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Ontario Works
Ontario Works provides financial and employment assistance to people in temporary financial need. If you are receiving assistance or in need of assistance, Ontario Works can assist in a range of employment assistance activities, helping you prepare for, find and keep a job.

  • To be eligible for Ontario Works, applicants must be residents of Ontario.
  • Eligibility for Ontario Works is based on an assessment of financial need and an agreement to participate in employment activities:
  • Financial need is determined according to family size, income, assets, and shelter costs, and is updated as circumstance change.
  • Participation expectations are laid out in an agreement, which is signed by each individual applicant and updated as activities are completed or modified.
  • The agreement includes a plan to take part in employment assistance activities that support the individual's shortest route to a job.
  • Eligibility rules are designed to ensure that people turn to welfare only when all other financial resources have been exhausted.

  • Application Process:
    The application for Ontario Works is a two-stage process:


  • Call an Ontario Works Intake Screening Unit
  • During the initial telephone interview, you will be provided with information about the program and asked for information about your financial and employment situation.
  • If you have any problems applying through the call centre, contact EOLC for help.
  • Be prepared to spend at least half an hour on the phone giving details of your situation
  • It is important to complete your application so that you can get a decision in writing. Then you can go on to appeal the decision
  • If you get a letter saying that you are not eligible for assistance, you must phone to object within 10 days of receiving the letter (or 13 days from the mailing date)
  • If you miss the 10 day time limit to object, you will not be able to appeal, but you still have the right to make a new application

    Local Ontario Works Intake Screening Unit:

    South West Ontario
    - Bruce County
    - Chatham-Kent
    - Elgin County
    - Essex County
    - Grey County
    - Huron County
    - Lambton County
    - London
    - Oxford County
    - Perth County
    - Windsor



  • Interview in person at your local Ontario Works Office
  • You will be required to complete and sign a detailed application form and a participation agreement outlining a plan to return as quickly as possible to paid employment.
  • If you need an interpreter, you should make arrangements to bring one. Contact your local community information centre for help in finding a qualified interpreter.
  • A spouse or same sex partner who lives with you should come to the interview with you because he or she will have to sign documents to complete your application.
  • Participation Agreement
  • You and your spouse or same-sex partner must complete the Participation Agreement. Other adult members of your family can also be required to sign a Participation Agreement
  • You are expected to do what you have agreed to. If you do not, your benefits could be refused, cut off, or reduced
  • If you find you cannot do what you agreed to do, you can ask to have the Participation Agreement changed. Changes must be negotiated with OW, and each change should be put down in writing

  • What Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic Can Do For You
    File Review

  • Ontario Works regularly reviews the files of people who are on assistance. They can ask you for information and documents to prove that you are entitled to the benefits you are getting. You can expect to be asked for information at least once every 12 months.
  • If OW decides that you are no longer eligible for the benefits you are getting, your benefits could be cut off or reduced.
  • If OW decides that you have received benefits you were not entitled to, they could request repayment of the overpayment.


  • If OW asks for documentation, you should be given a reasonable amount of time to get the documents they are asking for. If you cannot get all that they are requesting, ask for more time. Your benefits should not be cut off if you are trying to get the documents but are unable to get them by the deadline.
  • If you cannot afford to get the documents you can ask the OW office to check the information some other way or ask them to pay for the cost of getting the documents.
  • If you are having trouble getting documents contact EOLC, we may be able to help.
  • If you think that the OW office is being unreasonable or asking you for information that is not relevant to your eligibility, contact EOLC.

  • Your Benefits Have Been Reduced or Cut Off
    What you need to do:

    1. Ask for the reasons in writing immediately
    2. Request an Internal Review in writing
    3. If a review is not successful
    4. Appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal

    Internal Review:

  • A different person in the local OW office reviews the original decision and decides whether or not to change it.
  • Your request for an internal review must be made in writing either within 10 days from the day you received the decision OR within 13 days from the day the decision was mailed to you.
  • If you miss this time limit, contact EOLC and we can assist you in trying to have the time limit extended

    Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT)

  • If the Internal Review results in the same conclusion and your benefits are reduced or cut off, you have 30 days from the date of the decision to appeal to the SBT or 40 days from the day of your request for an internal review.
  • EOLC can assist you and offer advice in relation to both the internal review and the appeal to the SBT.

  • Further Services Offered by Ontario Works
    Employment Assistance:

    Ontario Works helps you prepare for employment, getting you help to find a paying job as quickly as possible.

  • Referrals to basic education
  • Training for new and updated skills
  • Practical work experience
  • Job placement
  • Help with child care, transportation and other work-related expenses.

  • Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP):
  • LEAP helps young parents on social assistance to finish high school, to learn more about being good parents and to get a job.
  • LEAP encourages young parents to complete high school, as a first step to achieving economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their children. LEAP fosters healthy child development practices and helps young parents become more effective caregivers so they may give their children a better start in life.
  • LEAP participation is a requirement for 16- and 17-year-old parents on Ontario Works who have not completed high school. Single parents and couples aged 18 to 21 on assistance may participate in LEAP voluntarily if they have not completed high school.

  • Addiction Treatment Services:
    An addiction to drugs or alcohol can be a serious barrier to employment. That's why Ontario Works helps connect participants who have addictions that are barriers to employment with the assessment and treatment services they need to get back on the path to independence.

    Earnings Exemptions:
    Ontario Works earnings exemptions mean that earned income does not reduce financial assistance, dollar for dollar. Earnings exemptions help participants make the transition to employment and self-sufficiency.

    Discretionary Benefits:
    Ontario Works earnings exemptions mean that earned income does not reduce financial assistance, dollar for dollar. Earnings exemptions help participants make the transition to employment and self-sufficiency.

    Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
    Ontario Works is only meant to provide temporary assistance until you are able to find employment. If you have a permanent disability that prevents you from working you should be applying for ODSP. See the link to ODSP on our web page for further information.

    For general information you can also contact:
    Ministry of Community and Social Services Client Services Unit
    900 Bay Street,
    M1-57 Macdonald Block
    Toronto ON M7A 1N3

    Tel: (416) 325-5666
    Toll free: 1-888-789-4199
    TTY: 1-800-387-5559
    Fax: (416) 325-7136

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