I'm Under 18, How Can I Apply for Ontario Works (Welfare)?

Are you 16 or 17 years old and not living at home? 

If you need money, you may qualify for social assistance from Ontario Works. This type of assistance is mean to help you with your day-to-to needs. It helps pay for things like rent, food, clothing and prescription drugs. 

However, there are rules about who can get it and what you must do to keep it.

For example,

  • If you are under the age of 16 and you are not a single parent, you cannot get social assistance on your own.
  • If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can get social assistance only "under special circumstances"

You might have to show OW 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. Even if you may be able to get financial support from your parents in the future, you might qualify for assistance in the meantime.

Ontario Works can require you to go to family counselling if your parents agree to participate. But OW should not require family counselling if your parents have abused you. 

While receiving OW, you must go to school or a training program approved by OW, unless a serious medical condition or other problem makes this impossible. 

These rules apply to you even if you are a 16- or 17-year-old single parent. If you are a parent, you will have to participate in a program approved by OW that will help you complete high school, develop job skills, or increase your parenting skills. 

In order for you to receive payments from Ontario Works, you have to provide the name and contact information of someone over the age of 21 who can help you manage your money. This person can be a family member or a friend.

If you are living with someone of the same or opposite sex, and this person is your spouse, you will not be eligible for assistance on your own. But the two of you might be eligible as a couple. Contact a community legal clinic or a lawyer for information or advice about your situation. 

Where Do I Start?

Contact your local OW office to apply for social assistance. To find the contact information for the nearest OW office, call ServiceOntario:

  • Toll-free: 1-800-267-8097
  • Toll-free TTY: 1-800-268-7095
  • In Toronto: 416-326-1234
  • In Toronto TTY: 416-325-3408

Tell ServiceOntario the postal code of the place you are living in, and ask them for the phone number and address of the closest Ontario Works office.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services website also has a list of OW offices around Ontario

How Do I Apply?

To complete the application, you will need to have an interview. This interview is usually at the local OW office. If going to the local office is difficult for you, you can ask to have the interview where you live or at another place that is better for you. 

An OW worker will ask you for information to show that you qualify for assistance. You will also have to complete and sign the forms that OW requires. 

When you go to the OW office, bring the following with you:

  • any documents that relate to your application
  • at least one piece of identification, if possible
  • a document that proves you are in school or a tranining program

The OW worker might want to see where you live. If you do not all the visit, OW could refuse to give you assistance.

By law, OW cannot refuse to take your application. If this happens, ask to speak to a supervisor and insist that they take your application. If there is still a problem, contact your community legal clinic immediately. 

Teaser: 

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