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Department for Work and Pensions uses artificial intelligence to crack down on benefits fraud

DWP has made several digital strides, including developing AI to track organised benefits fraud, moved more than 100 digital products to “new hosting arrangements” and made savings on technology contracts, according to its annual report

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has begun trialling artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce benefits fraud, according to its annual report and accounts.  

DWP secretary of state Esther McVey’s foreword to the report claims the department is delivering one of the biggest digital transformations in Europe, using “cutting-edge design, data and innovative technologies” to create better services.

In an interview with Computer Weekly last year, DWP CIO Mayank Prakash said the department is careful to “separate the hype from the reality” when it comes to AI, and is working with small businesses and startups, as well as large enterprises, to gain insight into the full potential of AI. 

In the past year, the department has trialled using algorithms to identity different types of “organised attacks on the welfare system”, cracking down on criminals committing large-scale benefits fraud.  

“The algorithms reveal fake identity cloning techniques that are commonly used by fraudsters, which are only detectable by intelligent computer programmes capable of searching for anomalies in billions of items of data,” the report said.

The DWP is also bringing together its existing data acquisition, risk analysis and intelligence gathering capabilities to form a risk and intelligence service, which assigns risks to benefit claims, allowing the department to prioritise.

Universal Credit

One of the biggest projects at the DWP is the roll-out of the controversial benefits scheme, Universal Credit (UC), which the department also said will reduce benefits fraud and error by £1.3bn a year.

The UC programme first began in 2010, before a restart at the end of 2013/early 2014 when DWP began rolling out the new benefits system in stages. By the end of 2015, it had rolled out a limited version of the system, referred to as the “live service”, which targeted only the simplest of claims.

The department began deploying the “full service” countrywide in May 2016, covering the full replacement of six different in-work welfare benefits with a single payment.

By December 2018, DWP will have completed national delivery of UC full service to around 640 job centres. By March 2019, it aims to have transferred all claimants to the full service, being able to close the “live service”, according to the report. DWP aims to complete the roll-out of the full service digital system by March 2023.

DWP’s business case, which was published June 2018, said UC remains “deliverable, affordable and provides value for money, with a net present value (NVP) of £34bn” over 10 years, generating £8bn in economic value. 

However, the National Audit Office (NAO) remains critical to this, and has said the project “is not value for money now”, and its value for money in the future “is unproven”.  

Digital upgrades and procurement

The annual report also said the department, which has “one of the biggest and most complex IT systems in Europe”, with some being more than 20 years old, has performed more than 9,500 upgrades this year.

It has also moved more than 100 digital products to new hosting arrangements, and replaced its large legacy contracts with smaller, “more flexible contracting models”. The department is in the process of replacing its VME mainframe environment, which will be completed during 2018-19.

Improvements to the procurement of digital products and services have produced cash savings of £62.9m, the report said.

“In addition, our commercial digital team have also contributed to incremental efficiencies, such as cost avoidance, of £39.6m. In line with government strategy, we are also working more closely with our suppliers to build trusted relationships enabling closer working, and seek joint opportunities for savings,” it added.

In the report, permanent secretary Peter Schofield said the focus has been on replacing existing “resource intensive processes” with online digital services.

“We have continued to upgrade our ageing infrastructure to ensure that our digital products and services are built on more stable and resilient foundations,” he said.

“We continue to make in-roads into our technological debt and develop new services based on recyclable and re-usable platforms. We have continued to grow digital services, build next-generation platforms, create authoritative sources of data and scale hybrid cloud hosting.”

During 2018-19, DWP aims to improve its hybrid hosting, roll out new devices to staff, introduce Microsoft Office 365 and complete the roll-out of its next-generation contact centre.

DWP secretary Esther McVey’s foreword to the report claims the department is delivering one of the biggest digital transformations in Europe, using “cutting-edge design, data and innovative technologies” to create better services.

In an interview with Computer Weekly last year, DWP CIO Mayank Prakash said the department is careful to “separate the hype from the reality” when it comes to AI, and is working with small businesses and startups, as well as large enterprises, to gain insight into the full potential of AI. 

In the past year, the department has trialled using algorithms to identity different types of “organised attacks on the welfare system”, cracking down on criminals committing large-scale benefits fraud.  

“The algorithms reveal fake identity cloning techniques that are commonly used by fraudsters, which are only detectable by intelligent computer programmes capable of searching for anomalies in billions of items of data,” the report said.

The DWP is also bringing together its existing data acquisition, risk analysis and intelligence gathering capabilities to form a risk and intelligence service, which assigns risks to benefit claims, allowing the department to prioritise.

Universal Credit

One of the biggest projects at the DWP is the roll-out of the controversial benefits scheme, Universal Credit (UC), which the department also said will reduce benefits fraud and error by £1.3bn a year.

The UC programme first began in 2010, before a restart at the end of 2013/early 2014 when DWP began rolling out the new benefits system in stages. By the end of 2015, it had rolled out a limited version of the system, referred to as the “live service”, which targeted only the simplest of claims.

The department began deploying the “full service” countrywide in May 2016, covering the full replacement of six different in-work welfare benefits with a single payment.

By December 2018, DWP will have completed national delivery of UC full service to around 640 job centres. By March 2019, it aims to have transferred all claimants to the full service, being able to close the “live service”, according to the report. DWP aims to complete the roll-out of the full service digital system by March 2023.

DWP’s business case, which was published June 2018, said UC remains “deliverable, affordable and provides value for money, with a net present value (NVP) of £34bn” over 10 years, generating £8bn in economic value. 

However, the National Audit Office (NAO) remains critical to this, and has said the project “is not value for money now”, and its value for money in the future “is unproven”.  

Digital upgrades and procurement

The annual report also said the department, which has “one of the biggest and most complex IT systems in Europe”, with some being more than 20 years old, has performed more than 9,500 upgrades this year.

It has also moved more than 100 digital products to new hosting arrangements, and replaced its large legacy contracts with smaller, “more flexible contracting models”. The department is in the process of replacing its VME mainframe environment, which will be completed during 2018-19.

Improvements to the procurement of digital products and services have produced cash savings of £62.9m, the report said.

“In addition, our commercial digital team have also contributed to incremental efficiencies, such as cost avoidance, of £39.6m. In line with government strategy, we are also working more closely with our suppliers to build trusted relationships enabling closer working, and seek joint opportunities for savings,” it added.

In the report, permanent secretary Peter Schofield said the focus has been on replacing existing “resource intensive processes” with online digital services.

“We have continued to upgrade our ageing infrastructure to ensure that our digital products and services are built on more stable and resilient foundations,” he said.

“We continue to make in-roads into our technological debt and develop new services based on recyclable and re-usable platforms. We have continued to grow digital services, build next-generation platforms, create authoritative sources of data and scale hybrid cloud hosting.”

During 2018-19, DWP aims to improve its hybrid hosting, roll out new devices to staff, introduce Microsoft Office 365 and complete the roll-out of its next-generation contact centre.

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