Policy Directive: CW 002-18 – Ontario Child Benefit Equivalent (OCBE)



This Policy Directive replaces Policy Directive CW 001-14, which came into effect on October 1, 2014.

Introduction

On June 26, 2008, the Minister of Children and Youth Services announced that the provincial government would provide funding equivalent to the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) directly to children's aid societies (societies) in respect of children and youth in care and in customary care[1]. This funding would consist of monthly payments to societies eligible to receive the Children's Special Allowance (CSA) in respect of the child or youth, commencing July 2008, and is known as the Ontario Child Benefit (OCBE).

On January 1, 2018, legislative amendments to the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) to raise the age of protection were proclaimed. These amendments include the Voluntary Youth Services Agreement (VYSA) for youth who are 16 or 17. This cohort of youth is not in the legal care of a society, but they are provided with supports comparable to youth in care, and the society is responsible for the maintenance of youth in a VYSA. The provisions concerning the age of protection are carried forward in the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA).

On April 30, 2018, an amendment to Ontario Regulation 257/09 under the Ontario Child Benefit Equivalent Act, which expands OCBE eligibility to include youth in a VYSA, will come into force.

The objective of this policy is to provide all children and youth in care and in customary care, ages 0 to 17, with access to recreational, educational, cultural and social opportunities that support their achievement of higher educational outcomes, a higher degree of resiliency, social skills and relationship development, and a smoother transition to adulthood ("Activities Program"). This directive also expands OCBE eligibility to youth in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA.

In addition to the Activities Program, youth in care or customary care, ages 15 to 17, and youth in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA, will also participate in a program to save OCBE funds, thereby building their financial assets to better prepare them for independent living ("Savings Program"). Societies and youth will work together to develop a plan concerning how these funds will be used to support their transition from care or out of the VYSA (e.g., education, housing).

The Savings Program will provide all eligible youth with:

  • Financial skills to help prepare them for independent living; and
  • Savings to assist with the costs of their basic needs upon leaving care or the termination or expiry of the VYSA.

Youth participating in the Savings Program will continue to be eligible to access the Activities Program in accordance with the plan for the youth (e.g. plan of care, Voluntary Youth Services Plan).

OCBE Activities Program Requirements

This Policy Directive, issued under s. 42 of the CYFSA, requires societies to manage the OCBE payments for the Activities Program in the following manner:

  1. Each society shall establish a separate general ledger account to hold and pool all OCBE payments (hereafter "the Fund") made by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (hereafter "the Ministry"). This Fund shall be separate from the society's child welfare operating fund(s) and from any other accounts. The Fund shall not be used for expenditures other than those articulated in this Directive (see Requirement #8 below for ineligible expenditures).
  2. Use of the Fund shall support the achievement of the following (short, medium and long-term) outcomes:
    1. Higher Educational Achievement
      • To be supported through a child or youth's participation in activities that maximize his or her learning potential and promote success in early learning, primary and secondary educational settings, and the future pursuit of post-secondary education and vocational learning opportunities.
      • Examples of higher educational achievement activities: early learning activities, including child care; one-to-one tutoring; school uniforms; courses not offered through a Board of Education; books and tools that promote literacy skills; school trips; tools or supplies necessary for vocational training.
    2. Higher Degree of Resiliency, Social Skills and Relationship Development
      • To be supported through a child or youth's participation in activities that promote social skills and interpersonal relationship development.
      • Examples of higher degree of resiliency, social skills and relationship development activities: musical instruments and lessons; art supplies and lessons; sports equipment; program registration fees; admission or event fees; camp fees; activities that enhance contact with family or significant others; activities that support a mentorship relationship or connection with a caring, responsible adult(s).
    3. Smoother Transition to Adulthood
      • To be supported through a child or youth's participation in activities that promote the development of the knowledge and skills necessary to transition from care and live independently, including knowing how and where to access required supports.
      • Examples of smoother transition to adulthood activities: life skills courses including meal planning, interpersonal skills, stress management, pre-employment preparation, visits to post-secondary institutions, driver's training.

