Upholding Fairness in the City’s Process

30 April 2021

Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) provides financial assistance to the families of deceased Toronto residents whose estates do not have sufficient funds to cover the cost of a basic funeral, burial and/or cremation.

Two different families told us they had applied for this financial support, but their applications were denied. Specifically, they complained that TESS had not agreed to give them partial payment for the funeral services of their family members, both of whom had very little income at the time of their death.

The families also told us that funeral and burial services for their family members had to be completed within a day after death, in keeping with the tenets of their respective faiths. They worried that this might have impacted their eligibility, since the TESS policy on its face requires applications for funeral benefits to be made before the funeral and burial take place.

We contacted TESS, who assured us that its policy includes an exception involving religious funerals and confirmed that the families’ applications were not denied because they were submitted after the funeral and burial, but because they did not meet the financial eligibility requirements.

TESS also told us that it does not provide partial payments, which is stated in its policy. Staff further explained that providing financial assistance for funeral services is a discretionary support. TESS has decided to offer this support only to residents who are most in need and does not believe it is reasonable to provide partial payments in cases which do not meet the eligibility criteria.

After looking into the matter further and considering all the circumstances, we found no evidence of unfairness in TESS’s decision to deny the families’ applications. We shared our findings with the families.

Why This Matters: Sometimes after gathering and considering all the available evidence, we find that the City’s policies and procedures were, in fact, applied fairly. Regardless of whether we ultimately find unfairness or not, all people deserve to have their issues taken seriously and investigated objectively.