November 2019

Legislative authority

Sections 1, 7(1) and (4), 24, 39(2), 40-42, 48(1), 71(10) and (11) and 72(2) of the Act.

Audit requirements

Policies and procedures are documented to support delivery standards.

Application of policy

Ministry standards reflect legislated requirements for the services that are delivered and the manner in which they are delivered.

They include standards relating to the services and protections that are available to recipients, the verification of eligibility-related information, the pursuit of unrecovered sources of information and overpayments, the provision of notice and review, and the management of information.

Employment-focused services

There are two forms of assistance available to eligible persons under the Act: employment assistance and financial assistance. Eligibility for financial assistance may require participation in employment assistance activities.

Delivery agents must provide the range of legislated employment assistance measures.

The Act allows Administrators to set requirements for participation in employment assistance. Deferral or restrictions on participation should be supported by appropriate documentation supplied by the applicant or recipient.

Delivery agents should set participation requirements that support recipients in attaining sustainable employment, based on their skills, experience, circumstances and the local labour market.

Delivery agent staff should monitor participation and key dates for reviews and follow-ups. Regular reviews are necessary to:

  • satisfy delivery agent staff of employment progress and to support client progress in employment activities
  • determine any necessary changes in participation requirements as the result of a change in ministry policy or in the recipient’s circumstances
  • support a recipient’s move to the Ontario Disability Support Program where appropriate
  • reinforce program expectations and encourage client efforts to enhance employability, find and maintain employment, and increase employment earnings

Administrators in First Nations and northern communities have the discretion to exercise flexibility when approving employment activities and/or expenses based on cultural and geographic considerations in order to support employment outcomes for clients.

Accountability for social assistance funds

Delivery agents are required to develop processes to:

  • support the prevention and control of fraud
  • pursue unrecovered sources of income
  • recover overpayments
  • prevent the misuse of assistance

The Act also addresses the issue of accountability of social assistance funds by outlining measures which include:

  • the ability to enter into information sharing agreements to share and compare information with other jurisdictions
  • the use of identification verification technologies
  • the role of Eligibility Review Officers and their ability to investigate
  • authority for the ministry and each delivery agent to create a social assistance Fraud Control Unit
  • allowing Family Support Workers to assist recipients and their dependents to pursue other sources of financial support
  • allowing delivery agents to collect overpayments
  • providing direct payments (e.g., to landlords or utility companies) under certain circumstances

Program delivery effectiveness

The ministry requires that every Administrator develop and implement ongoing staff training. Training and local guidelines should be consistent with the Act and the ministry’s policy directives.

Staff training should include the development of the following skills and knowledge:

  • understanding of all eligibility rules for financial assistance, including participation requirements, and ability to communicate these rules clearly
  • knowledge of the local job market and labour market trends
  • knowledge of strategies for successful job searches and ability to promote the skills of recipients in their job search
  • ability to determine job-readiness and identify necessary steps for enhancing employability
  • knowledge of locally available resources and, more specifically, the range of employment assistance activities available through the delivery agent
  • knowledge of barriers to employment and how to support progress to overcome those barriers (i.e., substance abuse, mental health issues, family violence, etc.)
  • knowledge of motivational interviewing techniques to support progress to employment
  • ability to effectively use available technology
  • knowledge of the performance measures and standards that the ministry has set for the delivery of Ontario Works

Information management


Delivery agents are required to observe the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) regarding the disclosure of information and personal privacy.

FIPPA and MFIPPA are intended to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information held by an institution and provide individuals with the right to access that information. Access to personal information of applicants and recipients should only be given to those who need the information to determine the initial and ongoing eligibility of applicants and recipients.

The authority of delivery agents to collect and share information for this purpose is provided in legislation. This should be communicated to recipients through their requirement to sign a Consent to Disclose and Verify Information form and a Consent to Disclose and Verify Information (Canada Revenue Agency) form. Once these forms have been signed, no further consent is required by recipients to share information for the purposes of determining or maintaining eligibility.

Delivery agents are required to take measures to prevent unauthorized access to personal information and the destruction of information. This standard should also apply to participating organizations that collect or are given information about recipients.

