therefore, it is more important for INAC to prioritize which activities NCBR should fund and to focus on the most important ones. The literature and the provincial/territorial experience offer a number of insights on which areas to pursue, including child care, and structured programs for children and youth, in particular those at risk.


An evaluation of the overall federal/provincial/territorial NCB (2005) effort through simulation studies concluded progress has been made in reducing child poverty. The evaluation led by Human Resources and Social Development Canada also found that a lack of comprehensive provincial/territorial data on investment and reinvestment, and the inability to link program participation to intended NCB outcomes, greatly limits analysis of impacts. [Note 27] INAC's NCBR faces this same problem.

The NCBR for First Nations has been able to achieve immediate outcomes such as relieving hardship faced by low income families and the larger community by reducing the negative impacts of poverty. It was not set up as the national Initiative to supplement incomes which is a large factor in reducing poverty. In addition, many other factors on reserve affect poverty, such as employment opportunities and educational attainment. The NCBR as designed and on its own is not positioned to reduce the depth of poverty as envisioned by the NCB.

Increasingly, First Nation communities are funding projects that help individuals make the transition from welfare to work or to gain work experience and skills to remain in the work force and move toward career advancement. While impact data in terms of the number of individuals that actually became attached to the labour force is not available, many communities use part of their NCBR project funds to help individuals move toward work.

The NCBR acts as a bridge to bring other funding together and works in concert with Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreement, the Work Opportunity Program, the Training Employment Support Initiative, and the Aboriginal Social Assistance Recipient Employment Training agreements to provide active measures to varying extent in many communities.

Case study communities are focussing on individuals that are hard to employ and paying more attention to youth in the hope of preventing individuals from becoming dependent on income assistance and to tackle poverty by helping young people succeed thereby better positioning them to go on to higher education or to find employment which combat poverty.

The literature says reducing poverty and putting families in a better financial position also requires additional financial assistance, and other strategies, such as early childhood education policies and educational strategies that target children not solely their parents.

There are no performance data but anecdotal and stakeholder views are that NCBR makes a difference on-reserve. Existing data do not allow for an assessment of trends. As was also noted by the Auditor General of Canada in 2004, INAC needs to develop an effective performance measurement strategy that provides project details, insights on the characteristics of families and children helped, and outcomes of the various types of projects are important. There should be consistency and coordination in developing performance indicators for both the NCBR and IA programs as these two programs are linked and in large part serve the same clientele.


Given the scarcity of departmental resources to renovate social development programs, INAC needs to better link and integrate IA and NCBR programming at the regional and community levels to achieve efficiencies and to better coordinate services and programs for low income individuals, families and children.

The evaluation proposes several strategies for improving the effectiveness of the NCBR Initiative for First Nations, including the following:

Return to Table of Contents

5.2 Recommendations

It is recommended that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada:

  1. review the five NCBR activity areas to assess to what extent they are in line with provincial/territorial practices and priorities identified in the literature, and determine what mix of activity areas would be most effective for achieving desired results on- reserve;

  2. strengthen the NCBR guidelines so that they provide sufficient guidance and help communities to focus on a plan to target only key activities that work toward reducing poverty and attaching people to the labour force;

  3. work with Human Resources and Social Development Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to determine the relevance and impact of other NCB components on-reserve;

  4. strengthen linkages and enhance coordination among the NCBR, IA, and other INAC and departmental programs that provide a range of active measures and other supports for low-income families; and

  5. develop an NCBR specific performance measurement strategy and monitor its results on an ongoing basis, and modify the NCBR reporting template accordingly to ensure it captures information on outcomes.


Project Title:
Evaluation of the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Project: 05/14
Region or Sector:
Social Policy and Program Branch
Recommendations Actions Responsible Manager (Title) Planned Implementation Date
1. Review the five NCBR areas to assess to what extent they are in line with provincial/territorial practices and priorities identified in the literature, and determine what mix of activity areas would be most effective for achieving desired results onreserve
  • The Headquarters NCBR team will conduct research and analysis and continue working with the Regions and HRSDC to compare onreserve with off-reserve programming to determine the best mix of activity areas to meet overall objectives.
  • The Headquarters NCBR team will organize a National NCBR conference with Regions and First Nations NCBR administrators to better define the scope of activity areas in order to achieve desired results. This will also be an opportunity to increase networking and showcase projects and best practices that are in line with the Initiative's objectives.
Director, Social Program Reform Directorate On-going (February 2009)

November 2008
2. Strengthen the NCBR guidelines so that they provide sufficient guidance and help communities to focus on a plan to target only key activities that work toward reducing poverty and attaching people to the labour force.
  • The Headquarters NCBR team will continue to consult and work in collaboration with the Regions to review and update the First Nations NCBR National Manual so that it better defines projects and activities that work towards program objectives.
Director, Social Program Reform Directorate Fiscal year 2009/2010
3. Work with Human Resources and Social Development Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to determine the relevance and impact of other NCB components on-reserve.
  • The Headquarters NCBR Team will set up a consultation process with HRSDC, CRA and SC to determine what impact results the NCB supplement has for First Nations on-reserve. Specifically for INAC, identify what data already exists and where there are gaps in data.
Director, Social Program Reform Directorate March 2009
4. Strengthen linkages and enhance coordination among the NCBR, IA, and other INAC and departmental programs that provide a range of active measures and other supports for lowincome families.
  • The Headquarters NCBR team will consult and work with other INAC programs such as Income Assistance, Education, Economic Development and other social programs to develop a plan to identify how NCBR projects can be coordinated with active measures programming and other supports for low-income families.
  • Continue to work with NCBR partners at the federal, provincial and First Nations levels to promote and inform them of active measure initiatives, how to access them and how to link them to NCBR activity areas.
  • Build on/strengthen existing partnerships and improved program coordination with Aboriginal Human Resource Development Agreements aimed at helping income assistance clients make the transition from welfare to employment
Director General, Social Policy and Programs Branch