      Note:

      • The examples listed above are included for illustrative purposes only. Societies are not limited to the examples provided above.
  1. Each society shall provide all children and youth in care, or in customary care, with an opportunity to benefit from the Fund, regardless of whether or not the society receives or has received OCBE payments on their behalf.
  2. Based on the plan for each child or youth, the society shall identify goals related to his or her participation in recreational, educational, cultural and social activities in support of the achievement of the three outcomes noted in Activities Program Requirement #2 above. The actions taken to achieve these goals (e.g., including accessing the Fund, where appropriate) shall be documented on the child or youth's file.
  3. Societies shall consider a range of inputs (e.g., advice from care providers, educators, professionals, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities), and shall actively involve children and youth, where appropriate, and based on the child's stage of development, in planning the programs and activities in which children and youth will participate.
  4. Societies shall use the Fund only for expenditures incurred after November 14, 2008.
  5. Societies shall use the Fund for expenditures relating to activities that support the achievement of the three outcomes noted in Activities Program Requirement #2 above. Examples of activities to be accommodated by the Fund are included in Activities Program Requirement #2 above.
  6. Societies shall not use the Fund for:
    1. Staffing or staffing-related costs;
    2. Expenditures relating to medical, dental, clinical, and/or therapeutic services for a child, including assessments; or
    3. Travel for access visits that in the normal course of business would be managed within a society's approved budget allocation.
  7. Where a lack of community programming limits access to appropriate programming to meet the needs identified in the plan for the child or youth (e.g., in remote or under-served communities), societies may use the Fund to contract with third parties to provide specific services responsive to those needs on a temporary basis.
  8. Each society shall review its operating policies and procedures for the use of the Fund and update them accordingly. Updated documents shall be reviewed by its Ministry Regional Office, as appropriate, to ensure compliance with this Directive.
  9. Society operating policies and procedures shall enable access to the Fund in an administratively expedient manner such that the administrative process is not a barrier to a child's timely participation in relevant recreational, educational, cultural and social opportunities.
  10. Societies will ensure that every use of the Fund is endorsed by the child or youth's caseworker in accordance with their agency's approved policies.
  11. Societies shall ensure that their staff, foster parents, residential care operators, children and youth in care, and youth in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA are knowledgeable about the purpose of the Fund and its related operating policies and procedures.
  12. Societies shall document and report on the use of the Fund as required by the Ministry and set out in this Directive.

OCBE Savings Program Requirements

This Policy Directive, issued under s. 42 of the CYFSA, requires societies to manage OCBE payments for the Savings Program in the following manner:

  1. A youth is eligible (hereafter "eligible youth") to participate in the Savings Program when the youth:
    • Is age 15, 16 or 17; and
    • Has been in the care of a society or in customary care for 12 or more consecutive months, or is a youth in a VYSA with a society and the society is in receipt of the CSA for the youth.
  2. When a youth becomes eligible to participate in the Savings Program, the youth's worker shall inform the youth about the Savings Program, including:
    • Specific requirements for the Savings Program (see Savings Program Requirement 8); and
    • Methods and timing of disbursement of savings to eligible youth (see Savings Program Requirements 11 and 12).
  1. For each youth participating in the Savings Program, societies shall allocate the current monthly OCBE payment per youth to the Savings Program for each month that the youth is in care or in customary care, or in a VYSA. The OCBE payments are to be saved (hereafter "savings") by societies on behalf of eligible youth.
  2. Where a youth has been in care or in customary care for 12 consecutive months when he or she turns 15 years old, societies shall allocate the OCBE payment amounts to the Savings Program for that youth beginning with the month that the youth turned 15 years old.
  3. Where a youth meets the eligibility requirement of being in care or in customary care for 12 consecutive months after he or she turns 15 years old, societies shall allocate the OCBE payment amounts to the Savings Program for that youth starting with the month that he or she turned 15 years old or came into care or customary care, whichever occurred later.

    Where a youth enters into a VYSA, the society shall allocate OCBE savings funds into a savings account, starting with the month the society begins receiving CSA payments on behalf of the youth. Where CSA payments are received later than the effective date of the VYSA, the society shall deposit OCBE savings funds retroactively to when the VYSA came into effect.

  4. Societies may hold the savings for eligible youth within their Fund with ledger accounting for individual youth, or in a separate general ledger account with ledger accounting for individual youth, in accordance with the society's business practices and generally accepted accounting principles. Funds allocated to the Savings Program shall not be used by societies for any purposes other than providing savings to assist youth with their basic needs upon leaving care or the expiry or termination of the youth's VYSA, as set out in this Directive.
  5. Societies shall generate and provide savings statements at least twice per year (i.e. once every six months) to each eligible youth and to the worker assigned to the youth that indicate the amount of savings, including any interest accrued, being held on the youth's behalf.
  6. Societies shall disburse savings to each eligible youth using one of three methods of disbursement that has been agreed upon with the youth and meets the youth's needs and interests:
    • Total amount directly to youth;
    • Total amount to third parties on behalf of youth; or
    • Partial amount directly to youth and partial amount to third parties on behalf of youth.

