2.1 Application process
Sections 2 - 9, 14 - 16(1), 24, 25, 41, 44 and 46 of the Act
Sections 1, 3 - 5, 14(1), 16 - 22, 24, 26 - 28 and 67 of Regulation 134/98.
Applications are on file with all forms completed, signed, and if required, witnessed and/or commissioned.
All information and documentation required to support an eligibility decision has been provided and verified. In respect of reapplications or geographic transfers, delivery agents have a 90-day timeframe to acquire outstanding documentation (see Directive 2.2: Reapplications and reinstatements).
Third party verification of eligibility related information (e.g., income and assets) is completed and documented.
A signed participation agreement is on file or an action plan has been completed in Social Assistance Management System (SAMS), for recipients with active or deferred participation requirements. The Outcome Plan, in SAMS, or equivalent in non-SAMS sites, is completed if there is no action plan.
Application of policy
An applicant is a person who applies for assistance or a person on whose behalf an application is made. An application is made for a benefit unit which includes the applicant, their spouse and any dependents.
An application for assistance is made in the geographic area where the applicant ordinarily resides. A transient or homeless person is considered to reside in the geographic area where they apply for assistance or the geographic area where they are a resident of an emergency hostel (see Directive 3.1: Residency requirements for more information).
Anyone who wishes to apply for assistance under the Act is to be given the opportunity to make an application and have their application reviewed. When the application is completed the Administrator makes a decision regarding the applicant’s eligibility for assistance and communicates the decision in a format and manner approved by the Director (see Directive 10.1: Notice and internal review process for more information).
A new Application for Assistance – Part 1 may not be required in the following cases (see Directive 10.1: Notice and internal review process):
- Ontario Works recipients moving from one delivery agent to another
- those seeking reinstatement to Ontario Works in the month following termination
- those who are re-applying to Ontario Works within one-year of a previous application
The application process may begin with a preliminary discussion when an applicant makes initial contact with staff by telephone or in person at a local office. Applicants may also be redirected to complete an application online without proceeding with a preliminary discussion.
In some situations, it may be impracticable to begin the application process by telephone and staff may determine that the applicant would be better assisted by proceeding directly to an in-person appointment at the local office. Situations may include:
- the applicant is requesting reinstatement to Ontario Works in the month following the month in which the benefit unit was terminated, or the applicant is re-applying for Ontario Works within one year of a previous application (see Directive 2.2: Re-applications and reinstatements for more information)
- the applicant is in a crisis or emergency situation that needs to be dealt with immediately (see Directive 2.3: Emergency assistance for more information)
- the applicant appears to qualify for rapid reinstatement under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or wishes to apply for ODSP and is not in immediate financial need. In these situations the applicant should be referred to the nearest ODSP office (see Directive 2.4: Referrals to the Ontario Disability Support Program for more information)
- the applicant is an active Ontario Works participant who is moving to another delivery agent’s geographic area
- the applicant’s responses are difficult to understand
- the applicant is exhibiting a high level of frustration or difficulty in responding to questions
- the applicant is unable to communicate in English or, in areas designated under the French Language Services Act, in French
- the applicant is 16 or 17 years old and does not live with their parent(s) (see Directive 3.5: Applicants and participants under the age of 18 for more information)
During the preliminary discussion, staff must provide the applicant with information regarding the application process, including eligibility criteria and the documents and information required to complete the application.
Staff must inform applicants that a decision will not be made until the application process is complete.
The applicant is also advised of their right to withdraw an application for assistance at any time during the application process and that voluntarily withdrawing an application prior to a determination of eligibility means:
- the application is incomplete
- the applicant cannot request an internal review and has no rights to appeal as no eligibility decision has been made
- the information the applicant has provided will be kept on file and will be available for a new application within one year should the applicant wish to start the application process again
The withdrawal of the application will be documented, document records (hardcopy and/or electronic files as applicable) will be closed, and the applicant will receive notice of the file’s closure (i.e., "the Voluntary Withdrawal Letter”).
Third party verification
The application process includes third party checks, which are completed to verify eligibility related information provided by an applicant.
During the preliminary discussion, staff may request oral consent from the applicant, the applicant’s spouse, and any dependent adults, to allow for third party verification of eligibility related information. Any person may choose not to provide oral consent. In these cases, the application process continues and third party verification is deferred until the intake appointment and the Consent to Disclose and Verify Information form is signed.