February 2009

February 2009


5. Develop an NCBR specific performance measurement strategy and monitor its results on an ongoing basis, and modify the NCBR reporting template accordingly to ensure it captures information on outcomes.
  • The Headquarters NCBR team will continue to work in consultation with Regions to improve data collection, tracking of results and reporting templates.
  • Develop a RMAF with clear performance measures, result indicators and targets aimed at reducing child poverty and promoting the attachment of families to the workforce.
  • Strengthen the management control framework in order to establish clearer roles and responsibilities for Headquarters and the Regions.
Director General, Social Policy and Programs Branch

December 2008

September 2008

March 2009


  1. These studies included: the interim evaluation of the NCBR for First Nations (2002), the Auditor General's management review entitled Federal Support for Aboriginal Children: Performance Information (2004), and an evaluation of the overall federal/provincial/territorial NCB (2005). (return to source paragraph)

  2. A few individuals were unavailable at the time visits and were subsequently interviewed via telephone. (return to source paragraph)

  3. Evaluators visited all provincial governments except Quebec which declined to participate in the study. (return to source paragraph)

  4. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut are funded via territorial transfer outside the scope of the IA Program. Evaluators conducted telephone interviews and focused on understanding their National Child Benefit components, income assistance programs and any active measures they have undertaken. (return to source paragraph)

  5. INAC program data is incomplete and not reliable in terms of providing information on specific aspects of NCBR projects. Data typically does not provide information on who benefits from projects and specific details of benefits. (return to source paragraph)

  6. The unemployment trap occurs when benefits received by unemployed individuals are high compared with the income they can get from working. The poverty trap arises from the fact that increases in employment income not only raise taxes paid but also reduce both pecuniary and in-kind benefits received from government programs; thereby lowering incentive to find a job or work more. (return to source paragraph)

  7. Warriner, Bill, Canadian Social Policy Renewal and the National Child Benefit, Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, The Scholar Series, University of Regina, Fall 2005, p.7 (return to source paragraph)

  8. Ibid. (return to source paragraph)

  9. The National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2006, released fall 2007. (return to source paragraph)

  10. In 2005, New Brunswick and Manitoba, did not adjust income assistance benefits for children. (return to source paragraph)

  11. INAC, First Nations National Child Benefit Reinvestment Initiative, Progress Report for the Year Ending March 31, 2005. (return to source paragraph)

  12. First Nations use the First Nations NCB Reinvestment Initiative Proposal Development and Reporting Guide. (return to source paragraph)

  13. NCB activities for the Atlantic Region only include First Nations in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. New Brunswick has no recovery mechanism, therefore has no NCB reinvestment dollars. Newfoundland has only one First Nation that does not report to INAC for these activities. (return to source paragraph)

  14. As of January 2004, the Province of Manitoba opted to pay all children's benefits directly to families. Reinvestment funds are no longer available. (return to source paragraph)

  15. Carry the Kettle is under remedial funding and does not have the fiscal capacity to specifically allocate funds to active measures in its IA program. (return to source paragraph)

  16. Data departmental data defines the total on-reserve population as the total registered population and non-registered population (Census 2001). INAC figures are for the year 2005-06. (return to source paragraph)

  17. Data comes from the 2001 Community Profiles data on INAC's website (extracted December 11, 2007). Socio-economic indicators such s the unemployment rate are derived from special tabulations prepared for the Department by Statistics Canada from the 1996 and 2001 Census of Canada. (return to source paragraph)

  18. From departmental data; figures are for 2005-06. (return to source paragraph)

  19. Amounts self-reported by communities during site visits in August 2007. Figures for Carry the Kettle are for 2007-08 while Tsawwassen and Tsuu T'ina reported annual budget figures. (return to source paragraph)

  20. An Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) project in Vancouver which seeks to place Aboriginal people in the booming construction industry. (return to source paragraph)

  21. ___. NCBR Roll-Up 2005-06. (return to source paragraph)

  22. National Manual, p.14. (return to source paragraph)

  23. Approximately 64% of funding in this category is for Ontario Child Care Supplement for Working Families. (return to source paragraph)

  24. HRSDC, First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative November 16, 2007. (return to source paragraph)

  25. INAC, ­Alberta On-Reserve Day Care Program, November 16, 2007. (return to source paragraph)

  26. In-Kind Benefits and Service: Research Report, Federal/Provincial/Territorial National Child Benefit Working Group, February 2005. (return to source paragraph)

  27. Federal, Provincial and Territorial Deputy Ministers Responsible for Social Services, Evaluation of the National Child Benefit Initiative, Synthesis Report, revised February 3, 2005. (return to source paragraph)


Did you find what you were looking for?

What was wrong?

You will not receive a reply. Don't include personal information (telephone, email, SIN, financial, medical, or work details).
Maximum 300 characters

Thank you for your feedback

Date modified: