Swansea City Council has given staff mobile access to its core benefits and document management systems as part of a project to meet government targets on reducing benefit fraud.
Council officers decided that a mobile deployment was needed after visiting other local authorities that had failed to check enough benefits claimants to meet the Department for Work and Pensions' target.
The Department for Work and Pensions is providing funding for council benefits inspectors to visit the homes of people claiming housing and council tax benefits. However, each inspector has to visit 5,100 claimants a year or the council will lose the money provided under the department's Verification Framework.
A spokesman for Swansea City Council said, "There was strong evidence from other local authorities showing that 20% of officers' time was spent preparing for visits and entering the details at the office on their return.
"There was a large volume of paper being printed for the officers to take to clients' homes to verify their claims, and if there were any debates on the information, no real-time information could be used to settle them quickly."
By giving its benefits inspectors access to centrally held information on their tablet PCs, Swansea City Council removed the need for staff to return to the office for data entry.
Following the deployment, the average number of claimants visited by each officer rose to 7,783, comfortably exceeding the target set by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Council officers used their mobile devices to access the i-world benefits application from software supplier SX3. Systems integrator Kirona worked with SX3 to enable wireless access to its application suite, including the retrieval and viewing of scanned documents and images.
Swansea City Council selected Hewlett-Packard tablet PCs with Bluetooth connectivity. Data was sent to and from the devices over Bluetooth connections with council officers' Nokia 6310i mobile phones.
The total cost for equipping the council's seven benefits inspectors with the technology was £40,583.
Mobile access to the document management system and the i-world application has been available since October 2006. In the next phase of the project, benefits inspectors will use digital cameras to record evidence of entitlement to benefits in peoples' homes, said the council.
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