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United Kingdom The Almighty Buck IT

UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble? 266

judgecorp writes "Two media reports suggest that the Universal Credit scheme to overhaul Britain's welfare programme is in trouble. The IT project to support Universal Credit was launched by the Cabinet Office, and it will be completed and run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) — but the Guardian says the Cabinet Office has pulled out its elite experts too soon, while a different leak told Computer Weekly that the four original suppliers — HP, IBM, Accenture and BT — have been effectively frozen out in an internal change. It's the biggest change to Britain's benefits system for many years, and all the evidence says it's not going well."
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UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble?

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  • by aethelrick ( 926305 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @07:38AM (#45905425)

    it wasn't just a database. It was a database that had to incorporate and interoperate with a vast array of existing legacy software written in every language you can possibly imagine. Not only this, it was a stupid idea to start with, because MOST patients don't move around the country and a series of smaller regional systems would have made a lot more sense for MOST of the problems in communication that could be solved by interfacing computer systems.

    The project was hampered by problems of patient confidentiallity, and who was reasonably allowed to access patient records at any given time. Data needed to be tied to locations that the patient was frequenting e.g. my GP is allowed to see my records, the doctor in the A&E I've just been admitted to is allowed to see my records but a doctor at the other end of the country doing a bit of record-surfing is not allowed to see my records. except when he is?!?!

    The hospitals themselves pretty much (quite rightly) tried to keep the national system at arms length because it was not clearly understood or believed to be core to their day-to-day activities.

    All-in-all the government of the day would have done much better to define a minimum data set and standards for interoperation rather than interferring and trying to control everything centrally. Given a decent interface and data set spec the miriad of small (cheap) software vendors already supplying the NHS would have all been motivated to implement it so they could interoperate with each others systems in a more uniform (read cost effective) manner. Communicating between hospital departments and between the hospital and the patients GP then would have been a much more simple affair and this would have solved most of the communication delay problems that happen in the real world on a day-to-day basis.

  • by Rande ( 255599 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:05AM (#45905507) Homepage

    Defined and Static? You've not worked for a govt project then?

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:23AM (#45905557) Homepage

    "We won't import half the existing records and the ones we do can't include any mental or sexual health information because we didn't bother with fine-grained access controls"

    I hate to ruin your rant but - and I know because I worked on this - that the database records had various levels of encryption (by which I mean if you just did a SELECT from the DB on certain patient fields all you would see is garbage so even DB admins couldn't see it) which meant that - in theory - only the correct people could access certain parts.

  • Re:Really??? (Score:4, Informative)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:28AM (#45905589)

    'The bumholes that defraud the benefit system on a long term basis and drug addicts picking up their state-funded high'.
    The implication of this government has always been that fraud is high.

    However, their internal checks have consistently failed to find numbers matching this rhetoric.
    Illness and disability benefits when checked find about 0.5% fraud. And about the same amount of awards due to staff error.

    The implication of benefit fraud is being used to excuse a 20% reduction in eligibility for one disability benefit.

    Fraud on job-seekers allowance is higher.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @08:32AM (#45905607) Journal
    The correct way of doing this sort of thing would have been to define standard formats for all of the information and produce a set of open source libraries for manipulating this data, then require every local medical authority to be able to produce and consume these formats. Each local authority could then take the open source reference implementation and add whatever ugly code they needed to interface with their legacy system. It doesn't matter whether they use the new formats internally, or just provide a mechanism for importing and exporting. Most likely, they'd initially do the latter, but when they started to replace existing systems they'd want to make native support for the standard formats a requirement.
  • Re:Benefit system ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday January 09, 2014 @10:12AM (#45906093) Homepage Journal

    The sad part is this hurts British people the most, especially those with foreign spouses. I can't get a visa for mine at the moment. Essentially my country thinks I am some kind of scammer because I didn't choose to marry another UK subject. In the end it may drive me away from this country to live with her abroad, meaning the country will lose my skills, my contributions in tax and my business.

    All this because the Daily Mail hates everyone, especially foreigners.

  • Re:Immigrants (Score:5, Informative)

    by xelah ( 176252 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @10:29AM (#45906155)

    Can't help thinking I'm feeding a troll here...

    You keep on harping on the "EU immigrants" while avoiding talking about what is going in England.

    You believe that EU immigrants only settle in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

    There are so many immigrants in England that in maternity wards across England's hospitals you find *MORE* non-white babies than the white babies !

    As you no doubt know, race != nationality. This, I think, demonstrates why most of the mainstream parties like policies such as benefits clampdowns on immigrants and restrictions on student and marriage visas. It allows them to say 'we're like you, we're on your side' to racists and xenophobes, whilst not having to actually be (overtly) racist or xenophobic and putting off everybody else.

    Most of those who are receiving "benefits" are people formerly from Pakistan or Nigeria or India.

    42% of benefits are old-age benefits, mostly pensions. 2.57% is for the unemployed, who will also get a big fraction of the 21% low-income benefits (like housing benefit and council tax concessions). 18% goes to parents (not just poor ones, most/all parents get these). 16% is for the disabled and sick. So, Mr AC, which of these groups do you believe to be mostly people from Pakistan, Nigeria and India?

    Also for those not following UK politics, almost all benefits are being attacked by the current government, except for the biggest part, old-age benefits, which are being protected despite pensioner incomes doing better than they have previously. This is for political reasons: old people vote more. Also, older people are more anti-immigrant and young (and more educated) people more pro-immigrant.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer