Wait times for welfare phone line soar in B.C.

"Offices have either closed or have only restricted hours and long lines are common. This needs to change." — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President

Vancouver (18 Dec. 2015) — Recent media reports have exposed the soaring wait times experienced by people seeking welfare assistance from the Ministry of 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. 

Access to welfare services limited as B.C. moves to transactional service model 

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 B.C. Government and General Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

“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.

Province relying on computer, telephone support for people who do not have either

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, front-line 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.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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