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3 policy reforms to improve access to ID

Three speech bubbles in a row

Based on research, as well as United Way’s work with the community on ID issues over the past few years, we have identified several key remaining barriers to accessing ID that can be addressed through further consideration of the following strategic policy reforms.

1. A waiver system for fees associated with obtaining provincially administered forms of ID, including the Alberta ID Card and Alberta Birth Certificate, for those earning incomes at the Low Income Cut Off (LICO) or less.

For a significant number of low-income Albertans, fees associated with obtaining ID are too expensive given their limited income. It costs on average $40 to obtain a Birth Certificate and anywhere between $14 and $50 for an Alberta ID Card depending on years of card validation. An estimated 381,000 Albertans live in poverty, including approximately 120,000 Calgarians. By definition, these members of our community are struggling to meet their basic needs. The cost of such a waiver system to the government must be weighed against the longer term savings accrued through decreased dependence on government and community services that access to ID can generate. By ensuring vulnerable Albertans can easily and affordably access identification, the province would be ensuring vulnerable Albertans are able to connect with the services and opportunities, including employment, health care and housing, they need to move out of poverty.

2. A coordinated process that provides the opportunity for those serving in correctional institutions to obtain at least one piece of government photo ID before being released into the community. 

By more closely integrating ID services into provincial correctional facilities and ensuring inmates are issued a recognized ID card, such as the Alberta ID Card, before they are released, the Alberta Government could support the successful reintegration of those exiting the correctional system, while reducing follow-up costs to social services and promoting inclusive, safe communities. This policy reform implies greater coordination between the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General and Service Alberta, including estimations of related costs in delivering mobile ID services to inmates in correctional facilities and the establishment of security measures that support rigorous identity verification.

3. An extension of the government’s support of vulnerable populations by including homeless youth, aged 15-17, in the Homeless ID Initiative.

A lack of ID is a significant issue for homeless youth in Calgary as they face many of the same barriers as the adult homeless population. Similar challenges include financial constraints, vulnerability to having ID stolen or lost and, furthermore, they are often unable to access identity documents they may have left behind when leaving an unsafe family situation. Through the Community ID Project, youth in Calgary expressed a need for ID in order to gain access to banking, education, employment, health care and other forms of ID documents. Increasing access to ID for homeless youth is a strategic and early intervention that helps reduce the extension of youth homelessness and vulnerability into adulthood, and integrates youth into systems that encourage self-determination, responsibility and resiliency.

Each of these reforms would play a major role in linking vulnerable Albertans to opportunities while advancing the province’s progress in expanding access to government ID among vulnerable Albertans. The reforms would involve low absolute costs to the government and would accrue savings by providing Albertans living in poverty with a vital tool (identification) to connect with employment, health care and housing. These reforms also advance the strategies outlined in the Province’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, align with the principles of the Provincial Social Policy Framework and would align with the goals of the emerging Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy.

United Way's Lina KhatibLina Khatib is a Senior Policy and Research Analyst at United Way of Calgary and Area. She received her MPA from Queen’s School of Policy Studies.