All contractual agreements with third parties that involve the transfer or collection of personal information about applicants or recipients should include a requirement to comply with FIPPA/MFIPPA. Delivery agents should ensure that only relevant personal information is shared.

Where an Administrator releases a form to a third party, they should scan the document and blank out any and all information that is not relevant to the purpose for which the information is being provided.

Where personal information is to be shared for purposes other than the administration of the Act, the written consent of applicants or recipients involved should be obtained (e.g., consent to be involved in a promotional activity about Ontario Works).

Records management

All delivery agents are required to have a records management system in place for information related to the administration of Ontario Works and to the management of employment assistance and financial assistance.

Information regarding participation, compliance, placements and financial assistance should be accessible and integrated. It should also be secure from unauthorized access. An effective records management system will ensure that data collection, collation, monitoring, tracking, reporting and overall management of records is performed efficiently and effectively.

Delivery agents are required to use the prescribed technology (e.g., Social Assistance Management System [SAMS]), an approved electronic file management system, and/or paper systems (e.g., mandatory forms) for the recording, storing, reporting and management of information related to the delivery of Ontario Works. The Act requires that records management systems be approved by the Director of the Ontario Works Branch.

Prior to implementing an electronic file management system, delivery agents should provide written assurances that the proposed system:

  • observes the requirements of MFIPPA
  • is secure from unauthorized access
  • allows information to be readily accessible for audit purposes
  • meets file retention and destruction requirements as outlined in the File Retention section of this directive

Note: The Administrator has discretion to determine whether hardcopies of documents, including forms with a recipient’s signature, are to be maintained (in addition to the electronic record) in accordance with the organization’s record-keeping policies and obligations.

It is the responsibility of the delivery agent to ensure that automated and manual systems are functional and are used effectively. A good records management system gives delivery agents the ability to provide information to the ministry as requested in a timely manner. Any system should be designed such that it facilitates reporting to the ministry as consistent with requirements.

File retention

All records relating to Ontario Works should be retained for not less than five years.

The five-year period of retention applies to an applicant or recipient’s case file in total and the documentation contained in the case file.

Any files or documents may be destroyed if they are inactive and date five or more years after the date the file was started. Exceptions to this rule exist where:

  • there has been an overpayment of assistance to an applicant or recipient and the overpayment is still outstanding after the five year deadline. The case file and any related documents should be retained indefinitely, when there has been an overpayment of assistance to a recipient and the recipient has not made full repayment.
  • the applicant or recipient is being investigated for social assistance fraud. The case file and any related documents should be retained indefinitely when there is an ongoing fraud investigation.
  • there are outstanding family support issues related to the applicant or recipient’s file. The case file and any related documents should be retained for a minimum of 10 years where there are outstanding family support issues.
  • the file or documents are delivery agent accounting documents which substantiate expenditures, such as payroll journals, cleared cheques, subsidy claims, etc. Accounting documents should be retained for a minimum of seven years.

The date of destruction should coincide with the provincial fiscal year-end (March 31st).

File transfer standards between Ontario Works delivery agents

When a recipient moves to another Ontario Works delivery agent, they should be instructed to contact the local delivery agent in the Region to which they are moving. The receiving local delivery agent will facilitate the transfer from the former delivery agent.

SAMS special cautions

Special cautions are assigned to each benefit unit member in SAMS to alert staff of specific conditions or incidents relating to each member. There are three categories of special cautions that may be assigned to a benefit unit member:

  • Safety
  • Service Delivery
  • Restricted File Access

Each special caution is associated with a standard list of issues and corresponding definitions.

The need to assign a special caution should be determined based on the criteria and protocols set by the Ontario Works delivery agent. Cases referred from ODSP with an existing special caution or re-applicants granted assistance with a previous caution on their file should be reviewed to determine if the special caution is still required. Additional direction can be found in PM007 Special Caution User Guide.

Internal audits

All delivery agents are required to conduct regular internal audits in order to monitor program delivery, staff practices, and to identify areas for improvement. For the purpose of internal audits, the delivery agent should develop self-monitoring tools and activities to ensure provincial standards are met. The audit requirements for each directive should be met.