(October 18, 2013) - Mr. Speaker, the Department continues to improve Income Security Programs and services based on a report from the Auditor General in March 2013. We received valuable feedback from the Standing Committee on Government Operations in June 2013. As we move forward with effective, efficient government, client service is at the forefront of our minds.
Mr. Speaker, to date the Department has made a number of improvements based on the Auditor General’s report, recommendations from Standing Committee, and on actions identified and planned through our own review.
We have improved training and communication with front-line staff by producing quarterly newsletters with policy clarifications, instructions, reminders and information. We are using web-based technology to present training sessions, producing new plain language policy manuals, and hiring a trainer with expert program delivery knowledge. We will continue our efforts by ensuring that all client services officers participate in Mental Health First Aid Training, and attend competency-based and disability sensitivity training.
A healthy, educated northern workforce is our future. We have streamlined the Child Care Benefit, and improved payment times to support parents to stay employed. We have enhanced the Senior Home Heating Subsidy Program. We have also increased benefits to students attending post-secondary education, with an additional increase for students with disabilities. We are committed to the 17th Assembly’s priority of increasing employment opportunities where they are most needed by encouraging people to enter and remain in the workforce.
One of the most important pieces of work we are developing is a standard practice for integrating services with other departments. This will directly support and streamline services for those clients that require assistance from various government departments. Many clients live with complex challenges like disabilities that need to be considered as we serve their needs.
Our regional managers now have an audit tool and a file review process. We completed five community compliance audits last year and five to date for this fiscal year. We are completing the overpayment project to recover costs and auditing 10 percent of student financial assistance files each year. We need to make sure that our clients are getting the right level of support.
Mr. Speaker, we are committed to thoroughly implementing our program improvements. Some can be done quickly and others will take time. We are ensuring our programs are transparent, accountable, evaluated, and provide valuable reporting that helps us make continual improvements. We are confident that we are on the right path.
I look forward to providing the House with continued updates on the progress we make on Income Security Programs.
Masi, Mr. Speaker.