Plans at a glance and Operating Context

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Employment and Social development Canada, 2019–2020 Departmental Plan

Employment and Social Development Canada's mandate is to build a stronger and more inclusive Canada, to help Canadians live productive and rewarding lives and to improve Canadians' quality of life. The Department supports Canadians throughout their lives, by assisting families with spending more time with their newborns, more high quality, affordable childcare options or simply more money to care for their children, helping students finance their post-secondary education, supporting unemployed workers and providing seniors with income security.

Employment and Social Development Canada delivers a range of programs and services that assist Canadians throughout their lives. The Department's portfolio also includes:

The Department will focus its attention and resources in the following priority areas in fiscal year 2019–20Footnote 1 to ensure that it continues to provide the supports Canadians need in various stages of life. These priorities have been determined based on the Department's operating environment, its risks and opportunities, as well as government-wide priorities and ministerial mandate letter commitments.

Growth that benefits all

The Department will help to create opportunities for all Canadians to participate in and benefit from economic growth, leading to an increased standard of living and well-being by focussing on:

  • Supporting the well-being and full and equal participation of vulnerable and underrepresented Canadians in labour markets and Canada's prosperity;
  • Helping Canadians succeed in an evolving economy and changing labour market; and
  • Promoting equality and fairness in the workplace, and safe and healthy working conditions.

Transforming our services

The Department will continue to transform the delivery of its services to ensure they meet the evolving expectations of Canadians by:

  • Providing a world-class service experience with benefits and services delivered when needed;
  • Delivering accurate and consistent service;
  • Resolving issues at the first point of contact;
  • Ensuring that services are accessible to all; and
  • Continuing to improve online availability and access to programs and services.

This Departmental Plan uses the structure of the Departmental Results Framework to discuss how the Department intends to achieve results under each of the Department's core responsibilities. All years reference fiscal years beginning April 1 and ending March 31.

For more information on the Department's plans, priorities and planned results, see the "Planned results" section of this report.

Operating Context

In 2019–20, the Canadian economy is expected to grow at a modest and sustainable pace, with Canada projected to have the second-highest rate of Gross Domestic Product growth among G7 countriesFootnote 2. While this growth will create opportunities for Canadians across the country, it is anticipated that there will be a continued shortage of skills and labour in certain regions and occupations. In addition, over the medium-term, Canada will need to be ready to address other challenges and pressures to continued economic growth and improved well-being of Canadians that may arise.

Such challenges may include labour market adjustments resulting from an aging population and the changing nature of work, and the underrepresentation of certain groups in the labour market (for example, Indigenous people, recent immigrants, and persons with disabilities). These challenges, coupled with the need for inclusive and sustainable economic growth, are informing the Department's priorities and planned results for 2019–20.

The Department will invest in training and skills development to support an efficient and resilient labour market and help Canadians get the right skills to obtain good, well-paying jobs. This will help all Canadians, including those from groups less represented in the labour market to find and keep jobs and lead rewarding lives. The Department will also continue to assist Canadians in vulnerable situations by ensuring that the financial and social supports they need are available when they need them. It will support increased inclusion and opportunities for Canadians through efforts to reduce poverty and homelessness, and improve access to early learning and child care. It will also make efforts to ensure workplaces are safe, healthy and accessible, as well as take steps to narrow the persistent gap in wages between men and women.

Embedding innovative approaches across the Department will ensure that Canadians remain at the centre of program and policy design and delivery. Design thinking, behavioural insights and experimentation will allow the Department to better respond to Canadians' complex life challenges as well as enable the modernization of our services.

The Department recognizes that Canadians expect high-quality, easy-to-access, simple and secure services that are responsive to their needs, whether they are offered online, through call centres, or in person. Innovative service development is fundamental to achieving the Department's mandate and contributing to such priorities as poverty reduction, supporting the middle class and improving accessibility for Canadians. The Department will continue to make investments to modernize benefits delivery, reduce time to process Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, and Employment Insurance applications, and improve the responsiveness of call centres. As it looks to the future, the Department will continue to leverage client and stakeholder feedback, along with advancements in other jurisdictions and sectors, to further improve service delivery.

Risks and Mitigation

As the Department strives to ensure that Canadians receive high quality and efficient services, it must remain mindful of the changing environment in which it operates as well as the risks that may delay or prevent it from achieving its mission. The Department also recognizes that one of the biggest risks it faces is a failure to take risks. As a result, the Department will continue to pursue innovation and experimentation to learn from the successes and failures that come from testing new and different approaches to policy development, program design, and service deliveryFootnote 3.

Across the portfolio, the Department uses standard risk management practices, oversight committees, consultation, and training to anticipate and mitigate the probability and impact of negative events. Many of the Department's corporate risks are connected with one another. The connections between risks facing the Department are analyzed and documented through the development of the annual corporate risk profile. The following describes the Department's top corporate risks and the efforts being taken to mitigate them.

Providing timely and high quality strategic advice and policy recommendations is the cornerstone for the Department to be able to respond to the needs of Canadians through programs and services. Having business intelligence relating to future shifts in the political, social, and economic landscapes is key to this process. Among its efforts in 2019–20, the Department will pursue innovations in policy and program design with the support of the Department's Innovation Lab. It will also introduce a strategy aimed at refreshing its annual research plan and coordinating departmental research activities to ensure policy and program

partners in the Department and across the Government of Canada are working in tandem towards the same or complementary goals.

