Social Assistance

  1. ​COVID-19 update:

    The Ontario government has announced changes to the administration of social assistance in response to COVID-19. Notably:

    • payments will not be suspended because of a failure to report income.
    • expiry dates on special diet allowance, pregnancy-breastfeeding nutritional allowance and medical special necessities benefits, and pay direct arrangements, will be automatically extended.
    • access to Emergency Assistance for new applicants is expanded.
    • current recipients can access expanded discretionary benefits.
    • eligibility Verification Process reviews are on hold.
    • recipients who are facing a Disability Determination Package (DDP) or Medical Review Package (MRP) deadline and can’t see their health care providers should call the Disability Adjudication Unit (DAU) to request and extension at 1-888-256-6758.

    The details for Ontario Works (OW):

    Recipients will continue to receive their monthly payments (via direct bank deposit, payment cards or mailed cheques).

    ​Applications for Ontario Works financial assistance will continue online and through the City’s Applications and Support Centre from Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The Applications and Support Centre will be accessible by phone only: 416-338-8888 or ​1-888-465-4478 (toll free).

    All client contact will be provided by telephone. Only on exceptional circumstances will clients be seen in-person.

    The following activities will be suspended or cancelled:

    • All service planning appointments with caseworkers (non-emergency appointment will be rescheduled for a later date)
    • New applications for Fair Pass Transit Discount Program
    • Replacement T5 requests
    • Applications for Emergency Energy Fund (EEF)

    The details for the Ontario Disability Supoprt Program (ODSP)

    As part of the government’s response to COVID-19, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) is reviewing access to and eligibility for emergency assistance that is currently available through the Ontario Works program. You can apply online or contact your local Ontario Works office. A simplified application form should be available soon.

    All automated suspensions for OW and ODSP cases for income reporting and file verifications in SAMS are being lifted and First Nation Administrators not using SAMS are being instructed not to apply suspensions

    Immigration: ​IRCC has cancelled all refugee claim appointments during this period of Emergency Measures – any clients awaiting appointments and subsequent eligibility interviews with MCCSS should not be suspended during the period of delay

    • Clients should not be required to provide original documents or wet signatures at this time, but are to be notified that the documents will need to be provided at a later date
    • ​Applications can be initiated over the phone or online – verification will be deferred and “risk managed”, and documents may be requested at a later date – MCCSS is assessing whether documentation may be sent by e-mail as an interim alternative


    • Participation in employment assistance activities and participation agreement updates are not being required – initial participation agreements should be completed without activities with a 60-day review – no clients should be referred from ODSP to Employment Supports or to OW for participation in employment activities

    New ODSP applications and medical reviews

    • ​Clients who cannot get their DDP completed and are not currently on OW should be directed to OW for financial / emergency assistance.

    Special Diet Allowance (SDA), Pregnancy-Breastfeeding Nutritional Allowance (PBNA) and Mandatory Special Necessities (MSN) benefits

    • New applicants can self-declare that they are pregnant or breast-feeding, or have an application form completed by a midwife, in order to obtain a nutritional allowance, without the need for further verification by a health provider at this time – further direction will be coming soon on how to deal with new SDA and MSN requests​.

    Ontario Works & ODSP

    In Ontario there are two basic types of social assistance (welfare): Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). OW provides income and employment assistance to people in temporary financial need while ODSP provides income and employment assistance to eligible people with disabilities.

    There are two parts to welfare: shelter allowance and personal needs (or living) allowance. If you are living in a shelter, you will only get the personal needs allowance.

  2. Applying for OW and ODSP

    For Ontario Works (OW), you can apply by telephone, online or in person:

    For the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), you can apply by telephone, online or in person at your local Ministry of Community and Social Services office:

  3. 18 & Older

    If you are 18 or older, you have a right to apply for social assistance, and should insist on proceeding with the application process even if the intake worker says you will not qualify. If they will not let you apply, tell them right away that you do not agree.

    OW workers are not allowed to refuse to take your application. If you do not apply, then you cannot appeal the decision to say that you were wrongfully denied social assistance.

    If a person applying recently held employment and quit their job without reasonable grounds, or was fired with cause, they may still apply for social assistance but may be subject to a three month or six month waiting period penalty.

    You may qualify for ODSP if:

    • you have physical or mental health problems which affect your ability to work or function within the community; OR
    • you have physical or mental health problems which affect your ability to care for yourself; AND
    • this problem will likely last longer than one year.

    You may also qualify if you live in a psychiatric or developmental institution or housing. In the short term, if you need funds, you can apply for OW while you undergo the ODSP application process.

  4. 16 & 17 Year-Olds


    If you are 16 or 17 you may qualify for OW if you have special circumstances. For example, if you did not leave home voluntarily because you were told to leave without a good reason or were abused, then you may qualify for assistance. You must be registered in school full-time and follow other rules in order to be eligible. You may also qualify if you have a child living with you.

    You should ask a school counsellor or social worker to write a letter to the welfare worker explaining that you are on your own and in need of assistance and that despite what your parents say, it is not appropriate for you to return home. You should insist on making the application even if the intake worker says that you are not eligible or do not qualify. Get the help of a housing worker or counsellor, or call JFCY for assistance.

    Your OW case manager may phone your parents and ask them if you can return home. Just because your parent says that you can return home does not mean that you must do so, or that you will not be eligible for OW. If you are in danger if your parents found out where you were, the OW worker may use discretion to not contact your parents.


    You are only eligible for employment support through ODSP (not income support).

    For more information, see the “Child Support & Social Assistance” wiki sub-section under the main “Leaving Home” wiki section.

  5. Can I Appeal if my Application is Denied?

    If you are turned down for either OW or ODSP, you should receive written notification within 30 days of your request. You have 30 days from the date of getting the notification to tell them in writing that you disagree. The office will then conduct an internal review. If they turn you down again, they must notify you in writing. You then have 30 days to ask for an appeal.

    If you are turned down, contact your local community legal clinic immediately.

  6. Can I work while on OW or ODSP?

    You may be able to work while you are on OW or ODSP subject to strict rules. You should speak to your worker or a legal clinic to find out how much you can make and what effect working will have on your eligibility.