Community groups ask Auditor General to ensure welfare computer system has emergency back-up system in place

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

Eight social justice organizations and churches from across BC have asked the BC Auditor General to look into whether the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation has appropriate contingency plans in place should the computer system used to administer welfare crash again.

Beginning in late April, 2014, the Ministry’s Integrated Case Management (ICM) computer system remained mostly offline for more than two weeks. During this time, the Ministry was not able to provide many of its clients with much-needed services, including shelter and support payments, security deposits, crisis grants, and eligibility assessments for people with an immediate need for welfare.

We saw first-hand the chaos and stress that the failure of ICM caused to our clients and want the Ministry to have a plan to ensure that it never happens again

Kris Sutherland, Kettle Friendship Society

The request was filed with the Auditor General today by the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, First United Church Community Ministry Society, Kettle Friendship Society, Okanagan Advocacy & Resource Society, Together Against Poverty Society, Vancouver South Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, and Wilson Heights United Church Advocacy Program.

Kris Sutherland, Manager of Advocacy Services at the Kettle Friendship Society said “We saw first-hand the chaos and stress that the failure of ICM caused to our clients and want the Ministry to have a plan to ensure that it never happens again.”

Sarah Khan, Staff Lawyer with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, added that “The ICM has created additional barriers to accessing services for people in need of welfare, we are hopeful that the Ministry can work with the Auditor General to fix the problems so that vulnerable people are still able to access services and don’t risk losing their housing and the ability to meet their basic needs.”

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Support a Legislated Poverty Reduction Act in BC

BCPIAC Letter in Support of a Legislated Poverty Reduction Act in BC

May 14, 2014 | Erin Pritchard

Honourable Christy Clark, MLA
Premier of British Columbia
PO Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9E1

Re:      Bill M212 – Poverty Reduction and Economic Inclusion Act

Dear Premier Clark:

We write to urge you to support Bill M212: Poverty Reduction and Economic Inclusion Act, introduced on May 6, 2014 by NDP MLA Michelle Mungall.

BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) is a non-profit, public interest law office that provides representation to groups that would not otherwise have the resources to effectively assert their interests.  As we represent the interests of marginalized people in British Columbia, we have a strong interest in seeing the government take a sincere approach to addressing poverty in the province.

The time for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy in British Columbia is long past due.  As one of the last two provinces without a poverty reduction strategy, BC has also had the highest rate of poverty in Canada for the last 13 years, and the highest rate of child poverty for the past ten years.  This level of income inequality is unacceptable in a province as wealthy as British Columbia.

It is insufficient to claim that “growing our economy” is the best way to lift people out of poverty.

It is insufficient to claim that “growing our economy” is the best way to lift people out of poverty. Focusing solely on assisting people into the workforce provides no relief for people who are unable to work, such as those with prolonged illness or severe disabilities. It also fails to recognize the multitude of barriers in addition to unemployment (and precarious employment) that lead to poverty and keep people there (i.e. discrimination, low literacy levels and language barriers, lack of affordable housing, single parenthood, etc.). The proposed Bill recognizes the need to address impediments to employment for people living in poverty, but acknowledges that this is not a comprehensive solution.

By requiring a strategy that includes specific and legislated targets and timelines, as well as provisions for monitoring and public reporting on progress, the proposed Act provides a framework for developing a concrete path to economic inclusion.  Bill M212 also sets out requirements for meaningful consultation with the community and calls for “special attention to the views of those living in poverty”; this is critical to ensure that any actual measures are informed by those the strategy is intended to assist.

We trust that the government will agree that poverty is a complex multifaceted issue that requires a broad, sincere, and immediate response.  We ask you to take this opportunity to show leadership on this issue, and support Bill M212.

Sincerely,

BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Erin Pritchard
Barrister & Solicitor

c:
Hon. Don McRae, MLA, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation
Hon. Stephanie Cadieux, MLA, Minister of Children and Family Development
John Horgan, MLA, Leader of the Opposition
Michelle Mungall, MLA Nelson – Creston
Sam Sullivan, MLA Vancouver – False CreekBC Poverty Reduction Coalition