I would like to dispute a decision made by the social assistance office. I heard that I can appeal. Is this true and what is the process?
If you disagree with a decision made by the Ontario Works (OW) office or by the Ontario Disability (ODSP) office, you may have the right to appeal it. This includes decisions refusing your social assistance (including your application for ODSP), reducing your social assistance amount, suspending/terminating your social assistance, or creating an “overpayment” (debt). If a decision is made, it is normally issued in writing and it is called a Notice of Decision. If a decision is not in writing, you should ask that it be put in writing and sent to you.
Internal Review Request
If you wish to dispute a decision, the first step is to request an Internal Review. You would have to write to the office which made the decision and ask that the decision be reviewed. If you ask for an Internal Review, it won’t be the same caseworker who reviews your case – another caseworker reviews the decision.
The Notice of Decision informs you what needs to be included in an Internal Review request (including your name and address, your member ID (which should be on the letter), the date of the decision and when you received it, and why you dispute the decision) and where to send the Internal Review request. You can send documents along with the request if you feel they would be helpful. Make sure you sign the letter.
There is a deadline of 30 days from the date you receive the decision to file an Internal Review request but, if you are late, you can still file it but you need to explain why it is late and the office who receives the Internal Review request has to decide whether to allow the review. It is a good idea to keep a copy of your request and proof of you sending the request (e.g., fax confirmation letter, email copy, ask for receipt if you drop it off, write down the date you mailed it).Within 30 days of when you ask for the Internal Review, the office should give you their Internal Review decision. If you disagree with the result, you may be able to appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT). The SBT is not part of OW or ODSP and has the power to listen to both sides and make a decision.
Social Benefits Tribunal Appeal
If you file an appeal to the SBT, you will be provided a hearing date, so you can explain your case. You cannot file an appeal to the SBT unless you have filed an Internal Review request first. You normally have 30 days from the date the Internal Review decision was made to file an appeal to SBT. The appeal form can be found on the SBT website or you can call the SBT and ask for an appeal form to be sent to you.
If you are late in filing the appeal, you can still file the appeal and ask for a time extension on the form. At the beginning of your hearing, an adjudicator may ask you to explain why you filed late and, if the adjudicator feels the reason is not strong enough, your appeal could be dismissed.
Not all decisions can be appealed but most can be. For instance, if you are refused emergency assistance or discretionary benefits, you do not have a right of appeal to the SBT.
You may, however, be able to still ask for an Internal Review request to try to resolve the issue. Since it can take a long time before you are provided a hearing date, you can request “interim assistance” while you are waiting for a hearing date. Interim assistance is money paid to you to financially support yourself. If you are already getting your regular amount from OW when you file an appeal, normally you would not get interim assistance. If you start getting interim assistance and you do not win your appeal, you are normally expected to pay this money back. If you want to apply for interim assistance, the application is part of the SBT appeal form.
The above is a simply a summary of the appeals process and, if interested, you should
seek more information and/or legal advice at any stage of the process. You may start by
contacting our intake line.