The Carlington Summit
by by Sonia Levesque-Parsons.
Community Legal Worker.
West End Legal Services.

In October 1998, we were made aware that a Consolidation Verification Process (CVP) was being conducted in the Ontario Works offices. What CVP does is essentially an investigation of every Welfare file. A team of people has been assigned to this project.

When a file is identified for CVP, the person receiving welfare receives a letter identifying what documents are needed. The list of documents resembles the documents that are required on a yearly update. However, other documents are also requested. The person must submit these documents within a certain amount of time or their cheques are withheld. This practice creates great concerns.

Firstly, many files transferred from the old Family Benefits to Ontario Works were subject to CVP at the end of 1998. Therefore, this suggests that a person can be put through a CVP twice in the matter of 15 months.

Secondly, the letter which lists what documents are needed states that should the person not comply with the request, he/she may not receive a cheque. The practice of holding cheques is illegal. The Ontario Works Act clearly states that a person is to be notified in writing of a suspension. The notice must indicate the reasons and also explain the appeal rights. The CVP does not do this and as it is not a proper notice, it is questionable whether a person has a right of appeal.

Thirdly, the information requested can sometimes be viewed as unreasonable. For example, bank records may be requested where a person must pay the bank up-front for the cost of the search. The Ontario Works office does provide funds for this, but only as a reimbursement. Clearly, with the Ontario Works rates, it is unreasonable to ask a person to pay for a search which can cost $35.00 per hour.

There have been situations where requests for verification have been unreasonable. One example is that of a 20 year old who was asked to produce information on a bank account opened for him when he was 4 years old and that has been closed for many years. This type of information is archived at banks and very difficult to obtain and is very costly. In the meantime, the person may see his/her Welfare cheque withheld while the information is gathered.

Finally, there are many people in receipt of Ontario Works who have applied for Ontario Disability Support Program. Many applicants of Ontario Disability Support Program suffer from severe disabilities and are unable to comply with the strict demands of welfare. These people may see their Ontario Works assistance jeopardized which in turn jeopardizes their application for disability.

The purpose of CVP is to ensure that people receiving Welfare are entitled to it. However, the manner in which this is conducted leads additional costs to taxpayers. It involves legal representation and appeals, which are very costly. If you encounter problems as a result of a CVP, please call your local community clinic. For residents west of Holland and Fisher Avenue, please call West End Legal Services at 596-1641.