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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. 

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.)

Online

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

You may be asked to provide additional information to your local office in addition to any information already requested throughout the application process. You must provide this information as a condition of ongoing eligibility.

If you are granted assistance, your local office will contact you to schedule a virtual appointment with your ongoing case worker, within the next 30 days. You will meet with your ongoing case worker to talk about activities such as looking for work, going to school or training.

Over the phone

Call toll free 1-888-999-1142 Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Toll free TTY: 1-800-387-5559.

The telephone application will take about one hour to complete. Following the telephone application, you must submit your documentation, as requested to determine your eligibility.

If you are granted assistance, your local office will contact you to schedule a virtual appointment with your ongoing case worker, within the next 30 days. You will meet with your ongoing case worker to talk about activities such as looking for work, going to school or training.

Rescheduling your appointment with your case worker

If you need to reschedule your appointment with your ongoing case worker, 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.

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

Do you know someone who is getting money from Ontario Works that should not?

While there are many people who honestly need our help, there are some who take unfair advantage of social assistance programs. We are committed to making sure these programs are provided to those who need it the most.

If you want to report welfare fraud, the City will take you very seriously. We will investigate every case and act, where appropriate.

Who to contact if you suspect fraud?

If the person lives inside the city of Ottawa:

  • Make your report online or
  • Call 613-580-2424 ext. 14784

If the person lives outside the city of Ottawa:

  • Make your report online or
  • Call 1-800-394-7867 or
  • Email, fax or mail your report to the provincial Welfare Fraud Hotline (see bottom of online form for contact information)

Staff are bound by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. They cannot discuss the results of a fraud investigation with the person who filed the complaint.

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.

Ontario Works / Social Housing Overpayment Recovery

If you have received Ontario Works or Social Housing benefits and have been overpaid you will receive a letter from the City. This letter represents the amount that you were overpaid and need to pay back.

If you have questions about your payment or payment options please call the Overpayment Recovery section at 613-580-2896.