Ontario Works Program (Social Assistance)

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 www.sbt.gov.on.ca.

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.

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

Other resources :
Ontario Works, United Counties of Prescott and Russell website: www.prescott-russell.on.ca
Community Legal Education Ontario : www.cleo.on.ca
Social Benefits Tribunal website: www.sbt.gov.on.ca
E-laws Ontario for provincial laws and regulations: www.e-laws.gov.on.ca
Ministry of Community and Social Services: www.mcss.gov.on.ca