The legal clinic provides information, advice and assistance regarding Ontario Works (OW, which is often still called welfare) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) financial assistance. OW is a provincial program that is administered by the municipality- the City of Toronto. ODSP is administered by the province: the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The website for both programs is www.mcss.gov.on.ca. It contains useful information and is updated regularly. FCLS also provides public legal education sessions on request and when our resources permit.
The legal clinic can assist clients by telephone and in person at our office. We are often able to resolve problems at the local level- by providing information to the local OW or ODSP office- so that an appeal of a negative decision is not needed. The address and telephone number for local OW or ODSP offices can be found on the website. Where appropriate, the legal clinic represents clients at the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT). Their website is www.sbt.gov.on.ca.
Much of the work of the income maintenance team at FCLS involves applications for ODSP assistance and appealing the denial of the applications to the Social Benefits Tribunal. We can assist clients by identifying medical information that may assist in a case and requesting it from doctors and specialists. Additional medical information must be provided to the Ministry and Tribunal at least 30 days before the SBT hearing date. The Ministry may change their mind based on additional medical information, and decide that the person meets the definition in the legislation of a disabled person. This means that a hearing is not needed. If a person is found to be eligible for ODSP assistance, either by the Ministry before the SBT hearing or at the SBT hearing, they can still stipulate a review date. This is the date when the Ministry can request updating information from the person’s doctors.
The legal clinic also provides information, advice and assistance regarding Canada Pension Plan benefits, such as Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.
The legal clinic is in regular contact with our colleagues in the clinic system, as well as with Ministries and Tribunals we regularly deal with. This ensures that we are up to date in the information and advice we provide to clients.