B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke (B.C. government)

B.C. income assistance clients left on hold

Ombudsperson says some improvements being made

Disability and income assistance clients are getting better phone service than a year ago, but too many are still being left without answers to their problems, B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke says.

Chalke issued a report Tuesday listing some of the many complaints from people who either were kept on hold for an hour or more, or asked for a call-back and didn’t receive one. The complaints range from application s for assistance to lost payments to emergencies such as a woman who was living with her two children in a camper whose heater had broken down.

“The [social development] ministry’s telephone-based service has been chronically slow for a number of years,” Chalke said. “Income and disability assistance applicants and recipients include some of the most vulnerable people in the province.”

Chalke began investigating the problem in 2017, based on a series of contacts to his office from people frustrated with the lack of service. He said the ministry has agreed to changes, including posting its average wait times for phone and in-person service in ministry offices later this year.

Recommendations also include hiring additional employment and assistance workers to ensure 220 full-time staff are dedicated to answering calls to the centralized provincial phone line.

Chalke also recommends the ministry end its “call sweeping” strategy, which postpones action on requests that are expected to take more than five minutes to resolve.

Just Posted

Surrey wants BNSF to slow Crescent trains

Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Rail-safety forum planned for White Rock this Friday

Event to include municipal, federal, provincial governments

White Rock open house to discuss city’s aquifer protection plan

Examination of potential hazards includes increased population, climate change

‘Connecting Threads’ and more in Surrey Art Gallery’s fall shows

Free admission at opening reception and panel discussion Sunday afternoon

SFU unveils new lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital

Combination of MRI, MEG allows for ‘best possible windows’ intro brain function

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

Most Read