The Province of Ontario is modernizing the application process for social assistance with a new online system, and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent is taking part in the initial development.
Provincial officials say the new online application will create a streamlined process to apply for social assistance, providing critical financial supports to those affected by COVID-19.
These advancements are being prototyped in Chatham-Kent, Hamilton, York Region, District of Parry Sound, Durham, Greater Sudbury, and County of Renfrew.
The centralized intake process will process applications more quickly and reduce time-consuming paperwork for caseworkers, giving them more time to support their clients and help them get back to work, Provincial officials say.
“We know COVID-19 is continuing to have a significant economic impact on people, and that many Ontarians face the possibility of longer-term unemployment,” stated Todd Smith, Minister of Children Community and Social Services, in a media release.
“Providing critical supports for people in need more quickly is our top priority. By modernizing the system we can make the application process easier for people to use, while easing the administrative burden on our caseworkers so they can spend more time with clients.”
Provincial officials say the first phase of the prototype includes:
– A mobile-friendly online application
– Automated assessment to process applications more quickly
– A streamlined process for social assistance applicants to confirm their identity online, reducing the need for applicants to come into a physical office during the pandemic.
As part of the government’s Social Assistance Recovery and Renewal Plan, the prototype is building on enhancements already underway to improve social assistance, make digital services easier to access, and help more people re-enter the workforce, Provincial officials added.
Over 750 Ontario Works applications have been successfully submitted through the new centralized intake process since the prototypes were launched on November 2, 2020, Provincial officials say.
Caseworkers spend approximately 15 per cent of their day processing social assistance applications.
Ontario Works receives approximately 180,000 applications annually, Provincial officials added.