    Societies shall determine the method of disbursement for each eligible youth as set out in Savings Program Requirements 11 and 12 below.

    The discussion with the youth about the options for disbursement and the agreed upon approach shall be documented in the youth's file.

  1. Societies shall work with each eligible youth to assist them to meet the following requirements for the Savings Program (hereafter "Savings Program Requirements"):
    • Acquire financial skills and demonstrate financial competency relevant for independent living;
    • Establish a personal bank account, or an alternative savings mechanism to receive funds where banking is not feasible; and
    • Develop an appropriate plan for the use of the savings.
  1. To support eligible youth to meet the Savings Program requirements, societies shall make available to each eligible youth a program, which is consistent with the Ministry's financial literacy program framework, to acquire financial skills and demonstrate financial competency appropriate to the youth's cognitive and developmental skills (hereafter "Financial Literacy Program). This Financial Literacy Program shall be delivered to each youth either through the society directly or another entity (e.g., community-based youth-serving agency) that has expertise in effectively teaching financial skills to youth.
  2. Societies shall disburse the total savings, including any interest, to eligible youth no later than six months after society care, customary care, or the VYSA has ended for that youth with no prospect of resumption unless otherwise agreed to by the youth, but no later than 12 months after society care, customary care, or the VYSA has ended. The discussion with the youth about the timing of disbursement and the agreed upon approach shall be documented in the youth's file.
  3. In exceptional circumstances (e.g., youth completing a Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) custodial sentence after age 18) societies shall have the discretion to extend the time period within which the savings must be disbursed to eligible youth.

  4. Where a youth has successfully met the Savings Program requirements, the society shall disburse the total savings, including any interest, to the youth directly into his or her bank account (or an alternative mechanism where banking is not feasible).
  5. Where a youth has not successfully met the Savings Program requirements, the society shall meet with the youth to establish a plan for the disbursement of all or part of the savings to third parties (e.g., rent payments to landlord) on behalf of the youth.
  1. Society workers shall record discussions with the youth regarding the Savings Program in the youth's file, including discussions about the:
    • Savings Program requirements;
    • Methods of disbursement and when the funds will be disbursed, including the agreement that was reached with the youth in these regards;
    • Savings statements that are generated twice a year (i.e. once every six months); and
    • Youth's progress in meeting the Savings Program requirements.
  1. Societies shall inform society staff, foster parents, residential care operators, and probation officers/case managers (where applicable) about the purpose of the Savings Program and encourage them to discuss this program and the youth's progress with respect to the Savings Program requirements as opportunities arise.
  2. Each society shall review its operating policies and procedures for the Savings Program and update them accordingly. Updated documents shall be reviewed by its Ministry Regional Office, as appropriate, for compliance with this Directive.
  3. Societies shall develop and monitor written protocols that enable effective case coordination and planning to take place between society workers and probation officers/case managers for youth eligible to participate in the Savings Program who are placed in detention or serving a YCJA custodial sentence while in the care of a society or in a VYSA.
  4. In cases where an eligible youth cannot be located at the time that society care, customary care, or the VYSA has ended, the society shall hold the funds saved on behalf of the youth for a maximum of one year from the date that care, customary care, or the VYSA ended, or one year from the agreed upon date of disbursement (if the disbursement date was delayed past six months per Savings Program requirement 10 above), to allow for the society to make reasonable efforts to locate the youth or for the youth to contact the society, and document these efforts in the youth's file. If the savings are not disbursed to the eligible youth within the one year period, the society shall re-allocate these funds to the Activities Program.
  5. Where an eligible youth dies prior to qualifying for the disbursement of the savings, the society shall re-allocate these funds to the Activities Program.
  6. Societies shall continue to provide any and all financial supports currently provided by the society to youth participating in the Savings Program. The provision of savings shall not have a detrimental impact on a youth's overall eligibility to receive other funds or services provided by the society as he or she transitions from care or out of the VYSA, including funds that may be provided through a Continued Care and Support for Youth agreement with the society.