IT systems are critical to the Department's ability to meet the demand Canadians have for service delivery. To address the risk of Information Technology system failure and mitigate potential impacts on benefits and service delivery to Canadians, the Department is implementing modernization initiatives to strengthen and sustain its Information Technology infrastructure and replace and enhance existing systems and services. The Department will establish a clear framework for managing technological change as well as undertake ongoing maintenance to increase reliability and deliver on the digital government priorities that support the Department's programs and services.

The combination of a high volume of information held by the Department and the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks creates the risk of an information breach. As the steward of a large volume of personal information managed on behalf of Canadians, the Department is committed to continuous improvements to securing this information against unauthorized loss or disclosure.

The Department promotes a privacy–respectful culture within its labour force through regular communication and mandatory training on handling sensitive client information. The Department also performs privacy impact and security assessments; and enhances compliance through security sweeps of its offices and through privacy compliance reviews. The Department continues to increase cybersecurity protection measures, in collaboration with government partners and service providers.

While the implementation of good information management practices is an effective method of safeguarding personal information, the Department is mindful that it can inadvertently hamper the development of responsive policies, programs and services by creating a barrier to accessing data and information of business value. To address these risks, it has implemented the Treasury Board Policy on Government Security, which provides direction on the secure delivery of government programs and services, the protection of information, individuals and assets; and provides assurance to Canadians, partners and stakeholders regarding security management. The Department will continue to deploy resources to mature information management practices through tools, technology, and training into 2022.

The Department will also continue to improve its understanding of potential fraud, wrongdoing and error against and within its programs, services, and operations through regular analysis of the frequency and amount of financial fraud as well as its drivers. The Department is seeking to align its systems and reporting mechanisms to improve its ability to identify, limit, and respond to incidents of inappropriate access to or manipulation of information in its electronic systems. This will include introducing a secure website this year through which citizens can report suspected program abuse. The Department will also test software to centralize and manage data for more efficient monitoring to ensure it can keep pace and act on wrongdoing within a changing technological environment.

Like many organizations, the Department faces external threats to keeping its facilities open and critical systems online due to the risk of incidents outside of its control such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, workplace violence and terrorism. In fiscal year 2019–20, the Department will focus on readiness to respond to such threats through training and simulations of the procedures in business continuity plans and through recovery strategies and emergency management procedures.

Reducing the likelihood and impact of risks to the physical security of employees and clients in departmental workspaces open to the public is also a priority for the Department. Regular monitoring and reporting of security incidents is done to inform mitigation, including training. Its comprehensive security awareness, training, and education plan ensure employees have the tools needed to reduce risks of physical security for employees and clients.

Human Resources management influences all of the Department strategic objectives and is a common issue and source of risk across every branch and region. Given changes in demographics and skill sets, there is a risk that the Department may lack the workforce skills, competencies and distribution needed to meet current and future needs. Inadequate resources could put the organization at risk of being unable to maintain the desired quality of analysis and advice or to meet its service standards. In particular, the Department has identified a lack of project management capabilities within its workforce as being a risk to meeting its commitments.

To address its workforce risks, the Department has focused on developing comprehensive workforce strategies and uses annual action plans to implement and monitor the progress towards its objectives. The Department's extensive governance committees provide oversight for monitoring and refreshing its multi-year workforce strategy. With respect to the need for project management competencies, the Department is prioritizing the development of these skills within its existing workforce as well as through recruitment practices. The risks associated with recruiting and retaining talented and skilled workers are exacerbated by ongoing challenges with the HR-to-Pay environment. In 2019–20, the Department will increase the number of resources dedicated to monitoring, preventing, and resolving pay issues, and introduce specific client–oriented services to impacted employees.

Understandably, in a department the size of Employment and Social Development Canada, with its vast and varied programs and benefits, there is a risk of ineffective management of financial resources within its investment planning portfolio. In particular, there is the potential that current funding is insufficient to meet the Department's transformation agenda intended to meet rising expectations for service delivery.

To address these risks, the Department must align and sequence its programs and projects, and ensure that human resource and funding capacity is not exceeded. In addition to introducing more project management capacity, the Department relies heavily on governance and oversight to mitigate this risk, including the financial management forecasting and reporting cycle and its tri-annual investment plan. This year, it will introduce a review board to coordinate and sequence priorities across the investment portfolio as well as enhance risk oversight to promote better resource management. With respect to risks to meeting rising expectations for service delivery, the Department will enhance its change management capacity and implement a procurement strategy aimed at better deliver and timely and accessible services to Canadians.

For the purposes of this report, persons facing barriers to full and equal participation in society may include, but are not limited to, Indigenous people, women, lone parents, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants, persons who are LGBTQ2+, low-income individuals, and vulnerable youth.

Gender-Based Analysis + is an analytical process that goes beyond sex and gender differences to consider multiple identity factors that intersect to make people who they are (such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender identity and mental or physical disability). It aligns with the Department's mandate to support Canadians through the delivery of a range of programs and services that affect Canadians throughout their lives.

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