Ontario Modernizes Social Assistance to Help More People Re-enter the Workforce

Published on September 30, 2020

Collaborative and innovative plan will make the system more responsive and efficient

News Release

TORONTO — The Ontario Government is unveiling plans to build a more responsive, efficient and person-centred social assistance system that will get people back to work and help the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the first phase of the social assistance recovery and renewal plan, the province will be focusing on improved access to employment and training services, developing new digital tools and modern service options, and ways to process financial assistance faster.

"We have learned from the COVID-19 outbreak that we need to fundamentally change how we operate," said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. "That's why we are beginning to roll out a sustainable, modern system that gives recipients a path to jobs, greater independence and improved outcomes. We are committed to helping people connect to the supports they need as quickly and efficiently as possible."

The initial phase of the plan will be rolled out in the coming months with measures that build on the enhancements already underway to improve the system. These new measures include:

  • Enhanced Access to Employment and Training: Working with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to improve access to employment and training services to drive the best outcomes for social assistance clients, including people with disabilities who have been particularly hard hit by job losses during the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • Accelerating Digital Delivery: Accessing supports will be easier with new digital tools and modern service options such as an online application, expansion of the MyBenefits digital platform to improve access for people receiving social assistance, and new communications channels to allow two-way digital messaging between clients and caseworkers;
  • Centralized and Automated Delivery: A centralized intake process that reduces paperwork, giving caseworkers more time to support clients through crisis and help them get back to work;
  • Risk-based Eligibility Reviews: Automated, smarter eligibility verification with provincial, federal and third-party sources to make financial assistance processing faster, while strengthening program integrity; and
  • Collaborating with Partners: By co-designing a new provincial-municipal transformation vision with municipal Ontario Works delivery partners; working with First Nations partners to develop a social assistance recovery and renewal plan that responds to unique First Nations priorities and circumstances; and engaging with key stakeholders, including staff, provincial bargaining agents, clients and health care providers.

"These changes will transform the system to provide better support for our most vulnerable, allow frontline staff to focus on results for people rather than paperwork, and assist people to return to work and contribute to building a thriving Ontario economy," said Minister Smith.

Quick Facts

  • Based on a 2018 study, caseworkers spend approximately a quarter of their day filing and organizing paper work.
  • ODSP processes approximately 35,000 pieces of paper a day.
  • One in five people stay on Ontario Works for more than five years.
  • Almost half the people who leave Ontario Works return — four in five of those that return are back on it within a year.

Additional Resources

  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn how the province is helping support vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak.