Following a private consultant’s report that described a dysfunctional city operated Ontario Works system, the city’s internal auditor has released 11 recommendations to try to turn around the troubled department. Some of the problems relate to the introduction of a provincially mandated Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) which has created havoc in every municipality. To feed the cumbersome system many front line staff were diverted; resulting in poor performance when it came to trying to get clients off assistance and back to work. But the report noted that Hamilton’s performance was much worse than other cities in Ontario who also had to cope with the SAMS debacle.
The auditor makes 11 recommendations the first one being to either terminate or reassign 18 employees who were engaged in wrestling with the SAMS system. The report says there is poor tracking of what happens to clients after they exit Ontario Works, and there is no system to evaluate what barriers to employment OW clients are experiencing. The auditor also recommends the OW office offload some of the employment counselling and placement to the numerous agencies in Hamilton who are performing the same function at a lower cost. One recommendation suggests management implement a system to obtain feedback from OW clients to rate their satisfaction with the service received, and assess whether they are better off, something apparently not being done at present. The auditor has set a hard deadline of June 21 for management to come forward with a plan to implement the sweeping changes.