Welfare claims fast-tracked after computer crash

June 5, 2014

VICTORIA — B.C.’s troubled income assistance and child welfare computer system is facing its first major test, after a massive crash earlier this month.

Government staff spent Wednesday attempting to use the Integrated Case Management system to help process cheques for clients needing welfare and disability payments, said the B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union.

“It’s running slow, but it hasn’t crashed,” said Doug Kinna, chairman of the union component that represents the affected workers.

“There’s a lot of information that didn’t get properly into the system so there is some chaos for clients. Workers, when they are trying to look back in history, are limited because they don’t have the system up and fully running.”

Wednesday was cheque issue day for provincial income assistance and disability clients. The ICM system updates the necessary client information, which is then sent to another old computer system to cut the actual cheque or deposit money into a bank account, said Kinna.

It was the first “real strain” on the system since it crashed in early May, said Kinna.

Social Development Minister Don McRae said there did not appear to be any major problems.

“I’m not going to be able to say it’s been perfect yet, and hopefully this isn’t as good as we can get, but I know the managers and also the front line staff were stepping up big time to ensure (Wednesday) would go as seamlessly as possible,” McRae said.

“We’ll be watching closely and hopefully, knock on wood, everybody is properly served.”

The $182-million ICM system crashed in early May, slowing down to unusable levels in some parts of the province and prompting a safety warning from B.C.’s independent Representative for Children and Youth.

The software was designed to link child welfare and income assistance cases across three government ministries, but has been plagued with slow performance and complaints about unintuitive design since its main phase went online in 2012.

Technology Minister Andrew Wilkinson said the ICM system has been running at “full capacity” with 3,400 users for the past 10 days.

“It seems to be operating completely normally now,” he said Wednesday.

The crash was caused by a “traffic jam” in user traffic on the system, that was an “anomalous situation,” he said.

“It’s kind of the configuration of data packets and how it’s moving and when, and I gather they’ve been able to do some tweaking to get it running much more smoothly now,” said Wilkinson.


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