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District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board
Ontario Works Allowances and Programs Summary
Version - April 28 2011

Note:  The purpose of this document is to provide a general overview of the Ontario Works Allowances and Programs for Board members and the general public. Each program has very specific eligibility criteria which are set by the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS). All eligibility criteria must be met before allowances are paid. More specific program eligibility information is available on the Ontario Works section of this website.

Ontario Works Allowances

The rates paid under the Ontario Works Act are set out in the regulations of that Act. The rates are set by the Legislature. There is no articulated rationale for the allowance calculation. There is no direct relationship to the Consumer Price Index, average housing costs or any other externally verifiable criteria. There is no automatic mechanism for the review of the rates, nor is there any direct municipal input into the rate structure. Rates may increase on January 1 or at any time during the calendar year.
The calculation of an allowance is done through the Service Delivery Management Technology (SDMT). The data for clients concerning family size, ages, mortgage, rent costs, fire insurance, fuel, utilities and any offsetting income is input into the system by Case Managers through SDMT. Once a gross allowance has been calculated by the system, it may be reduced by offsetting income or overpayment recoveries. Some income, such as Employment Insurance, Canada Pension, and support payments are deducted on a dollar for dollar basis. Net income from earnings is deducted after applying an income exemption. The allowance is fully calculated by the system and a cheque or Direct Bank Deposit (DBD) is produced the following day. If the client questions an allowance, the first step is to confirm that the input data is complete and correct.
A client may be paid back to the date of application, effective the date eligibility began or the first of the month depending on client circumstances. The initial allowance is an odd amount as it pays the client from the date of grant up to the end of the first eligibility period which may be less than a monthly allowance. After the initial eligibility period, the client is paid monthly unless the need is clearly for a shorter period.

Participation Agreements

With the exception of emergency assistance applications and Temporary Child Benefit , a Participation Agreement (PA) must be completed as part of the initial application process. This is a requirement of legislation and must be completed prior to granting the case. 
The purpose of the PA is to make the participant aware of their obligations to participate in employment measures and/or their obligations to pursue support as required under the Ontario Works Act.  A full and comprehensive PA will contain a plan for moving the client to greater independency and/or employment.

Emergency Hostel Agreements

The Ontario Works Act has provision for payments to providers of emergency hostel accommodation.  Presently, there are agreements with three entities who provide this service. The per diem costs of such care are paid directly to the service providers.

Temporary Benefits

The Temporary Benefits is assistance available to an adult who is looking after a child in financial need and that adult is not the natural or adoptive parent. The parent may be temporarily unable to support the child because of financial or other special circumstances such as extended hospitalization. In other cases, the parent(s) may be deceased or their whereabouts is unknown. Every effort is made to determine whether the natural parents or legal guardian can provide care. If the parents have the financial capability to provide or if the child is in the care of the Children’s Aid Society Temporary Benefits is not paid. If legal custody has been obtained then Temporary Benefits are not paid.
Ontario Works (OW) / Ontario Disability Support Plan (ODSP)
The rates paid under OW are considerably less than those paid to ODSP. ODSP is provincially run program designed to provide long term support for those who are unable to return to the workforce. The rate differential between OW and ODSP and the inadequacy of OW rates creates an ongoing pressure for long term OW clients to move onto ODSP. This is complicated by the strict eligibility criteria for ODSP approval. ODSP referrals are a major activity in all OW offices. This delivery agent has staff that assists clients with the ODSP application process and income support until an ODSP decision is made.

Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT)

Eligibility decisions related to the OW allowances and the following Mandatory benefits are appealable to the independent provincial SBT.  This delivery agent has a Case Presenting Officer trained to do investigations and make presentations to the SBT.  SBT appeals can only occur after a local reconsideration of an eligibility decision has occurred.

Eligibility Review Officers (ERO) Program

As a condition of receiving provincial cost sharing on OW allowances, delivery agents are required to follow up on allegations of fraud. A comprehensive investigation must be conducted when an Internal or external complaint or accusation of Ontario Works fraud is received. This delivery agent has two EROs trained to do investigations.  If fraud is discovered or if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that fraud may have occurred, a referral to police is made.  The EROs work to gather evidence and complete submissions to the local police. Following support from police authorities, the information is then submitted to the Crown Attorney.

