Our Services >> Ontario Works (Social Assistance)  A   A   A 
Ontario Works (Social Assistance)
Ontario Works (source : Community Legal Education Ontario and Social Benefits Tribunal):

The law may change at any time. The information and answers to the questions below contain general information and are not a substitute for getting legal advice for your particular situation. For free legal advice, contact us at 613-632-1136 or 1-800-250-9220.

The Clinic can advise you on a variety of topics concerning Ontario Works, that some people call « welfare », such as:

  • Financial Eligibility Criteria;
  • Calculation of the amount of assistance;
  • Assets and Income;
  • Suspension of your benefits;
  • Documents required by Ontario Works;
  • Special Diet Allowance;
  • Health Benefits (glasses, dental, etc.);
  • Assistive Devices Benefits;
  • Under 18 years old and applying for benefits;
  • Definition of spouse under the Ontario Works Act;
  • Overpayments;
  • Internal Reviews and Appeals to the Social Benefits Tribunal;
  • Etc.

The Ontario Works program provides income support and employment support to the low-income residents of Ontario.  

To get income support from Ontario Works, you must qualify financially. This means that you must be in financial need and meet other rules about income and assets. 

When you get income support, you also get help to pay for prescription drugs and dental services. You may also be eligible for benefits such as the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit or Employment/Participation Benefits. 

Certain income and assets are exempted.  This means that Ontario Works will not include these in the calculation of your income and assets. For example, your house, your car and most of your household items are exempted.

There are rules to determine who is eligible for social assistance and what a person must do to continue receiving assistance.  

Ontario Works is governed by the Ontario Works Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, C.25 Sched.A and its regulations. There are also Policy Directives which are guidelines explaining how the program works, what supports are available and the roles and responsibilities of both Ontario Works staff and clients. Policy directives are an interpretation of the law and its regulations.

To apply for financial assistance in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, contact the Ontario Works office at 613-675-4642 or 1-800-667-9825 (L’Orignal office) or 613-446-2020 or 1-866-298-2228 (Rockland office).  

To complete your application, you will need to have an interview.  You will also have to complete and sign forms and provide documents. You will have to provide information about yourself and each member of your family unit.

If you think the Ontario Works office is being unreasonable or asking you for information that has nothing to do with your eligibility, contact us.

If you have a serious health problem, you may be eligible for disability benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program.  Visit the ODSP section of our web site for more information.

If Ontario Works refuses to give you financial assistance, ask for the decision in writing immediately and contact us. You can appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal. The Social Benefits Tribunal is independent from Ontario Works and it has the power to make a different decision.

But first, you must write to the office that made the decision and ask for an internal review.  An Internal Review means that a different person reviews the original decision and decides whether or not to change it.

Your request for an Internal Review must be made in writing. You must ask for an internal review within 30 days from the date you receive the decision to refuse you assistance. You should keep a copy of your request.

Ontario Works rules assume that if a letter is mailed to you, you receive it 3 days after it is mailed. The mailing date should be stamped on the envelope by Canada Post. It might not be the same as the date on the letter, so keep both the letter and the envelope.

It is very important to meet the time limit. If you miss it, you should still ask for an internal review. Make sure you ask for an extension of time in your request for an internal review and explain why your request is late.

Contact us before sending your request for an Internal Review so we can advise you.

The Ontario Works office is supposed to make a decision on your internal review within 10 days from the date they receive your request.

If you get an internal review decision, and it says that you are still refused assistance, you have 30 days from the date of this decision to appeal to the Social Benefits Tribual.

To make your appeal, you must use the Social Benefits Tribunal’s Appeal Form. You can get one by contacting us or by calling the Social Benefits Tribunal at 1-800-753-3895 or TTY 1-800-268-7095. The Appeal Form is also available on the Social Benefits Tribunal’s web site at

If you miss the time limit for appealing, you can still file an appeal. In the Appeal Form, ask the Social Benefits Tribunal for more time and explain why you missed the time limit.

What if Ontario Works will not accept my application?

By law, OW cannot refuse to take your application. If this happens, ask to speak to a supervisor and insist that they take your application. It is important to complete your application so that you can get Ontario Works’ decision in writing. You can then appeal the decision. 

If you are refused, contact us immediately.

What if I have trouble getting the documents Ontario Works asks for?

You should not have to provide a document that you cannot get or that you cannot afford to get. If you are asked to do this, ask the Ontario Works office to check the information some other way. Or ask them to pay for the cost of getting the documents. If you need extra time to get the documents, ask for an extension of time.

Can I bring someone with me when I am dealing with Ontario Works?

Yes. You have the right to bring a person of your choice with you. For example, you could bring a relative, a friend, or someone from a community group or agency.  

Keep in mind that you will be asked to sign documents and to provide information that will determine whether you are eligible for financial assistance. It is important that you understand clearly what you are signing and what the worker tells you. If you need more time or help to understand the documents, ask for copies to take away and read before you sign.

What if someone in my household needs a special diet?

People who have certain medical conditions might qualify for a special diet allowance. The amount of the allowance depends on the medical condition.

To apply for a special diet allowance, you must use the special diet allowance application form. You can ask an Ontario Works worker for this form.

If Ontario Works refuses your application for a special diet allowance, you can appeal the decision. Contact us for advice.

Can I get an additional amount if I am pregnant or breast-feeding?

Yes. If you receive social assistance benefits under either Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program and you are pregnant or breast-feeding your infant who is under the age of 12 months, you can receive the Pregnancy/Breast-feeding Nutritional Allowance.  This allowance is provided in addition to any special diet allocation you receive.

An approved health professional must complete the « Application for Pregnancy/Breast-feeding Nutritional Allowance ». Have it filled out by the approved health professional as soon as you know that you are pregnant because this allowance is payable commencing the month in which the approved health professional completes, signs and dates the application only. 

 Your verbal confirmation is required to receive the breast-feeding allowance.

If you suffer from gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, you could receive an additional amount. An approved health professional must complete a Special Diet Allowance application.  

If an approved health professional confirms that you cannot breast-feed your infant, the infant can receive a special diet allowance. 

What is an Interim Assistance Order?

You may be able to get assistance while you wait for your appeal to be decided. This is known as interim assistance. The Application for Interim Assistance is part of the Appeal Form. If the Social Benefits Tribunal orders it, the Ontario Works office will have to pay you assistance until your appeal is decided.   If you lose you appeal, or you do not go to your hearing, you will have to pay back any interim assistance you get.

Don’t hesitate to call us for free legal advice concerning Ontario Works.

Other resources :