By Matthew Robinson, Vancouver Sun
The Opposition Critic for Social Development says a major glitch in a multimillion dollar provincial computer system is putting vulnerable children and adults at serious risk.
The province’s Integrated Case Management system, which handles information from a range of ministries, has been crashing repeatedly, said Michelle Mungall, the MLA for Nelson-Creston.
“For the last week it has essentially been down. It might come back on for an hour and then it crashes and people can’t get on it – people who are working on the front line,” she said.
Mungall said the system problems are affecting the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, and effectively mean that people receiving income support may not be getting the cheques they rely on, and children in protection are on their own.
“They have social workers who are responsible for ensuring their protection and right now the social workers are not able to get the data they need and do the things they need to do to provide those services,” she said.
Since the system outage, officials have been working with hard copy case files, according to a Tuesday statement from the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
The files “will be pulled as necessary and updated through phone calls to ensure impacts to critical services – especially those related to child protection – are mitigated,” read the statement.
“Further, we are instituting common processes across the province to ensure consistency around how we are approaching our work. This will help with tracking and sharing information as appropriate to ensure children are safe.”
All income and disability assistance cheques went out to British Columbians for the month of May, according to a statement from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.
“The Ministry has the ability to provide services to clients with a crisis need,” read the statement. That includes those in need of meal tickets, grocery cards, arrangements for taxis or overnight shelters, and referrals to community agencies and resources.
The statement ended saying that “a cross-ministry technical team is in place and working on a solution.”
Mungall said the government needed to “apologize to British Columbians for not coming clean sooner.”
She said the problem needed to be fixed immediately and looking into the long term, there needed to be a plan in place so that computer problems would not worsen the lives of people who are living in poverty and children at risk.
It is not the first time the province’s Integrated Case Management system, designed to improve information flow in the child welfare system, has come under fire.
The Liberals admitted in 2012 the system needed to be fixed shortly after Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, said the $182-million program is inadequate. Turpel-Lafond said she started receiving concerns from front-line workers about difficulty conducting searches, finding records and preparing court documents shortly after the program started earlier that year.
The integrated case-management system project began in 2008 with plans to replace outdated government computer information used to deliver social programs, including child protection, child care subsidies and income assistance.