This section is an excerpt from the Ontario Works Act, 1997 prescribed by the Province of Ontario.

OW Regs

Persons detained in custody

8. A person is not eligible for assistance while the person,

(a) is detained in a lawful place of confinement; or

(b) is on temporary absence, parole or probation or serving a conditional sentence and is residing in a community residence funded in whole or in part by Correctional Services Canada.


Applicants or participants incarcerated in a lawful place of confinement are not eligible for social assistance. Entitlement is reduced or cancelled if the client is incarcerated and/or living in a residence funded by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services or Correctional Services Canada. The action taken on the case will be determined by the length of time of the incarceration and the family size.

If an applicant or participant is incarcerated after financial assistance is issued, an overpayment will be established for the time period the participant was incarcerated.

All clients are to be advised of their responsibility to report any changes in their circumstances to their caseworkers. The Rights and Responsibilities form specifically outlines the clients’ responsibility to “report living arrangements and other changes”.

In cases where the client is incarcerated on a part-time basis, the reduction in Basic Needs would be calculated using only the number of days in which he or she is incarcerated. The full Shelter Allowance may be provided where it is necessary for the client to secure or maintain accommodation in the community.

In situations where assistance has been reduced or cancelled, the client must request that his or her benefits be reinstated upon release from custody. At that time, the client must meet all eligibility and participation requirements of Ontario Works (OW).

Assistance in the month the client is released will be pro-rated for the number of days the client is in the community. Full Shelter Allowance may be paid in the month of release to allow the client to secure or maintain accommodation. Clients may also be eligible for other financial supports and the eligibility requirements should be discussed.

In cases where a family is receiving assistance together and a spouse becomes incarcerated, assistance payments will be reduced by the amount of the spouse’s Basic Needs and Shelter Allowance portions during their incarceration. The income and assets of the incarcerated person continue to be considered as part of the family’s budget.

Persons Detained in Custody in Community Residences

People on temporary absence, parole or probation or serving a conditional sentence who live in Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS)-funded community residences may be eligible for a Personal Needs Allowance amount from social assistance. They may also be eligible for benefits such as health benefits and employment supports.

This applies to provincial parolees only. In the Toronto area there are two MCSCS funded community residences:

  • Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto: Phyllis Haslam House, 215 Wellesley St E
  • Streethaven at the Crossroads: Grant House, 87 Pembroke St.

House Arrest

House arrest does not qualify as a place of lawful confinement. In cases of house arrest, the applicant, if eligible, may have his or her budgetary needs covered by social assistance.

Applications for social assistance will be taken for persons under house arrest. In addition to the standard OW questions about income and assets, the caseworker will also need to determine what conditions or restrictions are in the original sentence (e.g., was the person employed at the time of sentencing?). Depending on the restrictions, a deferral from OW participation may be necessary.