Family Support Worker (FSW) Program

As a condition of receiving provincial cost sharing on OW allowances, delivery agents are required to ensure that applicants who are eligible for support attempt to obtain that support. The FSW staff may undertake investigations to locate the absent parent. They are involved in the negotiating out-of-court agreements where appropriate. They assist the OW client with support related legal proceedings, the enforcement of existing support agreements, orders and judgments. The FSW staff work directly with clients to commence any actions related to support or to the enforcement of support orders.  The FSW staff works closely with the provincial Family Responsibility Office related to the entire support order and payment process.

Obtaining support has several benefits. Any support in pay reduces OW assistance payments.  If support comes into pay, the client may be able to exit assistance by obtaining employment at a lower rate of pay then if no support was available. Support orders tend to solidify the issues related to access and this generally benefits the family members. The requirement to seek support can deter clients from applying when in fact no separation has in fact occurred. This program results in direct savings in the OW program since support payments are deducted dollar for dollar from entitlements. It also leads to savings in Social Housing for those living in subsidized units because rent is calculated on total incomes and support payments increase incomes.

Mandatory Benefits

Ontario Works recipients may be eligible to receive a number of mandatory benefits.  Denial of Mandatory Benefits may be appealed to the Social benefits tribunal.

Health Related Benefits

Health benefits include prescription drug coverage, dental and vision care for dependent children and children in temporary care, diabetic supplies, surgical supplies/dressings and medical transportation costs. Clients may also qualify for the consumer contribution for assistive devices and eligibility assessment under the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) and for batteries and necessary repairs for mobility devices. Mandatory health benefits include routine eye examinations. Subject to specific criteria these benefits maybe extended for a limited periods after a client has found employment.

The Northern Health Travel Grant (NHTG) program provides for some reimbursement of specific types of medially necessary transportation.  Due to the complexities of the NHTG program and the related assignment processes a specialized worker handles medical travel requests which may qualify for full or partial NHTG reimbursement.

Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB)

The purpose of this benefit is to assist applicants with the funds needed to secure or maintain their accommodation. The maximum amount payable is $799 for a single person or $1500 for a family only once in a twenty-four month period. The CSUMB may assist with relocation costs for victims of family violence, a move from an unsafe or uninhabitable accommodation, a disabled person moving because of their incapacity, a move from overcrowded premises, a move following eviction or moving to access employment / training. It may also be used to allow a person to enter more affordable accommodation.  It is often used to assist persons who have been released from institutions such as nursing homes, hospitals, correctional facilities, hostels and transition houses.

Employment Start-Up Benefit (ESUB)

ESUB is financial assistance available up to a maximum of $253 for eligible participants that is issued prior to accessing the Employment Related Expenses Benefit (ERE).  Recipients are eligible for ESUB if they have costs which must be met in order to facilitate employment or participation in an employment assistance activity, participation in a training program or who have become employed on full time, part time or casual basis.

Full-time Employment Benefit  (FEB)

FEB is financial assistance up to a maximum of $500 for participants who have been on social assistance for three consecutive months and are beginning full-time employment (30 or more hours per week) and who require assistance with the costs of going to work.

Employment Related Expenses (ERE)

ERE is financial assistance to help OW recipients to attend pre-employment workshops, participate in basic education and job specific skills training, to search for and obtain employment. These activities must be part of the signed Participation Agreement. The major employment related expenses include transportation, clothing, grooming, special equipment, books, minor tuition, supplies and minor fees.

Community Placement Expenses (CPE) 

CPE is financial assistance available to OW recipients who are participating in the voluntary Community Placement Component of OW. Community Placements are unpaid work or training experiences. Participants are issued funds so that they can attend and participate in a Community Placement. Many of the items are the same as those in the ERE program.

Consolidated Verification Program (CVP)
As a condition of receiving provincial subsidies, OW delivery agents are required to run a priority-based approach to case file review every 24 months.  CVP is essentially an internal audit process to review eligibility and documentation. High risk cases are identified through the Canadian Revenue Agency .

Discretionary Benefits

The purpose of these benefits is to assist OW and ODSP recipients by funding specified socially necessary and health related needs not funded through other programs. These benefits are called “discretionary” because they can not be appealed to the Social Benefits Tribunal. Although called discretionary, some items are necessary to pay for essential health needs. The Director of Ontario Works Branch (MCSS) allows the discretion to provide specified services, items and payments. It is up to each OW delivery agent to determine what will be funded.

In addition to the approved list, the Director has authorized the provision of special services, items or payments for health-related purposes where the local OW Administrator has made a determination of need based on verifiable documentation, and failure to provide would result in a detriment to the health of the recipient or a member of the benefit unit. The provision of health-related special services, items and payments are based on actual costs.

