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Ontario Works social assistance

Financial assistance

If you are in temporary financial need, the Ontario Works program can provide you with money and help you find a job.

To be eligible to receive help from Ontario Works, you must:

  • Live in Ontario
  • Need money to help pay for food and housing costs
  • Be willing to take part in activities that will help you find a job. Some exceptions apply

Emergency assistance is also available to people who are in a crisis or an emergency situation like a:

  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Impending eviction or homeless
  • Health-related crisis
  • Family violence or worried about your safety
  • Death in the immediate family
  • Theft

Ontario Works Information Video

The Ontario Works Information Video is part of the application process. It provides an overview of your rights and responsibilities while receiving employment and financial assistance under the Ontario Works program. Applicants are asked to sign a declaration stating that they have viewed this video. The video is also available in French, Arabic, Spanish and Somali.

How to apply for Ontario Works

You can start the application process either online or over the phone: 

Online

Go to ontario.ca/socialassistance to start your online application for social assistance. The application is:

  • Confidential
  • Accessible from any computer with an Internet connection
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English and French
  • Accessible for people with disabilities

The website will give you instructions on how to complete the application. The online application includes a screening section that can tell you whether or not you might be eligible before you submit your application. This part of the application is anonymous and requires no last name.

If you chose to proceed with your online application, you will get a call the next business day to set an in-person intake appointment at one of the City's four Social Support Centres:

Central
370 Catherine Street

East
2339 Ogilivie Road

South
2020 Walkley Road

West
100 Constellation Drive

Over the phone

Call 3-1-1 to make your application over the phone (press 1 for service in English and 4 for Social Services). The information needed to complete your phone application is the same as the online application. The phone line is open Monday to Friday, 8:45 am to 3:45 pm. The telephone interview may take up to 30 minutes.  If you appear to be eligible you will get an in-person intake appointment usually within four working days at one of the City's four Social Support Centres:

What to expect at the intake appointment

There are two parts to the intake appointment:

  1.   Financial eligibility – first appointment
    • You will meet a caseworker who will review the information you gave online or over the phone.
    • During this meeting, you will be asked to sign several forms, including a consent form that gives the Ontario Works office permission to access information about you from other government programs or organizations such as the Ministry of Transportation, Employment Insurance and Equifax Canada. The Ontario Works office will use the information you provide along with the information from other organizations to determine if you qualify for financial assistance and if so, how much.
    • A decision will be made within four business days from when you first contacted the office, so long as you have completed the application and provided all the required information.
  2.   Participation agreement – second appointment
    • If you qualify you will meet with an employment specialist within 30 days to talk about activities such as looking for work, going to school or training. This may vary based on your situation. Both in-person appointments are mandatory.

You will meet a caseworker who will review the information you gave online or over the phone, who will let you know if you qualify for financial assistance and if so, how much. You and other adult family members who live with you need to be with you to fill out and sign mandatory forms.

You will be asked to bring supporting documents to your interview. Here are some examples:

  • Identification
    • Birth certificate
    • Ontario Health card
    • Social Insurance Number
    • Immigration papers
  • Assets
    • Bank statements
    • RRSPs
    • Life Insurance
    • Car ownership/insurance
    • Any assets liquidated in the last 12 months
  • Income
    • Pay stubs
    • EI stub or Record of Employment
    • Income Tax Assessment and Notice of Assessment
    • NCBS statement
  • Other
    • Marriage certificate, custody/separation agreement or divorce papers
    • Résumé
    • School report card/attendance record
    • Power of Attorney
    • Void cheque (for direct bank deposit)

If you are homeless or don’t have proper identification, you can still apply.

Rescheduling your intake appointment

If you need to reschedule your intake appointment you can call 3-1-1 (press 1 for service in English and 4 for Social Services).

Confidentiality

All information you provide is confidential as per the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Eligibility

City of Ottawa staff will determine eligibility in accordance with the Ontario Works Act. Visit the Ministry of Community and Social Services website to view the Ontario Works policy directives. Policy directives are an interpretation of the laws that govern Ontario’s social assistance programs. They are also the rules and guidelines that Ontario Works program staff follow when making decisions about eligibility and benefits.

If you do not agree with our decision

If you do not agree with a decision about your application, first discuss the issue with your case worker so the decision can be explained in detail. If you still do not agree, you can ask for a review of our decision. This is called an internal review. To make an Internal Review request, you must write a letter and provide it to your Ontario Works office. The person who does the review will not be the same person who made the original decision.

Information to complete an application

You will be asked basic personal and financial information for you and anyone else living with you:

  • Date(s) of birth
  • Health card number(s)
  • Social Insurance Number (optional for online application)
  • Housing costs (rent/mortgage, heat and other utilities)
  • Income (any money you receive from a job, EI, WSIB etc.)
  • Assets (anything you own such as a bank account, vehicle, RRSP, etc.)

Employment assistance for Ontario Works clients

Through Partners for Jobs, the City offers services to Ontario Works participants to help them prepare for, find, and keep a job. Partners for Jobs also provides recruitment services to employers.

Learn More

Reporting Ontario Works fraud

The Eligibility Review Program of the Community & Social Services department is committed to preventing and detecting Ontario Works social assistance (welfare) fraud. The program is one mechanism to ensure integrity and accountability to City of Ottawa taxpayers.

The Eligibility Review Program takes all allegations seriously and conducts thorough and timely investigations. The information you provide will be kept in strict confidence. If you wish, you may remain anonymous.

If the person suspected of fraud lives outside the City of Ottawa:

Welfare Fraud Hotline
C.P.B 30
Toronto ON
M7A 1E9

If the person suspected of fraud lives within the City of Ottawa, you can make your report online or by phone. Please give as many details as possible:

  • Online
  • By phone: 613-580-2424 ext. 14784

Thank you for the information.

Immigrants and refugees

Immigrants and refugees can apply for financial assistance from Ontario Works if they provide immigrant or refugee-status documents. A cultural interpreter can help if necessary.

Who can apply?

Family-class immigrants

You may apply if your sponsor no longer provides for your essential needs. You must try to regain support from your sponsor, unless violence is an issue. Special rules apply to family violence. Ask your case coordinator.

The Employment and Financial Assistance branch has the authority to decide whether your sponsor is able to provide for your essential needs, and will conduct a financial assessment of your sponsor's income, assets and expenses.

Convention refugees

You must wait until you are no longer eligible for the Resettlement Assistance program. This program lasts for one year after you arrive in Canada, but Immigration Canada may extend the period to two years. When the periods of the Resettlement Assistance program or private sponsorship are over, you may apply for assistance under Ontario Works if you meet the same eligibility rules as other applicants.

Refugee claimants

You may be eligible for financial assistance while you wait for your refugee claim to be settled by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). You must meet the same eligibility rules as Canadian applicants. You may obtain a work permit while you are waiting.

You are eligible for basic health coverage from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (Interim Federal Health program).

Cultural and Sign Language interpretation

You have the right to request cultural interpretation services if your first language is neither English nor French. An interpreter can explain how to apply for assistance, and will help you fill out the application form. He or she will also explain the programs and services for which you are eligible. The interpreter will be your translator at your appointment.

Please give at least two-days notice if you require a cultural interpreter.

If you are a person who is hard of hearing and your preferred method of communication is Sign Language, a Sign Language interpreter can be arranged for you.