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A New Vision of Integrated Services
Delivering human services effectively and efficiently is a challenge most governments and their agencies face every day. Growing and more complex case loads, outdated and highly regulated processes and aging technology contribute to a fractured system where support programs are delivered in isolation, despite sharing common clients.
The lack of communication between associated services – income support, employment services, housing, mental health, addiction, child welfare, health and justice – often results in redundancies, information gaps and poor experiences for the very people the services were created for.
By integrating the delivery of human services, multiple agencies and departments can reduce costs and better serve vulnerable clients in a holistic manner. Practical tools, including technology enablers that increase communication and business processes that cross program boundaries, support governments in improving human services delivery.
Barriers to Integration
Human service integration is often cited as the solution – but real-life examples of successes are rare. Integrating service delivery requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses structure, governance and accountability to succeed. Top challenges include:
Organizational Resistance – Government ministries and departments have hierarchical and organizational reporting structures which create vested interests that can result in protectionism. Committed and cross-program leadership can help the integration process by considering both internal and external stakeholders to build a framework focused on client needs and outcomes. A common vision, shared resources and rewards supported from the top go far to ensure successful innovation.
Legacy Technology Systems – Typically, each human service program has its own case management system that has been built around specific (often outdated) business processes and regulatory rules. The older systems don’t communicate cross-program, nor do they interface with other software or hardware programs – making it difficult to deliver integrated client services in an effective, timely fashion. Technology solutions that link services through a single portal, facilitate client data transfer across programs, increase online options and provide mobile apps for clients result in greater efficiencies and enhanced service delivery.
Duplication – Human services departments can reduce redundancies by consolidating business processes, for example, moving multiple duplicative payment systems into a centralized shared service. Under such a model, clients can apply for and receive income support, housing and child welfare benefits through the same system.
Privacy Concerns - Typically, sharing client information across programs has been frowned upon because of the need for an explicit consent from the client. However, recent advances in the de-identification of client data sets and increasing use of “deemed consent to share” wording in program applications has helped to overcome this barrier.
A province with dozens of separate child welfare agencies was struggling to manage rising procurement costs. By streamlining and consolidating the agencies’ business process, they now operate under a single shared service procurement program which also provides greater buying clout because of the increased volume.
Working with advisors, the Alberta government created a front-end service, Alberta Supports, which is a window to more than 30 provincial programs and 120 community services. The service enables clients to find and apply for numerous family and social services through one location - online, from toll-free call centres or dozens of walk-in Alberta Support Centres across the province.
Toronto integrated child services, income support and housing into a single intake function and “one window” telephone number, addressing the connections between the services in an effective manner. The integrated intake process and single call channel facilitated an improved client experience as well as provided opportunities for case workers to better evaluate needs.
A modernized income support program adopted by one province is simple and mobile-enabled. This allows clients to find out immediately how to apply for support, what their benefits will be and track when they likely will receive funds. Clients can upload receipts rather than having to mail, fax or deliver them by hand, decreasing wait times and increasing security.
A successful integration model requires a sound framework and comprehensive strategy focused on client needs rather than organizational limitations. Knowledgeable advisors can help identify where integration can connect programs and reduce duplication and inconsistencies through shared expertise and service delivery.
For more information, contact Jason Ducharme, Ontario Public Sector Leader,, at 416.263.6924 or [email protected]
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