The SIStem is Broken

A system, like others, set up to oppress

  • Sitting on the phone for hours only to have an automated message come on and then drop your call;
  • Finally speaking to a person on the other end only to be provided no answers and redirected online/back to the call line;
  • Requesting support in filling out their application due to a visual impairment, but told that wasn’t ‘part of their job’, and;
  • Navigating complex steps, within a prescribed timeframe, with no direction.

Anne, the mom of one of our staff, was transitioning from SAP as the benefit was being phased out, when was told she could not apply for the SAID benefit until she was on SIS. Deemed physically incapable of going back to work when on SAP, she now meets monthly with a worker to discuss her job search. Meetings that will have to continue or she risks losing her benefits while waiting to be accepted onto SAID. How she receives notifications for these meetings is via email. Anne doesn’t have a computer and struggles with digital literacy.

…. thankfully she had her daughter to advocate for her

Anne’s daughter advocates on her behalf and supports her in any way that she can, including completing all of the complex steps to get onto and maintain the SIS benefit. When Anne’s payments were disrupted by a month due to the application process, her daughter was there to make sure she didn’t get behind on rent and still had food on the table. Anne’s daughter wasn’t reimbursed for these unexpected costs, who, as a single mom is still needing to support her own family.

Struggles with these “default settings”

Have you every downloaded an app or created a new online account? These platforms typically come with default settings…settings meant to optimize the users experience, to make navigating whatever platform you are on easier.

The default settings of systems like SIS are meant for people to fail.

  • Communication is defaulted to email
  • Application process is defaulted to an online system
  • People’s unique financial needs are defaulted to a one size fits all shelter and basic allowance

“They” know that a significant number of clients do not have regular access to a phone, computer, or even internet. They know that transportation barriers can make it hard for people to gather all the paperwork needed to apply for income support. They know the data of average rent prices doesn’t match what is provided in the shelter allowance. They know that the cost of living is higher than the basic allowance provided. They know. They know. They know.

Yes, there is ways to get past the default settings to SIS…but it is hard.  Anne took everything she was told by her worker as fact. She was simply trying to comply with what she was told out of survival. It wasn’t until her daughter started questioning the process and helping her to advocate for herself that she realized she had other options.  So the question is why?  Why cant these options be the default setting? Why cant it be easier for people to receive income support? Why does it need to be a hurdle to make changes that will support a person more?  Why?