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Letter to the Honourable Helena Jaczek re: Social Assistance Management System (SAMS)

Letter to the Honourable Helena Jaczek re: Social Assistance Management System (SAMS)

We the North
We the North
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December 2, 2014

The Honourable Helena Jaczek
Minister of Community and Social Services
80 Grosvenor Street
Hepburn Block, 6th Floor
Toronto Ontario
M7A 1E9

Dear Dr. Jaczek:

On July 11, 2014 I wrote to you to outline my union’s concerns with respect to the implementation of the Social Assistance Management System (SAMS). At that time I expressed concern over the detrimental impact the program would have on the nearly 900,000 adults and children that rely on assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW). I further indicated that OPSEU members working in the ODSP and OW programs were concerned that unless improvements were made to SAMS, the launch in November would be rife with problems and delays and poor service to the recipients we work with.

Those concerns have come true.

Since SAMS was launched on November 12, OPSEU members working in the ODSP, OW and Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities Program (ACSD) have experienced non-stop technical problems and functionality issues with the program. To date, the ITS Help Desk has received 6,295 calls from SAMS users reporting technical problems with the program, and logged 6,785 separate incident tickets.

To put it simply, SAMS is not working.

OPSEU members are scrambling to implement workarounds and fixes to ensure their clients receive the assistance they rely upon. In spite of their best efforts, staff continue to be overwhelmed as more data conversion problems are identified and the number of known defects with SAMS increases by the day.

By month-end, the sheer volume of technical problems with SAMS resulted in thousands of recipients of ODSP, OW and ACSD assistance receiving payments for incorrect sums; payments missing additional benefits; payments issued with invalid arrears; or no payments at all. Staff working in these programs attempted to resolve as many of these issues as possible by identifying program errors and issuing manual cheques to clients. As you can imagine, frustration levels for both clients and staff were very high.

Minister, on August 13 you wrote to me and made it clear that client service was your ministry’s priority and that you felt it was important to evaluate the success of SAMS and “look for opportunities to further assist staff in managing their day-to-day work assisting clients.” With this statement I cannot agree with you more.

The vulnerable Ontarians receiving social assistance in this province deserve a much better standard of service than this, and staff working in the ODSP, OW and ACSD programs cannot deliver quality service with a broken case management system.

It is time for your ministry to take decisive action to support clients and staff. SAMS is not working and my members and I feel that the best and most prudent decision would be to reinstate SDMT until a time in which SAMS is error free and fully functional.

Sincerely,

Signature on original letter

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, OPSEU