Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BC News

Pay for Delay

BC gov't to follow through with ombudsperson report recommendations

Released by the office of the BC Ombudsperson


rovincial Ombudsperson Kim Carter released today her office's latest report Time Matters: An Investigation into the BC Employment and Assistance Reconsideration Process. The report identifies that the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation was not meeting its own legislated requirements to complete reconsideration decisions within specified time limits.


The ministry's delays meant more than 900 of the ministry clients lost benefits they were entitled to receive. As a result of this investigation, almost $350,000 in lost benefits has been paid to persons financially affected by these delays. Government has also made a change to regulations to require that when reconsideration decisions are not made within specified time limits, approved benefits must be paid retroactively to address any adverse financial impacts. The ministry has also agreed to improve the way that it tracks reconsideration requests and compliance with time limits.

'I'm pleased the ministry has accepted and agreed to implement all four recommendations", says Ombudsperson Kim Carter. "It's important that fair and timely review processes be in place for government decisions, particularly decisions that govern access to critical supports that benefit those most in need. Government must be accountable for the rules it has set out around those processes. The ministry's acceptance of our recommendations acknowledges the significance of this obligation.

In addition to measures which address impacts on persons who lose benefits as a result of late decisions, the ministry agreed to review its application process for Persons with Disabilities designation. The Ombudsperson says the ministry can do more in this area to ensure clients, families, advocates and medical professionals are better equipped to provide necessary information, at the earliest possible point in the process, so the ministry can make the right decision in a timely manner. The Ombudsperson Office will continue to monitor and report on the results of this review process.

The investigation is the result of individual complaints made to the office which then led to a broader investigation that looked into the ministry's delay in completing its reconsideration process, an examination of the underlying causes of delay and its effect on ministry clients. Reconsiderations are the first formal review process available to applicants who want to question ministry decisions.

The Ombudsperson made three findings and four recommendations to the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. The recommendations were:

The ministry identify reconsideration approvals since June 2009 where delay beyond legislated time limits resulted in a later effective date of eligibility, and compensate the affected individuals for the amount of benefits they would have been entitled to if their request had been approved within time limits.

The ministry minimize the impacts of delayed reconsiderations on clients' assistance by taking the steps necessary to make the effective date of an approval at reconsideration or a subsequent appeal no later than the date the reconsideration is required to have been made under the Regulations.

The ministry take necessary steps to ensure that its systems are able to accurately track reconsideration requests and compliance with time limits based on date of submission.

The ministry review its Persons with Disabilities (PWD) application process and make necessary changes to improve accuracy of decisions about PWD status made at the first level of decision making and track and report publicly results of those changes.

Time Matters: An Investigation into the BC Employment and Assistance Reconsideration Process can be downloaded from www.bcombudsperson.ca or by contacting the Office at 1 800 567 3247. A Fact Sheet is also available on the website.

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