Magazine article Policy & Practice

Ventura County Combines Automation and Collaboration

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Ventura County Combines Automation and Collaboration

Article excerpt

On April 3, the Ventura County Human Services Agency (HSA) launched the CalWORKs Welfare Information Network, or CalWIN, a computer system that automates welfare eligibility determination, budgeting, benefits calculation, and case management. This agency's experience highlights the use of technology and collaboration working at their best.

The federal government requires that all states convert to an automated welfare system. California chose to develop multiple systems and in 1997 created four statewide county consortia. Two years later, HSA joined 17 other counties in the County Welfare Case Data System consortia that would be using the CalWIN system. HSA had been using a different system from that of the other counties for more than 20 years. It is called the Welfare Information Computation and Reporting System (WICAR).

CalWIN is managed by Electronic Data Systems and helped by sub-vendors Deloitte Consulting, UNISYS and IBM. The design, development and maintenance of CalWIN include staff from all the member counties.

Since the introduction of CalWIN in March 2000, HSA, along with Ventura County Information Systems Department (ISD), has managed the local CalWIN project under the guidance of the CalWIN Steering Committee. The committee provides policy oversight and decision-making. ISD focuses on data conversion and technical implementation; HSA oversees program integration and business processes. The CalWIN team works toward standardized business processes and services integration, benefiting the client and is time- and cost-efficient.

CalWIN presented challenges and opportunities. More than 50 agency staff were transferred to the CalWIN implementation team. They brought with them preexisting expectations, work standards and program expectations reflecting their departmental culture. CalWIN track leads and work teams were established based on functional areas, each with common goals and specific deliverables.

This approach has successfully led HSA through:

* Data Conversion. When Ventura County switched to CalWIN in April, the WICAR system's case/client data were converted into CalWIN with a 99.97 percent success rate. More than 60,000 cases were sent to CalWIN; only 18 did not transfer. Ninety-two percent passed with enough information for CalWIN to determine eligibility. Almost 45 percent passed from WICAR to CalWIN with the same aid code and benefit amount. …

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