I was refused Ontario Works, what should I do?

Sometimes when you file an application for social assistance through Ontario Works, you don't qualify to receive any money. You should receive a letter saying why you're not eligible, and you have a right to appeal the decision.

You may want to appeal if you've been denied financial assistance, or if you think the amount you're receiving is too low. 

To challenge the decision, you need to go through two steps.

Step 1: Internal Review 

The first step is to request an Internal Review. During an Internal Review, Ontario Works checkes your application again to make sure that they made the right decision.

How do I ask for an Internal Review?

You must file the request - in writing - no later than 30 days after you receive the letter with the decision. To request a review, you can:

If you choose to write your own letter, you should explain why you disagree with the deicion that was made, and include any documents that you think will help change the decision. In the letter, remember to include your:

  • name
  • member ID number (located on the benefit statement, or the letter you received from Ontario Works), and
  • date of birth

Send your form or letter to your local Ontario Works office.

What if I miss the deadline?

If you weren't able to file a request within 30 days, you can still ask for an Internal Review, but you'll need to explain why you missed the deadline. You may get an extension if you:

  • Live in a remote area where it takes more time for mail to be delivered
  • Have a medical condition, or had to help a dependent for an emergency medical condition
  • Have trouble understanding English

How long will it take to get a response?

Ontario Works should complete an Internal Review within 30 days of receiving your request. If they don't get back to you in time, or if you're unhappy with their decision, you can move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Social Benefits Tribunal

If you're not satisfied with the Internal Review, or if Ontario Works hasn't responded to you after 30 days, you can make an appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal. The Tribunal is a court where you can make your case, and Ontario Works can defend their decision. The Tribunal will determine who's right.

You must file an appeal within 30 days of receiving the Internal Review decision. Fill out an appeal form and send it to:

Social Benefits Tribunal
1075 Bay Street, 7th Floor
Toronto, ON M5S 2B1
Fax: 416-326-5135

To help you with the appeal process, we recommend getting a lawyer. You can get free advice and representation from a community legal clinic.

What happens after I file my appeal?

About 2 weeks after you file your appeal, you'll get a letter with your file number.

A copy of your appeal will be sent to the Ontario Works Office. They'll have a chance to respond to the appeal and provide more information about why they made their decision. You can see anything they submit in writing.

After 4-8 weeks after you file your appeal, you'll get a letter that tells you when, where and how you're hearing will take place. The hearing usually takes place 10 months after you file your appeal.

What happens at the hearing?

You and Ontario Works will each give a testimony explaining your point of view. You may be asked questions by Ontario Works's lawyer and by the "member," who's the person that makes the final decision on your case. You can bring your own lawyer, as well as a friend or family member to support you. You can also ask for an interpreter. 

If you win your appeal, the Tribunal will order Ontario Works to correct their decision.

If you lose your appeal, there will be no changes to Ontario Work's decision. 

What if I need money during the appeal process?

You may be eligible for financial assistance through the Tribunal  while you wait for your appeal to get processed. However, if you end up losing your case, you'll have to pay the money back.

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