Our Ontario Works Services

(Information Current as of March 30, 2018) 

Ontario Works (OW) used to be called "General Welfare Assistance". It is one of two social assistance programs in the Province of Ontario. If you have little or no income, you may qualify for assistance from Ontario Works.

Ontario Works helps people who are in financial need. It offers two types of assistance:

  • Financial assistance, including:

      • income support to help with the costs of basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter

      • health benefits for clients and their families

  • Employment assistance to help clients find, prepare for and keep a job. This assistance may include:

      • workshops on resume writing and interviewing

      • job counselling

      • job-specific training

      • access to basic education, so clients can finish high school or improve their language skills

In most cases, a client must agree to participate in employment assistance activities in order to receive financial assistance.

Emergency assistance is also available to people who are in a crisis or an emergency situation (e.g. people who have lost their homes, are leaving an abusive relationship and/or are worried about their safety).

Who is eligible for OW assistance?

To be eligible for Ontario Works you must:

  • live in Ontario

  • be in financial need (your household doesn’t have sufficient financial resources to meet basic living expenses)

  • be willing to make reasonable efforts to find, prepare for and keep a job (unless you have specific circumstances that temporarily prevent you from doing so, such as an illness or caregiving responsibilities)

Other adult members of your household must also agree to participate in employment assistance activities.

Who your eligibility for OW is assessed?

OW will look at two aspects when they assess your eligibility:

  • your financial situation, and

  • your willingness to take part in activities to find a job.

When you apply to Ontario Works, you will need to give them information about your:

  • family size

  • income

  • assets, and

  • housing costs.

Ontario Works staff will use this information to decide if you are financially eligible.

Then they help you come up with a plan to find work and/or improve your skills. These activities are written up in your Participation Agreement.

You will have to sign an Application for Financial Assistance and a Participation Agreement to be eligible for Ontario Works.


The City of Sault Ste. Marie is responsible for Ontario Works. They will look at your total household income when deciding if you are entitled to receive these benefits. This means that they will look at the income of any adult you are living with, even if you are single. That person's contribution to the rent (if sharing accommodation) or income (if you are living with another adult) will be considered when calculating how much you both receive every month.


There are three ways you can apply for Ontario Works:

  1. online

  2. in person

  3. by phone

1. Applying online

The Online Application for Social Assistance allows residents of Ontario to:

  • find out if they might be eligible for Ontario Works, and

  • start the application process.

Find out more about the Online Application for Social Assistance.

2. Applying in person

If you live in the Sault Ste. Marie area, you should call 705-759-5266 to make an application for Ontario Works.

If you decide to complete an application, you will be given a time to meet with them. This meeting usually takes place at the Ontario Works office. If it is difficult for you to go to the Ontario Works office, the meeting can be held in your home or somewhere in your community.

You will need to bring certain documents to the meeting. When you make your appointment, Ontario Works staff will tell you what documents you need to bring. Here are some examples:

  • proof of your Social Insurance Number

  • Health Card

  • proof of identity, such as your birth certificate

  • recent bank statement for all your bank accounts

  • copy of your mortgage or rental agreement

  • Record of Employment and/or your most recent pay stubs

  • copy of your Canada Child Tax Benefit statement (if you have children under 18 years of age)

  • information about other money you may be receiving, such as a pension

  • information about assets you may own, such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, and

  • proof of immigration status, if required.

They will look at all this information to decide if you are eligible for Ontario Works.

For more information, please contact the local Ontario Works office at 


3. Applying by phone

Call the local Ontario Works office at 705-759-5266 to complete the application over the phone.

You can also use the Social Assistance Office Locator to find an office near you.

What if I my OW Benefits are denied or terminated? (Appeals)

If you are denied Ontario Works or your benefits have been suspended or terminated, you should appeal. We can assist you with the request for an Internal Review (IR) and an appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal.

  • You have 30 days from the date of the decision to request an Internal Review

  • You have 30 days from the date of the IR decision to appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal.

Our Clinic offers information, advice and representation if you have been denied OW or your benefits have been suspended or terminated. We can talk to OW to challenge decisions, help you appeal decisions and sometimes represent you at the Social Benefits Tribunal. We can also help you to get particular benefits, like the Housing Stability benefit and Employment Start Up.

Contact the Sault Ste. Marie area Ontario Works office at 705-759-5266 for any additional inquries or visit https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/ow/index.aspx


This site provides general information only, specific to Ontario, Canada. It is NOT legal advice. Laws, practices and policies change over time. The applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should get legal advice for your particular situation.

Please call us or a lawyer in your area for advice on your particular situation.

Algoma Community Legal Clinic

Queenscentre Building

477 Queen Street East, Suite 301

Sault Ste. Marie, ON  P6A 1Z5

Phone: 705-942-4900

Toll Free: 1-800-616-1109

Fax: 705-942-6894

Email: ‎algorecep@lao.on.ca

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