DWP kills funding for benefit fraud-finding tech

£2.4m spent on pilots since 2007 but results inconclusive

£2.4m spent on pilots since 2007 but results inconclusive

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent £2.4m funding voice risk analysis (VRA) pilots for benefits claimants over the past four years but has decided to pull the plug on further funding after concluding the technology does not offer value for money.

Various local authorities have been testing VRA software since May 2007 to help detect benefits fraud. The software analyses changes in claimants' voices, flagging up the level of risk associated with each caller and predicting the likelihood of a claim being fraudulent. Flagged callers are then asked to provide further evidence to support the veracity of their claim.

Telephone handset: DWP ends voice risk analysis funding

The DWP has pulled the plug on voice risk analysis funding after inconclusive results
(Photo credit: comedy_nose via flickr.com under the following Creative Commons licence)

In the 2007-2008 financial year, the DWP provided seven local authorities with £460,000 to fund VRA pilots and also spent £240,000 on testing the tech at its own Jobcentre Plus service, according to a department spokeswoman. In 2008-2009, a further £1.7m was provided by the DWP to 24 local authorities for VRA pilots.

After evaluating results from 23 of the pilots, the DWP concluded the system is too inconsistent to continue funding. "There was a failure to find any compelling evidence," the spokeswoman told silicon.com. "Although [VRA] may work in other systems it was found in this trial we couldn't confirm that it represented any good value for money."

Local councils remain free to pilot the technology or continue to fund existing deployments, however.

The spokeswoman said the department has no plans to re-evaluate VRA. Instead DWP and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will work together on new techniques to deal with fraud and error over the next four years - such as data-matching and cross-checking government databases to help identify discrepancies in claimants' information.

"If HMRC has data which shows that a person is actually working and earning and yet still on our system as claiming out of work benefits then we would be able to see that from cross-checking," she said.