If you need money, or help finding a job, Ontario Works (also known as welfare, social assistance, or OW) can help you. OW is a program by the government of Ontario.
OW helps you by giving you two things:
- Financial Assistance - Giving you a certain amount of money every month. This should help you pay for housing, food, clothing, and other life expenses.
- Employment Assistance – OW helps you find work or update your skills. In exchange for the money you get from OW, you need to actively look for a job. You can do that by taking part in the employment activities and workshops OW provides.
I’m over 18 years old – Can I get OW?
To see if you can get OW, try using the Eligibility Estimator that is available online.
Your are eligible for OW if you:
- Are a resident of Ontario
- Are a permanent resident or convention refugee
- Have a low income and not many assets
The only way to know for sure is to contact your local Ontario Works Office. They will schedule an interview with you. During the meeting, they will ask about your situation (money and job) and ask you for documents to prove it. Once they have all the information they need, they will make a decision about whether you can get OW.
I’m under 18 years old – Can I get OW?
You may NOT be eligible for OW if you are:
- Under 16 years old (and don’t have a child of your own)
- Living with your parents
- Getting a student loan
If you are 16 or 17 years old, you may qualify for Ontario Works. You will have to be a resident of Ontario, and be a permanent resident or convention refugee.
You might have to prove to Ontario Works that your parents will not let you live at home, or that it is harmful for you to live there.
For example, you might be able to get assistance if your parents are abusing you physically or emotionally. And in most cases, the OW worker must be sure that your parents cannot or will not support you ﬁnancially.
If you qualify for OW, you will need to satisfy two requirements:
- You must be a full-time student at a secondary-school.
- You will need a trustee. This is anyone over the age of 21 that will look after you (it can be another relative, a friend or your a counsellor at school, you are not required to live with this person).
You may be asked to prove that you are living with someone else who gives you a room and meals in their house. By law, you do not need to be living with someone else to qualify for OW. If you are refused OW for this reason, contact a community legal clinic for help.
Also, because you're under the age of 18 and are a full-time student, OW will not deduct the pay from your part-time job.
You can also access OW through your shelter or by talking to your settlement counsellor.
This resource about getting OW/social assistance will help you. It outlines special OW rules for youth under 18 years old. It also tells you how to apply: