Ontario pours another $5 million into problem-plagued welfare computer system

Posted on March 19, 2015 in Social Security Delivery System

TheStar.com – News/Canada – Ontario is spending another $5 million to help municipalities deal with costs from the troubled SAMS welfare caseload computer system.
Mar 19 2015.   By: Donovan Vincent, News reporter

With no apparent end in sight to the problems, Ontario is now giving an additional $5 million to municipalities that continue to rack up bills for overtime and training related to the province’s troubled new welfare caseload computer system.

The announcement Thursday afternoon brings the grand total of additional money the province has had to pay out for SAMS-related costs such as training, overtime, and additional hires for Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, to just over $20 million.

That doesn’t include the $242 million the province spent developing the system.

SAMS (Social Assistance Management System) a large computer software program from IBM that rolled out last November, manages case files and payments for more than half a million social assistance recipients in Ontario. Caseworkers across the province use SAMS to manage client files.

But glitches and major functionality issues are creating nightmares for those caseworkers.

The worst problem came in late November when SAMS assigned overpayments to 17,000 clients, totalling $20 million, money the province and its municipalities have had to scramble to recover.

The system has also caused some clients to receive little or none of their social assistance.

In February the province announced up to $300,000 for an independent review to look into SAMS problems.

The funds announced Thursday are for SAMS problems on the Ontario Works side, and will come out of the ministry of Community and Social Service’s existing social assistance administration budget, Amber Anderson, press secretary for Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek, said in a statement.

“While SAMS is improving social assistance in Ontario, its implementation has had challenges and must be improved. In the first year of introducing a new technology there will be additional operating costs such as staff overtime as we work with our delivery partners to fully normalize use of the new platform,” Anderson said in a statement Thursday.

The announcement comes as municipalities across the province stepped up demands for funds to cover 100 per cent of costs for “service impacts’’ stemming from SAMS.

On Monday, the city of Ottawa’s deputy city manager Steve Kanellakos released a damning report that estimated the city by itself will need $4 million to manage service impacts from SAMS.

“With the failure of SAMS to keep up with regular business, there has been a major strain’’ on social services staff in Ottawa, Kanellakos said in his report.

< http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/03/19/ontario-pours-another-5-million-into-problem-plagued-welfare-computer-system.html >

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