We're adding child protection workers and making vital tech upgrades: minister.
Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Family Development and BC Liberal MLA for Vancouver-False Creek: Fixing aging system to give social workers tools they need.
[Editor's note: Yesterday we published an opinion piece, "BC Libs' $200 Million Computer Glitch," by Claire Trevena, North Island MLA and New Democrat critic for Children and Family Development. We received this response to the article from Minister of Children and Family Development and reprint it here.]
Across the social service programs of government are dozens of complex computer and IT systems. Many of those systems are more than 30 years old; they are increasingly fragile and difficult or impossible to update; and they can't communicate with the dozens of other systems in place across the government.
In order to meet the needs of B.C. families -- who often receive services from multiple programs and services across multiple ministries -- we need modern computer systems that can respond to changes in legislation and practice. We need a system that supports social workers and other staff to work together to understand the full range of a family's needs so they can respond accordingly. In fact, there have been repeated calls by independent authorities, including in the Ted Hughes review, for a better system of information sharing to protect vulnerable citizens.
In April, we moved into the second of five phases of the Integrated Case Management (ICM) project. ICM represents an unprecedented technological undertaking for this government and, as with any large information technology project, we knew there would be issues that would need to be worked out over time as part of the development process.
The majority of the concerns that we've discovered are related to only one component of the system, which deals with child welfare. But the problems have been more significant than we expected. That's why we are taking immediate steps to ensure that the safety of children is not compromised in any way, and we're immediately investing up to $12 million to ensure social workers have the resources and supports they need as we work through these issues.
Steps being taken
We will be hiring experienced child protection workers and training them to act as "on the ground" ICM consultants. We are also immediately hiring up to 150 child protection workers and staff to support frontline workers. As well, we will be closely monitoring progress at both the local and the provincial levels, to identify areas needing attention.
There have been issues and challenges, and we regret the stress that they have put on staff. But the fundamental reasons for moving to a new system still exist -- providing them with the tools to support vulnerable children and families. We still believe that ICM is that tool, and we will continue to work closely with our staff and the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth as we work to address these challenges.