| Apr 24, 2008

Legalese - April 24, 2008

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Legalese - April 24, 2008 How Ontario Works Can HelpWilliam A. Florence, Barrister and Solicitor, Rural Legal Services

Ontario Works, (“OW”), is a program run by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. Another name that is commonly used for this program is “welfare”. Eligibility for this program is based on verified immediate financial need, and a willingness to participate in employment assistance activities. When someone applies for OW, a determination is made regarding financial eligibility. Family size, income, assets, and costs for shelter such as rent, are all taken into consideration.

OW is meant to be a temporary solution for those who are in financial need, to assist them while they search for work. That is why a willingness to participate in employment assistance activities is mandatory. OW will provide a number of services to assist in the employment search, such as: workshops on interview preparation, and resume writing; access to telephones, computers and job banks; literacy screening and training; education upgrading or job specific skills training; and employment placement.

Some of the OW benefits that are available, in addition to monthly income assistance, are:

Drug coverage - Eligible participants in OW are provided with health coverage by the Ontario Drug Benefit plan;

Dental and vision care for dependent children - Basic dental coverage, annual eye exams, and coverage for the purchase of lenses and frames, may be provided for dependent children;

Coverage for diabetic supplies, surgical supplies, dressings - For example: diabetic supplies such as blood glucose monitors, lancets, and syringes, and surgical supplies such as catheters, drainage bags, and incontinence and ostomy supplies;

Medical transportation - OW may provide the cost of transportation to travel to medical appointments, and in limited circumstances, include the cost of meals and accommodation;

Contribution for costs associated with the Assistive Devices Program - If one is eligible for funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Assistive Devices Program to purchase an assistive device to help with a physical disability, there is a consumer’s contribution to the cost which OW may pay for;

Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit - If an OW recipient must move to a new residence, or needs financial assistance to be able to remain in their current residence, a Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit may be available. Examples of when OW may provide this type of additional support to a recipient are: if they have been evicted from their current residence and need additional money to “start-up” at a new residence; if they have a utility such as hydro that will be discontinued unless a payment towards arrears is made; or if OW is satisfied that it would be harmful to the recipient’s health or welfare to remain in their current residence;

Employment Start-up Benefits – If an OW recipient is self-

employed, changes or accepts new employment, or begins an approved employment assistance activity, they are eligible for the Employment Start-up Benefit which is meant to assist with initial costs or expenses. Some examples are expenses for: tools and equipment, appropriate work wear, and licensing fees/association costs. As well, OW recipients may be eligible for additional benefits that relate to the ongoing costs of participating in OW-approved employment assistance activities. For example, there may be additional benefits for out-of-pocket costs for child care, transportation, and safety equipment; and

Special Diet – If an approved health professional prescribes a “special diet” for an OW recipient who has one of the enumerated medical conditions, this benefit may be paid to help cover the additional dietary costs. Some examples of a “special diet” are: a Gluten Free Diet, Pregnancy Diet, and a Cystic Fibrosis Diet.

The foregoing is only a summary of the types of benefits that may be available for an OW recipient. If you are an OW recipient, or are considering applying for income assistance, it is important to discuss with your OW case worker what benefits are available, and in what circumstances. If you require further information or have any questions, please contact us at the legal clinic.

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

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