Can I get Ontario Works (OW) to help me out?
If you are under 16, you can not get Ontario Works (OW) on your own. However, if you are living with an adult, such as a friend’s parent, they can ask to have the Canada Child Benefit and Ontario Child Benefit paid to them to help support you. They can also ask OW for help to support you.
If you are 16 or 17, you can apply for OW by yourself under “special circumstances.” You might have to show the OW worker that your parents/caregivers 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/caregivers can not or will not support you financially.
You can ask your OW worker to not contact your parents/caregivers if there are safety reasons. For example, your parents/caregivers have abused you or threatened you with harm. You may also need to provide proof 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 whether you get OW and how much they give you. You may also have to participate in family counselling (exception: your parents/caregivers have abused you).
What if I’m a parent myself?
If you have a child, you can receive OW at any age.
You may be required to attend a program approved by OW to help you develop your parenting skills.
What does OW 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 month’s rent, furniture and moving costs. If you live in a hostel or youth shelter, you can apply for a personal needs allowance only.
How do I apply for OW?
You can apply online or go in-person to your local Ontario Works office (it it best to call first): www.ontario.ca/page/social-assistance
If you have it, bring identification documents.
If you are 16 or 17, 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 you set this up.
Do I have a right to apply for OW? Can I appeal if they turn me down?
Yes, everyone has a right to apply, 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 more information on OW: www.yourlegalrights.on.ca
For advice or help with a review or an appeal, contact your local community legal clinic or JFCY: www.legalaid.on.ca/legal-clinics/