Ontario Works (OW) – Overview
Note: in November 2018, the Ontario government announced that significant changes would be made to the ODSP and Ontario Works (OW) social assistance programs. You can find more information in our What’s New posts:
- Ontario government reverses some changes that were planned for Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works – Update (2019Oct): https://www.halco.org/2019/news/sa-changes-2019oct
- Changes to Social Assistance in Ontario – Important ODSP/OW Update (2019July): https://www.halco.org/2019/news/odsp-update-2019july
- Ontario Social Assistance Review – Important ODSP Update (2018 November): https://www.halco.org/2018/news/odsp-update2018nov
If you have a question about ODSP or OW, please get legal advice (see Getting legal help below).
There are two types of Social Assistance in Ontario: Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Ontario Works (OW) is often referred to as “welfare” and is for people who have no or very limited income and/or assets. The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is for people with disabilities who have no or limited income. OW and ODSP may provide benefits for you and the people in your “benefit unit”. You and your spouse/partner, dependent children and dependent adult children who are living with you are called the “benefit unit”. Both ODSP and OW are paid once a month.
OW and ODSP provide money and other benefits, including prescription drug coverage, some dental care, some medical expenses, special diet allowances, employment supports, etc. For more information about Ontario Drug Benefit programs, please visit our Ontario Drug Programs page.
For more information about ODSP, please see our Ontario Disability Support Program section.
You and your spouse/partner, dependent children and dependent adult children who are living with you are called the “benefit unit”. To be eligible for OW:
- everyone in your benefit unit must reside in Ontario and be financially eligible for OW;
- you and everyone in your benefit unit must give OW the required information including names, birth dates, identification, as well as expense, debt, income and asset information, etc..
If you are receiving OW, you must inform OW about changes in your situation and changes for everyone else in your benefit unit that might affect your eligibility, including:
- change of address
- change of activity (work, school)
- change in income
- change in assets
- change in housing
- change in who lives with you
- change in family status
- change in immigration status
- hospitalization or if you are staying somewhere else
- absence from Ontario (there are different rules for ODSP and OW, so you should get legal advice right away before you make any plan to leave Ontario), or
- any other change that might affect your OW eligibility.
If you disagree with any OW or ODSP decision, you have the right to request an Internal Review within 30 days of the decision.
If you are living with HIV in Ontario, please contact us for free legal advice about this or other legal issues. If you live in Ontario you can contact your local community legal clinic for information about services in your community.
Here is a link to ODSP and OW social assistance information on the Government of Ontario website: www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/index.aspx.
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has publications about social assistance in Ontario that are available on the CLEO website and in print: www.cleo.on.ca/english/pub/onpub/subject/social.htm.
Getting legal help
The law is complicated, so you should get legal advice about your situation. I
If you are living with HIV in Ontario, please contact us for free legal advice. If you live in Ontario you can contact your local community legal clinic for information about services in your community:
- Community legal clinic information on the Legal Aid Ontario website: https://www.legalaid.on.ca/services/legal-clinics/.
- Getting legal help: Community Legal Clinics in Ontario is a Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) on-line resource that lists all the legal clinics in Ontario: www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/ontario.
- Conseils juridiques en français par téléphone : www.legalaid.on.ca/fr/contact/flapp.asp.