05/07/2014 05:10 EDT | Updated 07/07/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. Kids At Risk With Failed Government Computer System: Child Advocate

VICTORIA - Technology Minister Andrew Wilkinson says he's had to reboot the B.C. government's computer system for vulnerable people after it crashed about an hour after he proclaimed it glitch free.

Wilkinson suggested Wednesday the issues with the government's $180-million integrated case-management computer system may now go beyond simple reboots and could involve examining its performance.

The integrated case-management system project began in 2008 with plans to replace outdated government computer information used to deliver social programs, including child protection, child care subsidies and income assistance.

"I was informed over the lunch hour the system had rebooted," said Wilkinson. "Fifteen hundred users had signed on and things were going well. It's now gone down again, and I am not at all happy about this. This is clearly a system that's unstable."

Wilkinson vowed to get to the bottom of the system's problems, which he will make public.

British Columbia's children's representative is calling for an independent review of the system that crashed numerous times this week.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond told the government's child and youth committee the integrated case-management system used to deliver social programs, subsidies, income assistance and child protection is a disaster.

She said information about vulnerable children and their families is not being processed properly, and she fears the flaw puts kids at risk because police and social agencies won't have data about children during situations involving domestic violence or other family issues.

"I need some assurance from government they are going to fix the safety issue, because what about all the information that should have been in the system this week that now won't be in it for a child that might be injured, might be in hospital that might have a safety alert," said Turpel-Lafond. "It's not working."

She said she's been raising public concerns about the computer system for two years now.

In July 2012, a Turpel-Lafond report prompted the Ministry of Children and Family Development to admit its computer program needed fixing. Her report concluded the database was deeply flawed and puts children at risk.

Social Development Minister Don McRae said his ministry worked over the past week to ensure high-priority client issues, including payments, were handled by the ministry despite the computer issues.

Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said she doesn't believe the system needs to be replaced because protocols are in place to handle emergencies.

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