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‘Recklessly more, for less’: Saskatchewan NDP questions value of $75.9 million IT system

Click to play video: '‘Recklessly more, for less’: Saskatchewan NDP questions value of $75.9 million IT system' ‘Recklessly more, for less’: Saskatchewan NDP questions value of $75.9 million IT system
WATCH: Initial costs for Linkin, an information management system used by child and youth services, were announced to be $15 million. – Jul 27, 2022

The Saskatchewan NDP held a Tuesday morning press conference to call into question the value of a social services information management system which has so far cost nearly $76 million.

The initial cost of the system, which is called Linkin and was introduced in 2009, was announced to be $15 million and intended to “help ministry staff respond to the needs of children and youth in care” according to a release.

“The development of an efficient single new information management system for Social Services will help ensure the health and safety of all children and youth who are in the ministry’s care,” then-social services minister Donna Harpauer said at the time.

“There is no greater priority than our children, and this $15-million investment will provide the province’s child welfare workers with the technology they need to best serve the children and youth who are currently in care in Saskatchewan.”

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But on Monday, NDP Social Services Critic Meara Conway said some statistics show outcomes are not improving.

“The number of children in care has increased, even over the past five years. We saw a couple of years ago that critical injury and death numbers had reached an all-time high,” Conway said Tuesday.

“Perhaps most concerning is the continued and shocking overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care. These numbers are not getting better.”

The 2021 Saskatchewan Advocate of Children and Youth report showed 24 deaths and 25 critical injuries or incidents involving children and youth who are receiving, or have recently received, child welfare and/or justice services.

The year before, in 2020, 35 deaths and 31 critical injuries were reported by the advocate.

Saskatchewan Advocate for Children & Youth

In 2009 the advocate reported 25 deaths and 31 critical injuries.

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Meanwhile on June 30, 2009, records show there were 3519 children in care in Saskatchewan. On June 30, 2022, there were 3,626.

“How is it that the Saskatchewan Party government spent recklessly more, for significantly less, and then see no objective improvement in this area of their mandate?” Conway asked.

“To say the government is not getting enough bang for the public’s buck would be an understatement.”

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A Ministry of Social Services spokesperson responded to the opposition with a written statement.

“Since the Linkin system was implemented, it has evolved over the last 10 years to keep pace with technological advancements and cyber security. As such, the ministry continues to make appropriate investments to maintain and enhance this important tool to support Child and Family Programs clients and staff.

“The total amount spent on Linkin up to March 31, 2022, is $75.902 million. This includes the historical cost of the capital asset at $41.977 million, and $33.925 million, which has been spent in operating costs since 2008-09. Operating costs cover a range of expenses including salaries, research and pilot projects, maintenance and support, hosting, training materials, reporting tools and maintenance, and new software releases or upgrades. Year-to-year costs for licensing and support (maintenance) are approximately $2 million.

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Read more: Sask. child advocate report shows over-representation of Indigenous children in death, injury data

Conway wrote to Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor Tuesday, requesting she conduct an investigation into costs associated with Linkin.

“The NDP Opposition believes your office is best suited to investigate cost overruns, changes in the scope of the project, and the value Saskatchewan people are getting from this investment.”

A spokesperson from the Provincial Auditor’s office said Auditor Tara Clemett was unable for an immediate response to the request as she is currently away on vacation.

“The request will be considered and responded to once our team returns,” the spokesperson said.

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