Am I allowed to homeschool my child while I am on Ontario Works?
Yes, under the following conditions:
- it does not exempt you from your obligations to meet the usual OW requirements: get training, look for work, be available for work, accept work. That means you will have to have childcare arrangements in place if your child is too young to stay at home alone while you are fulfilling your OW obligations.
- you will need written verification that you are homeschooling.
The first condition relates to your own eligibility for Ontario Works benefits, while the second condition relates to the eligibility of your dependent child to be "included in the benefit unit."
If your child is included in the benefit unit, it will increase the amount of financial assistance you receive relative to what you would receive just for yourself as the recipient, but your OW cheque will also be adjusted by the deduction of a portion of the Child Tax Benefit you receive.
If your child is excluded from the OW benefit unit because you do not have written verification of your homeschooling status in a form that is acceptable to the OW office, it does not mean you cannot homeschool, nor does it affect your own eligibility for OW benefits. It simply means that you will not receive additional benefits to cover your child, you will only receive your own benefits as recipient. By the same token, you will not have your OW cheque reduced by any amounts relating to the Child Tax Benefit.
The two scenarios are therefore as follows:
- Ontario Works allowance for yourself
+ Ontario Works allowance for your child
+ Child Tax Benefit
- OW deduction of part of the Child Tax Benefit
- Ontario Works allowance for yourself
+ Child Tax Benefit in full
Because the amount deducted counteracts part of the amount received, the net difference between the two scenarios can be as little as $50 per month per child. In other words, if your child is included in the benefit unit, you will only have an extra $50 a month per child, in total, than if your child is not included and you receive the full amount of the Child Tax Benefit.
What written proof of homeschooling will the OW office accept?
Usually, the OW office requires a letter from the school board, but some have accepted a letter from OFTP verifying OFTP membership status.
If you have withdrawn your child from school, you will have sent the school board a written letter of intent and should have received a letter of acknowledgment from the board in reply. In that case, that letter of acknowledgment is the written verification you should use.
What if I didn't receive a reply to my letter of intent?
If you sent your letter of intent but did not receive a written reply, you can send a second letter explaining your need for the written acknowledgment and expressing explicitly that it is for the purpose of fulfilling requirements for another branch of the government. If you still receive no letter in reply, you might explain your difficulty to the OW office and provide them with copies of your two letters to the board, and/or a letter from OFTP verifying your OFTP membership status.
What if my child has never attended school?
You can still send a letter of intent to the school board and request a reply letter of acknowledgment; or you can obtain a letter from OFTP verifying your OFTP membership status, which may or may not be accepted by the OW office.
If you are unwilling to interact with the school board so as to obtain a letter of acknowledgment, and if you are not a member of OFTP or you are an OFTP member but the OW office is unwilling to accept your OFTP letter as sufficient verification of your homeschooling status, you have the option of forfeiting your child's inclusion in the benefit unit. It is your child's eligibility that will be affected, not your own. As mentioned earlier, the financial difference is not as great as you might think, since the additional amount you receive for your child will be offset to some degree by the deduction of a portion of the Child Tax Benefit.
- Ontario Works Act
- Regulation 134/98 - General:
Works Policy Directives:
- Directive #3.9: Dependent Children (used to be Directive 21)
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