This DSSAB has an extensive policy covering the provision of funerals. Due the complexities of indigent funerals these are assigned to a specialized worker.

Employment Programs

Provision of employment programming is specifically required under the Ontario Works Act.  A client who fails to comply with the conditions of eligibility regarding employment assistance is not eligible for income assistance. Employment programming is a major focus of the delivery of Ontario Works and has impacts on all program components.
As per the legislation this programming can include (excerpt from legislation)
1. Job search.
2.  Job search support services
2.1  A literacy screening questionnaire approved by the Director.
2.2  A literacy assessment, a literacy training program, or both.
3.  Other basic education and job-specific skills training.
4.  Employment placement.
5.  An education or training program approved by the administrator.
6.  A self-employment activity approved by the administrator.
7.  Supports to self-employment.
8.  A screening test for substance addiction approved by the Director.
8.1  A program for the assessment of substance addiction, the treatment of substance addiction, or both.
9.  Participation by a person in a program of activities approved by the administrator that will assist the person with the following:
i. The successful completion of a high school diploma.
ii. The development of employment-related skills.
iii. The further development of the person's parenting skills.
10. Attending an employment information session required by the administrator.

A broad range of employment programming, specifically directed to the needs of the OW caseload, is provided by the Employment Services Unit. Those services include financial employment support to Ontario Works participants for both employment and Community Placements. Self Employment is an option which also part of that range of service.  The full range of OW employment services is provided in an integrated fashion with the broader community employment programs. This is facilitated by the co-location with those community employment programs at 421 Bay Street.

In order to receive funding for employment programming, these municipal employment programs must also be made available to the non-disabled spouses of provincial ODSP recipients. This service may commence even before the disabled spouse has been approved for ODSP.

Job Readiness

Ensuring clients are job ready may involve counseling on issues such as appearance, work attitudes and self esteem.  Workshops such as: Resume Writing, Life Skills and Introduction to Computers are components in the job readiness strategy.

Job Skills Training

Training available to OW Participants in this jurisdiction include: Job Path Workshop, WHMIS training, Smart Serve, Health and Safety and Computer Studies. Training by external suppliers may include Passport to Lodging, Passport to Foods, Passport to Construction, Stock/Inventory Management and Point of Sale training. Individual training requests are accommodated.

Employment Placement

Job ready clients are provided with direct connections to employers who are hiring. They are assisted by providing information on interview preparation and/or specialized job training. Employment placement includes the assessment of client skills and matching those skills to an employment data base. It may also include a wage subsidy as incentive to potential employers. Ongoing participation by Employment staff in community job fairs in conjunction with Economic Development Corporation and Team Sault Ste Marie supports the employment placement function

Community Placements

Community Placements are voluntary unpaid placements with non-profit organizations. They can be for a time period up to 70 hours per month. The placement allows the client to gain valuable skills and experience.  The client is encouraged to find a voluntary placement in their field of interest or one which will assist them with an employment goal.  Community Placements assist participants by adding recent work experiences to their resume. They provide an opportunity to work in the community and to feel productive.

Additional Support Programs


Literacy testing is required under the legislation and occurs on all clients who have less than grade 12. These tests are completed on new clients at the time of the verification interview. Assistance in developing an educational plan to obtain a grade 12 competency is part of this process.

A referral to literacy screening and training helps participants who are unable to get or keep a job because they do not have basic reading, writing and math skills. These clients are connected to literacy training providers who assess their specific needs and provide the training that is needed. The individual in this position works with a variety of community educational organizations who deal with literacy.

Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP)

LEAP is designed for young parents. It provides the financial and counseling supports to finish high school, improve parenting skills, and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Addictions Services Initiative (ASI)

This program assists clients who have an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. ASI staff provides specialized case management to OW clients with addictions issues. These include Addiction Screening, Addiction Assessment and Referral. The work requires the coordination of addiction and employment services. Two Addictions Case Managers perform these services. The program functions as a referral and support role and not as a treatment service. The staffs in this position work with a variety of community health and social service organization who deal with addictions.

Ontario Works Child Care

Ontario Works recipients are eligible for child care subsidy to assist as they obtain skill development, education or while they are working. Child care may also be provided to assist with the growth and socialization of their children in preparation for school. The child care obtained may be
licensed Child Care or unlicensed informal child care.