OCBE Payments

OCBE payments will be made to each society monthly. The monthly payment will be equivalent to the number of children and youth for whom the society is receiving the CSA for that month (as provided by the Canada Revenue Agency) multiplied by the current maximum monthly OCB amount. Consistent with the CSA process administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, societies will receive the OCBE payments one month in arrears.

i.e., number of children and youth for whom the society receives the CSA for a given month x OCB maximum monthly benefit per child (OCBE payment) = monthly OCBE amount flowed to the society

The Fund may be accessed on behalf of any child or youth in care or customary care, ages 0 to 17, for the purposes of facilitating participation in identified recreational, educational, cultural and social opportunities regardless of whether or not a society has applied for the CSA on their behalf.

The Fund may be accessed on behalf of a youth in a VYSA for the purposes of facilitating participation in identified recreational, educational, cultural and social opportunities once the society has started receiving CSA payments on behalf of the youth.

OCBE Fund Administration

Societies shall access the Fund to support the achievement of the outcomes identified in this Directive.

Recreational, educational, cultural and social opportunities must be considered for all children and youth in care or customary care between 0 to 17 years of age and youth in a VYSA, ages 16 and 17, for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA, in alignment with the plan for each individual child. In addition to accessing the Fund for recreational, educational, cultural and social opportunities for older youth in care or in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA, the Fund shall also be accessed for older youth in care between 15 to 17 years of age and youth in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA in support of their participation in the Savings Program.

Managing OCBE Funds and Reporting Activity

Each society shall report revenues, expenditures and the balance of the Fund as a separate general ledger Fund in agency year-end Audited Financial Statements, and annual reports to the ministry, and in other reports or reviews as requested.

Each society may retain eligible but unspent monies held in the Fund for use in a future year for the purposes described by this Directive. Any interest accrued by the Fund will remain in the Fund to be used for the purposes described by this Directive.

Societies are not permitted to use monies in the Fund for any purpose other than those specified by this Directive. In the annual report to the Ministry, society executive directors are required to confirm by signature that all OCBE funds used within the fiscal year met the requirements of this Policy Directive and were not used on any ineligible expenses as outlined in Requirement #8 of the Activities Program section.

For reporting purposes to the Ministry, societies will identify whether higher educational achievement, higher degree of resiliency, social skills and relationship building, or smoother transition to adulthood is the outcome that most closely matches the goal of the funded activity, as identified in the plan for the child.

Using the Template provided by the Ministry, societies shall report to the Ministry on an annual basis as follows:

Activities Program

  1. Number of children and youth in care and in customary care between 0 to 17 and youth in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA, on whose behalf the Fund has been accessed and percentage of total children and youth in care and in customary care and youth in a VYSA for whom the society is in receipt of the CSA accessing the Fund.
  2. Of the total number of children and youth who participated in activities/programs, number and percentage of total Fund users, by age, who participated in activities focussed on:
    1. Higher educational achievement;
    2. Higher degree of resiliency, social skills and relationship building;
    3. Smoother transition to adulthood.
  3. Expenditures by:
    1. Higher educational achievement;
    2. Higher degree of resiliency, social skills and relationship building;
    3. Smoother transition to adulthood; and
  4. Total fiscal year revenues into, and expenditures from, the Fund.

Savings Program

  1. Total amount of OCBE revenues being allocated to the Savings Program;
  2. Total number of eligible youth for whom OCBE funds are being held in the Savings Program;
  3. Total number of eligible youth, by age, who received OCBE funds from the Savings Program;
  4. Total amount of OCBE funds paid out of the Savings Program to eligible youth, by age; and
  5. Total number of eligible youth, by age, who received either a lump sum OCBE payment or on whose behalf the society made structured OCBE payments to the youth and/or third parties.

Effective Date

This policy directive will come into effect on April 30, 2018

Issuance Of Policy Directive CW 002-18: April 13, 2018

Original signed by:

Jennifer Morris, Assistant Deputy Minister
Policy Development and Program Design Division
Ministry of Children and Youth Services

Nadia Cornacchia, Assistant Deputy Minister
Service Delivery Division
Ministry of Children and Youth Services

Footnotes

[1] "Children and youth in care and in customary care" refers to children who are in the care of a society either pursuant to a court order or a Temporary Care Agreement made under the Child and Family Services Act before April 30, 2018, or under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act after April 29, 2018 and children in customary care. Customary care means the care and supervision of a First Nations, Inuit or Métis child by a person who is not the child's parent according to the custom of the child's community. The home must meet foster care licensing regulations and standards, there must be a customary care agreement in place, the child must be supervised by a society, and a customary care Band or First Nations, Inuit or Métis community declaration must be in place.

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