Child Support & Social Assistance

  1. If I’m over 16 and can’t live at home, do my parents have to support me?

    If you are 16 years or older and you were forced to leave home, your parents may still have to support you. For example, you are entitled to support if you left home because you were kicked out without a very good reason, or if you were abused, or if your living situation at home is unsafe, unbearable or impossible.

    Your parents must make sure that you have food, clothes and a place to live. Otherwise, they must provide enough money to get these necessities for you. The amount of support you will get is based on your parents’ income, not on what you need. In general, your parents must provide support until you are 18 years old or longer if you are enrolled in a full-time educational program. Your parents do not have to support you if you are 16 years or older and have left home of your own free will.

    Each of your parents or guardians has an independent obligation to support you. They are each only required to support you as much as they are financially able to. There is a chart (called the Child Support Guidelines) that sets out how much parents/guardians usually have to pay based on their income.

    The court may also order your parent/guardian to keep medical or dental insurance coverage for you, or decide if there are special costs that they should pay for things like post-secondary school, or sports and activities. You can apply for a Legal Aid Certificate from Legal Aid Ontario to pay for a family lawyer to help you claim support from your parents.

    In general, the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will not be available to help you if you leave home after you turn 16. However, there are some situations in which CAS may help 16 and 17 year olds on a voluntary basis. You should call your local CAS to see if the situations apply to you.

  2. Can I get Ontario Works (“OW”, “welfare” or “social assistance”) to live on my own?

    If you are under 16 years of age, you are not entitled to receive social assistance as a single person. However, if you are living with an adult, such as a friend’s parent, they can ask to have the Child’s Tax Benefit and Ontario Child Benefit paid to them to help support you. They can also ask the Ontario Works office for help to support you.

    If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can apply for social assistance from Ontario Works (OW) under special circumstances.

    You might have to show the OW worker that your parents will not let you live at home, or that it is harmful for you to live there. The OW worker must be sure that your parents cannot or will not support you financially. You can ask your OW worker to not contact your parents if there are safety reasons, e.g. if your parents have physically abused you or threatened you with harm. You might also need to provide confirmation of your circumstances, such as a letter from a guidance counselor.

    OW will need to know who you are living with and whether they are financially supporting you. This may affect your eligibility. You may also have to participate in family counseling (exception: if your parents have abused you).

    You will have to attend school full time or be in an approved training program, unless you have a serious medical or psychological problem that makes this impossible. Anytime you miss school or the training program, you must have a justified reason for doing so or your OW will end. If you are suspended or expelled from school you may be cut off from social assistance. If you believe that the reason you were suspended or expelled was not fair, you should appeal the decision. You can call Justice for Children and Youth to find out how to appeal the decision.

    If you are 16 or 17 years old and have a child, you can receive OW. You may be required to participate in a program approved by OW to help you complete high school, develop job skills and/or develop your parenting skills.

  3. What does Ontario Works pay for?

    OW payments are for shelter, food, clothing and other basic needs. When you move into a new place OW can also help you cover extra items, such as last months rent, furniture and moving costs. If you need prescription drugs, OW will also pay for those except for a small dispensing fee (which some drug stores will not make you pay). If you live in a hostel or youth shelter, you can apply for a personal needs allowance only.

  4. How do I apply for Ontario Works?

    If you wish to apply for financial assistance, contact your local Ontario Works office; it is best to call first. You can find your local office in the blue pages of the phone book under “Ontario Works” or “Social Assistance”, or at www.mcss.gov.on.ca. If you have it, bring identification documents and proof that you are enrolled in school or a training program.

    OW will not pay money directly to you, they require it to be paid to an adult called a “trustee”. If you do not know someone who can act as your “trustee”, OW will help set this up for you.

  5. Do I have a right to apply for OW?

    You have the right to apply for benefits even if you are told that you may not be eligible. If you are turned down, you should ask for the decision in writing so you can ask for a review of the decision by someone else in the OW office. If they turn you down again you can appeal the decision to thes Social Benefits Tribunal. Your request for a review or an appeal must be in writing. There are short deadlines for reviews and appeals so make sure you act on it as soon as possible. For further information on Social Assistance, visit the website for Community Legal Education Ontario at: www.cleo.on.ca/english/pub/onpub/online.htm

    For advice or help with a review and/or an appeal, contact your local community legal clinic or Justice for Children and Youth.