Leaving Home will be a series of blog posts providing information to youth who have questions about their rights and responsibilities about leaving home. These blog posts offer general information only. For particular issues specific to a personal situation, contact JFCY to speak to a lawyer.
Today’s final intallment answers some questions about available social assistance for youth living on their own.
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.
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.
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 the 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.
For more information on Leaving Home, consult our Legal Information Pamphlets section or click on the below link:
Kids Help Phone – http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/
416-973-4444 / 1-800-668-6868 (outside Toronto).
Children’s Aid Society – 416-987-7725 in Toronto
To locate your local CAS, visit the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society’s website at http://www.oacas.org/
Information about community, government, social and health issues
Dial “211” from inside the Toronto area, or visit http://www.211toronto.ca/
Outside GTA, check the local Blue Book or visit http://www.211ontario.ca/
TO CONSULT A LAWYER:
Justice for Children and Youth:
415 Yonge Street, Suite 1203
GTA (416) 920 – 1633
Legal Aid Ontario – http://www.lao.on.ca/
416-598-0200 / 1-800-668-8258
Lawyer Referral Service – 416-947-3330 / 1-800-268-8326
Referrals to lawyers; 30 min free advice.