Ontario’s welfare caseload computer system a disaster, says Thomas | National Union of Public and General Employees

Ontario’s welfare caseload computer system a disaster, says Thomas

“We have poured millions of taxpayers’ dollars into a system that is creating real hardship for people who depend on social assistance. At a certain point, we should cut our losses and move on.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President. 

Toronto (23 March 2015) — The latest $5 million “one-time-only” bailout for the province’s welfare computer program should be the final nail in its coffin, said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).

Ontario government keeps throwing money at failed computer system

“The hits just keep on coming: first $3 million in early December, $5 million later in December, another $5 million in January, and now another $5 million. That’s on top of the $242 million we paid for the clunker in the first place," said Thomas.

“And this isn’t money being spent to correct the problems with the system. This is money to partially compensate municipalities for their overtime, training and other costs associated with trying to make the darned thing work. I have no idea what they are paying IBM for the work of trying to correct the mess,” he said.

“We have poured millions of taxpayers’ dollars into a system that is creating real hardship for people who depend on social assistance, and that is causing untold stress on the front-line workers charged with making the thing work. At a certain point, we should cut our losses and move on.”

Thomas said the complaints about the Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) were coming from every imaginable direction: from the clients whose cheques are too large, too small, or non-existent; from the municipalities trying to operate the program to serve their citizens; from the staff who are struggling to support their clients. “It’s just a disaster.”

SAMS = Slow As Molasses

Among the municipalities having difficulty with SAMS is the City of Ottawa, so much so that the staff working with the system have called it "slow as molasses." 

According to internal emails obtained by the CBC, front-line workers are having to work overtime to fix many of the errors the system has made to ensure distressed recipients receive their correct payments. 

The costs associated with fixing the problems are escalating. The Ontario government has agreed to cover the staffing costs associated with the SAMS problems. The CBC has reported that on December 9, 2014, city councillors were notified that the ministry formally announced it would provide Ottawa $221,900 to offset overtime costs incurred and expected in the coming months. A report from city council last month estimated the annual cost to manage the system and ensure people got their cheques on time would be $4 million. So far, the province has given the city $443,775 in implementation funding for 2014 and 2015.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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