Wait times for welfare phone line soar

December 15, 2015

Wait times for welfare phone line soar

Recent media reports have exposed the soaring wait times experienced by people seeking welfare assistance from the Ministry for Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI). Wait times for the ministry's automated telephone inquiry line shot up to nearly 58 minutes last August and averaged 53 minutes the following month. 

The CBC and the Vancouver Sun reported these times, citing documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC). 

BCPIAC is currently assisting individuals with complaints about access to welfare services, with support from the BCGEU.

“The Ministry of Social Development’s move to a transactional service delivery model has severely restricted access to welfare services and benefits for some of the province's most vulnerable people. Offices have either closed or have only restricted hours and long lines are common. This needs to change,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

Critics have also pointed out that many people in need of social assistance do not have access to computers and telephones as MSDSI moves away from face-to-face services. In a 2014 survey for the union's Choose Children campaign, frontline MSDSI workers expressed anguish and frustration at the lack of human interaction in their work.

In another story, the Vancouver Sun also reported on a string of troubled and costly government IT projects like Integrated Case Management (ICM). "This system is slow, it’s clunky, it goes down, it isn’t stable yet. It is hard to find information,” Doug Kinna says in the story. Kinna is vice-president for BCGEU’s Social, Information and Health Component.  

Read the Vancouver Sun story about welfare phone line wait times here.

Read the Vancouver Sun story about government IT projects like ICM here.

Read the CBC.ca story here.

Visit BCPIAC's website here.