Third party checks include requests from the following:
- Ministry of Transportation: where there has been a history of vehicle ownership or changes in address
- Equifax Canada: asset verification – mandatory
- Family Responsibility Office: spousal support payment information
- Canada Revenue Agency (CRA): income verification and other eligibility related information – mandatory
- Employment Insurance: where there has been a history of employment and potential eligibility for Employment Insurance benefits
Additional requests may be made, as required, to obtain or verify eligibility related information on behalf of the applicant or any other member of the benefit unit.
Note: Third party checks with the CRA and Equifax to verify the financial information provided by the applicant or any other adult member of the benefit unit are mandatory to confirm eligibility for Ontario Works for delivery partners using SAMS. The ministry is exploring options to support First Nations delivery partners in this area. In the interim, First Nations delivery partners who are not using SAMS should continue with their current practices.
Scheduling an intake appointment
An intake appointment is scheduled at the local Ontario Works office for the completion of the application. The applicant should be advised that they may bring a relative, friend, or person from a community group or legal clinic to the intake appointment.
Wherever possible, appointments should be scheduled to allow for a written determination of eligibility, as well as the issuance of assistance to an eligible applicant, within four working days from the point of initial contact.
In scheduling appointments, the needs and circumstances of the applicant should be considered. Applicants who require the services of a translator, cultural interpreter or sign language interpreter should be given sufficient time to arrange for these services. In addition, due to special circumstances an applicant may request that an appointment take place within their home, or at another location in the community, rather than at the local Ontario Works office. The Administrator may approve this request where appropriate, with priority given to the health and safety of the applicant and staff (see Directive 2.8: Home visits for more information).
Administrators also have the flexibility to schedule an intake appointment for an applicant who may be eligible for assistance within the next ten working days, such circumstances may include:
- leaving a hospital or institution such as a long-term care facility
- being released from a correctional facility
- moving out of the parental home
- leaving a residential treatment program
- leaving a situation of domestic violence
- reaching the end of a period of ineligibility
An in-person intake appointment may be necessary to complete the application process. During the intake appointment, the applicant is expected to provide required information, and complete and sign the application and all accompanying forms. Staff will verify and record the information provided by the applicant and will advise the applicant of their rights and responsibilities.
Staff will also provide information regarding participation requirements, compliance, the Employment Information Session (EIS) and the Literacy Screening Questionnaire.
Staff should engage the applicant, the applicant’s spouse and any dependent adults in a collaborative process to develop individual participation plans, and may, where appropriate, make referrals to other community resources and services.
If an applicant previously received assistance, staff should review the file in advance of the appointment to identify any existing overpayments, non-compliance issues, and any previous participation agreement or action plan.
Completing the application
An application is not complete until the application and all accompanying forms have been completed and signed by the applicant, their spouse and, if required, any dependent adult(s) in the benefit unit.
The forms required for an application include:
- Form 0983 – Application for Assistance
- Form 2845 – Participation Agreement Note: the electronic agreement to participate in the social assistance digital application replaces the Participation Agreement form at initial intake (see Directive 2.5: Participation Requirements for more information)
- Form 0985 – Consent to Disclose and Verify Information Form
- Form 1107 – Rights and Responsibilities Form
- Form 2999 – Canada Revenue Agency Consent Form
- All other required forms as applicable (e.g., Form 2764 – Questionnaire for Applicants and Recipients who are Living with Another Adult)
A responsible person may complete and/or sign the application for assistance and accompanying forms on behalf of the applicant or the applicant’s spouse where the applicant or the applicant’s spouse are unable to do so because of a disability. Where the applicant has a trustee, it is the trustee who must sign the application and accompanying forms. In both cases, the applicant is still required to meet with staff in person.
Information to be provided at application
Staff must verify and record the information provided by the applicant on the verification screen in SAMS or for First Nations, the Verification Checklist Form (0499). This is a mandatory form that must be filled out during the application process.
The chart below outlines the information that must be verified during the application process, examples of the types of acceptable documentation and the recording requirements. These are minimum standards at application and delivery agents may require additional documentation depending on the circumstances of the case.
|Information to be verified||Recording requirements|
|Social Insurance Number (SIN)||Visually verify in technology|
|Health number ||Visually verify in technology|
|Proof of identity and date of birth ||Original or copy on file|
|Visually verify in technology|
|Employment Status |
|Visually verify in technology|
Visually verify in technology
Original or copy on file for spousal support records
|Visually verify in technology|
|Shelter costs |
|Visually verify in technology|
|Status in Canada |
|Visually verify in technology|
Where the information necessary for making an eligibility determination is incomplete, the applicant is allowed up to ten working days to obtain and submit the outstanding information.
