December 23, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

King’s faculty in sociology and social work through The London Poverty Research Centre at King’s University College have compiled data on social assistance use from the Ontario Ministry of Community of Social Services. Dr. Don Kerr, professor of sociology at King’s, and Dr. Tracy Smith-Carrier, professor of social work at King’s, conducted an analysis of administrative data on persons participating in either Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The analysis highlights social assistance use in the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of London, and documents how London compares with other CMAs in Southwestern Ontario. They have also charted social assistance use over the last decade for both London and other CMAs in the region (2003-2014).

Overall, London is shown here to have a higher than average caseload relative to the population in comparison to most other CMAs in the region. The research shows a substantial increase in the number of Londoners on social assistance, particularly since the recession of 2008. A particularly important part of this increase has been the dramatic growth in the number of persons who obtain social assistance due to disability (ODSP). It is suggested here that all of this has important consequences, not only for those living on social assistance, but also for the local economy, the demand for social services, the health care system, the local work force and the broader community.


  • About 40,800 persons are on social assistance in the CMA of London in 2014, with 21,300 on OW and 19,500 on ODSP. Of the CMA’s total population (502,700 in 2014) amounting to roughly 1 in 12 of all persons residing in the London CMA.
  • 8.1 per cent of the London CMA lives on social assistance (OW or ODSP) as of 2014. This is significantly higher than the provincial average at 6.7 per cent.
  • Roughly 1 in 12 in the London CMA are on social assistance, which compares with roughly 1 in 15 Ontarians for the province overall.
  • Over the last decade, the number of persons on OW in London has increased at a rate that is more than double the CMA’s rate of population growth (i.e. up by 18.2 per cent relative to only 8.6 per cent for population growth the full 2003-2014 period).
  • Over the same period (2003-2014), the number of persons on ODSP has increased at a rate that is more than seven times London’s rate of population growth (up 63.6 and 8.6 per cent respectively).
  • 1 in 8 preschoolers (ages 0-4) are on social assistance (12.3 per cent). Among women aged 20-24, roughly 1 in 9 Londoners are on social assistance (10.9 per cent), with a large proportion sole parents with young children.
  • In terms of OW, London has the second highest per cent on OW across 9 CMAs in Southwestern Ontario, second only to Windsor (the comparison CMAs are: Toronto, Barrie, Guelph, Brantford, Cambridge-Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, St. Catherine’s-Niagara and Windsor).
  • In terms of the total on social assistance, including both OW and ODSP, London has the third highest per cent, with only Windsor and St. Catherine’s-Niagara having a higher per cent on OW/ODSP.
  • London’s participation rate for social assistance (ODSP/OW combined) is about 45 per cent higher than in Toronto (at 8.1 and 5.6 per cent, respectively).