Ombudsman Probes Ontario’s Education Payment Program

Syed Azam

The Ontario Ombudsman has launched an investigation into the province’s direct education payment program

The Ontario Ombudsman has launched an investigation into the province’s direct education payment program, implemented by Premier Doug Ford’s government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investigation stems from complaints by parents who were denied funding, allegedly because someone else had already claimed the money for their child. Some parents reported that relatives who weren’t even caring for the child received the funds, with no way to recover them.

“We heard unsettling accounts from parents who not only missed out on funding for the children they care for, but also weren’t informed who actually received the payments,” stated Ombudsman Paul Dube. “This issue has been reported across multiple versions of the program, and this latest iteration likely won’t be the last.”

The investigation aims to uncover the root cause of the problem and suggest improvements for future iterations of the program, ensuring its fairness and transparency.

Since 2020, Ontario parents have received four rounds of direct payments, originally intended to support at-home learning during school closures. The government has since expanded the program to include support for both at-home learning and tutoring to help students “catch up.” The latest version of the program was budgeted at approximately $225 million over two years.

Parents applied online, providing their child’s school, date of birth, and preferred payment method. The government website clearly states that only one parent or guardian can apply per student.

Despite this, the Ombudsman’s investigation addresses concerns about fraudulent claims and lack of transparency regarding who received the funds.

The Ministry of Education defended the program, citing its support for 2.2 million students and its alignment with expert recommendations for tutoring assistance. They confirmed their cooperation with the Ombudsman’s investigation.

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