The accessibility of the information, the amount of control the applicant has over the information, and the time needed to obtain the information are factors that should be considered in setting the time frame. In some cases, Administrator may allow an applicant with extenuating circumstances more than ten working days. It is important that staff ensure the applicant understands their responsibility to provide the information within the allotted timeframe, and that failing to provide the required information without reason may result in a decision of ineligibility.
Where an applicant is unable to cover the cost of documentation that is required to verify information requirements, lower-cost options should be considered (e.g., other community agencies). Alternatively, the Administrator may reimburse the applicant for the cost or pay the cost directly to the document provider.
Emergency assistance may be provided in situations where information is outstanding and a decision regarding eligibility has not been made (see Directive 2.3: Emergency assistance for more information).
For a variety of reasons, some Indigenous people may not have access to birth certificates or other forms of identification listed in the above chart. In these relatively limited cases, there may be other documentation that is acceptable to verify an applicant’s identity based on individual circumstances.
Survivors and victims of human trafficking and individuals experiencing/at risk of experiencing violence
Survivors and victims of human trafficking (HT) and violence may not be able to fulfill social assistance verification requirements because their identification documents have been lost, withheld or destroyed by their trafficker/abuser. When applicants are identified as survivors/victims or are fleeing/at-risk of violence, or when the caseworker suspects this may be the case, the requirement to verify identity through documentation should not prevent caseworkers from determining eligibility and issuing social assistance in a timely manner.
The requirement to verify an applicant’s identity through documentation may be fulfilled after eligibility has been determined, within a reasonable timeframe set by the Administrator local office based on individual circumstances.
Rights and responsibilities
During the intake appointment, the applicant is advised of their rights and responsibilities under Ontario Works. Generally, applicants, their spouses, and any dependent adults are responsible for:
- participating in employment assistance activities and complying with the conditions of eligibility relating to employment assistance
- making reasonable efforts to seek, accept and maintain employment for which they are physically capable, and that would increase employment income
- making reasonable efforts to pursue financial resources they or their spouse/dependents may be entitled to or eligible for
- reporting new and changed circumstances, participation in employment assistance activities, the receipt or disposition of assets, and the receipt or expected receipt of income or some other financial resource
- responding promptly to requests for information related to initial or ongoing eligibility
Applicants should also be advised of their right to appeal a decision regarding initial or ongoing eligibility. Staff will explain the appeal process to the applicant, including the timelines for requesting an internal review, when and under what conditions an appeal can be filed with the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT), and how they may obtain further information about the appeal process (see Directive 10.1: Notice and internal review process and Directive 10.2: Appeal process for more information).
Referrals to resources and services
Pending the completion of the application process, it may be appropriate for staff to refer the applicant to other resources or services in the community such as an emergency hostel or a food bank.
If the applicant has a disability, they may be referred to the ODSP. Where the applicant is in immediate financial need, they may be eligible for Ontario Works assistance pending a decision under the ODSP (see Directive 2.4: Referrals to the ODSP for more information).
Employment Information Session (EIS)
As part of the application process, an Administrator may require an applicant, spouse or dependent adult to attend an EIS. Alternatively, attendance at an EIS may be the initial employment assistance activity on the participation agreement or action plan (see Directive 2.6: Employment Information Session for more information).
Literacy Screening Questionnaire
As part of the application process, an Administrator may also require an applicant and other adult members of the benefit unit with less than a grade 12 level education (or its equivalent) to take the approved Literacy Screening Questionnaire, with the exception of:
- a person with a learning disorder
- an applicant who is only applying for temporary care assistance
Alternatively, the Literacy Screening Questionnaire may be completed as an initial employment assistance activity or as part of the EIS (See Directive 8.3: Literacy screening, assessment and training for more information.)
Notice of eligibility decision
A decision regarding eligibility shall be made and communicated in a format and manner approved by the Director (see Directive 10.1: Notice and internal review process for more information), with assistance issued to an eligible applicant, within four working days from initial contact where an applicant has provided all of the required information for staff to make an eligibility decision. Initial contact means the point at which the applicant makes first contact, either by telephone, in person, or in an electronic manner approved by the Director, with the Ontario Works office.
Effective date of eligibility
An eligibility decision is effective from the date determined by the Administrator and may be before, on, or after the date of the decision.
Payment of assistance
Assistance may be paid by:
- direct bank deposit (DBD)
- reloadable payment card (RPC) where available
- paper cheque (in exceptional circumstances)
For more information on these payment methods, see Directive 6.1 Calculating assistance.