Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Further supplementary note from DWP

  List of "legacy benefits" [ie benefits not currently open to new claimants] with an analysis of how many people still claim them; and a cost-benefit analysis of changes to this aspect of the system.


  Current caseloads figures for the "legacy benefits" (benefits not currently open to new claimants) are:

    —  Supplementary Benefit changing to Income Support in 1988: data is not available

    —  Income Support changing to Jobseekers Allowance in 1996: data is not available

    —  Widows Benefit changing to Bereavement Benefit in 2001: Widows Benefit caseload of 109,000[15] in 2006-07

    —  End of new claims for Severe Disablement Allowance in 2001: caseload of 288,000[16] (246,000 working age, 42,000 pensioners) in 2006-07

    —  End of new claims for Invalidity Benefit in 1995: caseload of 407,00015 in 2006-07[17]


  A cost benefit analysis of buy-outing transitional protection for people in receipt of Invalidity Benefit with a lump sum payment that would be actuarially calculated depending on age and the amount of Invalidity Benefit received, and replaced with long-term Incapacity Benefit, was undertaken in 2004. It was estimated that such a buyout would cost around £2.5 billion. Cost benefit analysis information on the other legacy benefits is not available.


Information Sharing: the Department's Strategic Direction

Improved Access to Customer Information

  To enable easier access and sharing of customer information held on the Department's systems, integration technologies will be used to open up existing systems securely, enabling information provided by the customer directly, or indirectly, to be transferred automatically to those systems that need the information to support the services delivered to the customer. This will also reduce staff costs in time currently taken in manually applying changes to information to multiple systems.

Customer Self Service

  Greater customer self service will be enabled by this improved access to information. Initially self-service enquiry services can be provided, followed subsequently with the facilities that will enable customers to update their information which will be automatically updated on the existing systems.

Automation of Processes

  To allow for the increased automation of business processes and introduction of "straight through processes" and also support customer self-service, the intention is to deploy process management technology (accompanied by the appropriate security controls) alongside the integration technologies. These technologies will also allow for improved control of long running business processes and the automation of work distribution to staff. This will allow staff to focus on management of complex cases and exceptions where intervention can add the most value while automating the simple straight forward processes.

Staged Deployment

  To ensure the successful delivery of the new IT functionality a staged deployment approach is proposed. This will be based on an evolutionary approach, driven by business need, but following industry best practice regarding the deployment of these technologies. For example, initial deployments to provide improved support for customer enquiries by drawing information from multiple systems would be followed by deployment of more complex update functionality.

  To enable the rapid deployment of the technologies, with the associated improvement to efficiency, initially focus will be on those technologies that can "wrap" existing enquiry and update functions of the Department's systems allowing the information to be presented and updated in a more effective manner without the risk of long development and implementation timescales.

  Following the initial deployments, more sophisticated integration and process management services will be developed to provide more extensive information transfer and process management functionality.

Information sharing between systems

  A degree of information sharing between systems already exists which, in line with the Department's overarching IS/IT strategy and business strategy, we are looking to enhance.

  In order to support service provision to our customers and prevent overpayments our legacy systems have a number of point to point interfaces that allow data to be shared between the different benefit calculation engines and Child Support Agency within DWP as well as to partner organisations like HMRC and Local authorities to support the delivery of Tax Credits and Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

  The Department has recognised that increased data sharing between existing systems and the creation of a single customer account would enable us to deliver significant service improvements for our customers. In that customers will be able to have their full service needs identified and delivered at the point of contact and our staff will have comprehensive tools to support them as they do their job.

  The Department is developing a delivery programme that will incrementally deliver the data sharing capability required:

    Customer Information System (CIS): we have implemented a common data warehouse for customers' personal details; we have plans to increase the content of this service to include payment details as well as expanding the service provision to enable HMRC to use the common data.

    DWP Direct Gov Customer Account: we also have plans to deliver a new e-service to the customer via the Government Gateway, which will allow those customers who have registered on the government gateway to access existing e-service like TeS and Job Bank as well as viewing their data held on CIS.

