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Social assistance for refugee claimants

A refugee claimant who needs money to live may be able to get social assistance (welfare) from Ontario Works. Ontario Works helps pay for things like rent, food, clothing, and prescription drugs. Some people may qualify for other benefits.


How does someone apply for Ontario Works?

Claimants apply to their local Ontario Works office. The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services has an online tool, the Ontario Social Assistance Office Finder. This tool helps people locate their Ontario Works office.

Claimants can also call 211 or ServiceOntario to locate their Ontario Works office:

Toll-free 1-800-267-8097

Toll-free TTY 1-800-268-7095

Toronto area 416-326-1234

Toronto area TTY 416-325-3408

There is also an option to start the OW application online. Claimants living in Toronto can start their applications online from the City of Toronto website. Claimants in other parts of Ontario can start their applications online from the provincial website.

The information goes to the claimant’s local Ontario Works office. A worker is supposed to phone the applicant within three business days to set up an appointment to complete the application in person. Claimants who do not have a phone number should call their local office to make the appointment.

Learn more: Need welfare? How to apply to Ontario Works for assistance.


What documents do refugees need to get Ontario Works?

OW will ask a refugee claimant for documents to prove that they have made a claim. If a claimant has been given a date for their refugee hearing, they should show their Refugee Protection Claimant Document.

If a claimant has been refused by the Immigration and Refugee Board, they may still be eligible for Ontario Works if they are appealing the decision or waiting to be removed from Canada.


What if someone is refused OW assistance?

Someone who is refused assistance should ask for the decision in writing.

A refugee claimant or refused refugee claimant who is having difficulty getting Ontario Works should try to get legal help.

To appeal, the refused claimant should first write to the office that made the decision and ask for an internal review. The request must be made within 30 days of the date they received the decision.

If the internal review is unsuccessful, the decision can be appealed to the Social Benefits Tribunal. The tribunal is independent from Ontario Works and has the power to make a different decision.

Learn more: Appeals and internal reviews.

Claimants who speak French may want to ask a lawyer or a community legal clinic about their language rights. They may have the right to get government services related to Ontario Works (OW) in French. If they are appealing a decision about their right to social assistance from OW, this could mean that they have the right to a hearing before a decision-maker who speaks French, as well as other French language services.



Last updated: Apr 30, 2014

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