Ontario's new Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) computer system is creating chaos for recipients of social assistance. Ontario Public Service Employees Union is seeking an injunction to avoid even further harm being inflicted on some of the province's most vulnerable people.
Toronto (18 Dec. 2014) — OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has announced that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) will seek an injunction against the Ontario government to halt the flawed Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) computer system that is responsible for the management and payment delivery to tens of thousands of Ontarians relying on social assistance.
Rights of some of the province's most vulnerable people violated
Since the implementation of the new computer system on November 12, there have been hundreds of computer problems causing millions of dollars in over- and underpayments or, in some cases, resulting in recipients receiving no money at all. Thomas said that in the injunction he will also seek a declaration that the government violated the rights of social assistance recipients under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by implementing a system they knew was flawed.
“Despite our repeated warnings, the Ministry of Community and Social Services went ahead and implemented this system, which in turn disadvantaged the most vulnerable people in this province,” Thomas said. “From day one, OPSEU-represented caseworkers in both the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) reported serious concerns with SAMS. Many recipients failed to receive necessary program supports such as health benefits, drug and dental cards, medical transportation, special diet allowances and mandatory special necessities for their particular health conditions.”
Introduction of new system has created chaos
Thomas said the bottom line is that SAMS has introduced chaos into the ODSP and OW programs. “Recipients of social assistance are losing trust in a critical public service,” Thomas said. “Our members, working in both programs, are doing their absolute best to try and minimize the impacts, but in spite of their best efforts the number of program flaws grows by the day, and staff are beginning to feel helpless.”
Thomas said that the Ministry has the ability to fix the system without further harming those who rely on it. “The old system is still running, and could be used while they fix all the bugs in this new system. The government must act, and act quickly, before there is further damage.”
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