    Customer Management System (CMS) we will continue to enhance and improve the CMS system which supports the information capture process for new and repeat claims to IS, JSA & IB. Once collected CMS shares the data it has captured with the appropriate legacy system as well as HMRC and Local Authorities.

  In October 08 we will introduce the Employment and Support Allowance. Delivery of this new benefit will be enabled by an IT infrastructure that reuses the Pensions Transformation Programme (PTP) Customer Account Management (CAM) capability already deployed to support Claims to Retirement Pension and Pensions Credit, this system will share information with our legacy systems which will calculated entitlement and issue payment and notifications to customers but all contact information will be mastered in the CAM.

  Our longer term plan is to roll out this infrastructure to all Working Age benefits, thus creating a single customer contact history as well as integrated processing capability.

  We are also investigating business opportunities presented by the deployment of "encapsulation" technology. We have completed a "proof of concept" test where we have encapsulated one of the legacy systems (JSAPS) to better support staff dealing with customer enquiries and those updating the system to administer direct payments. We have also shown that we can expose the legacy data as a web service which, potentially, enable use to share data across a range of systems and applications like Better Off Calculator and all those mentioned above.

  We plan to test this new technology in a live environment during the summer, and if successful develop an incremental delivery program that will progressively enable our "no wrong door" and "once and done" aspirations for customers service as well as supporting the achievement of our challenging efficiency targets.

  The evolutionary approach being taken will allow us to ensure a robust capability to deliver is understood—overall timescales and costs for delivery can then be understood and mapped against our capacity for change and investment over time.


  The Unit's priorities for the coming year are:

  Refresh the communications strategy, to ensure that simplification is `mainstreamed' into all aspects of the Department's work, by using all available means including:

    —  Reviewing and updating the Guide to Best Practice by the end of May 2007;

    —  Updating the Unit's intranet site quarterly to maintain interest and impetus within the Department to simplify and provide staff with the opportunity to forward ideas and proposals to the Benefit Simplification Unit.

  Provide Ministers with a quarterly update covering:

    —  Developments in helping customers find out about benefits;

    —  Developments in the processes for making a claim to benefit (including IT);

    —  Changes to the benefit assessment rules;

    —  Changes in claims completion processes (including joint working with local authorities and HMRC).

  Block needless further complication of the benefit system by requiring all Ministerial submissions that recommend policy or operational changes to refer to the effect on benefit simplification and actively vet all working age benefits and pensions submissions. If disagreement between the Unit and the team proposing the change, the final submission to Ministers will include a passage, written by the Unit reflecting both viewpoints.

  Continually seek simplification to lighten the burden on customers and staff by cutting and streamlining operational procedures including identification of a further package of simplification measures.

  Taking forward the recommendations arising out of the Citizen Advice secondee's report providing a customer perspective on what would make the benefits system simpler.

  Conclude the study of the scope for producing a complexity index.

  Play an active part in discussions with operational colleagues to identify policy and operational issues where joint Work Welfare & Equality Group and Jobcentre Plus action could lead to making current business processes simpler for staff and customers and to putting customers' needs at the centre of our activities. This will include proposals to introduce simpler verification requirements and easier transitions for customers when moving between benefits.

  To work closely with colleagues developing the Department's business strategy to ensure opportunities for further simplification are exploited.

  To assist colleagues within the Benefit Reform Division in the development of ideas for a single income replacement benefit for people of working age.


  We are currently considering Sue Royston's findings and putting together an action plan to address them. Some of the recommendations will be fed into appropriate initiatives already under way in the Department. We will look at the scope for a cost-benefit analysis of the remaining measures during the summer.


  These are internal reports which include details of work in progress and discussion of various options that would lead to advice to Ministers on the way forward. As such it would not be appropriate to share this with the Committee.

June 2007

15   2006-07 caseloads taken from DWP benefit projections, Forecasting Division. Back

16£hbctbinwork, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit as in-work benefits; claimants' and advisors' knowledge, attitudes and experiences. Back

17   Figures later corrected by DWP, see Ev 233. Back

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