Department signs contract to support ongoing development of single ‘get financial support’ service as part of major project launched this year and intended to deliver ‘modernisation’ for 20 million citizens
As part of a recently launched modernisation drive, the Department for Work and Pensions has signed a £1m deal to support the development of a single service through which citizens will be able to access benefits.
The department’s Service Modernisation Programme (SMP) has recently been added to the government major project portfolio. Over the past few months, a senior manager has been appointed to lead the scheme and several five- and six-figure contracts have been signed with suppliers tasked with supporting developing a “narrative” for the programme, PublicTechnology reported last week.
Alongside these, on Monday the department entered into an engagement with India-based digital services giant Coforge which, over the next 12 months, will support the DWP in delivering a “Future State Project” that forms part of the wider SMP scheme, and is intended to consider and protect the long-term operations of the organisation.
According to the text of the contract, the project’s remit will include testing the department’s “hypothesis that, by converging our delivery of benefits… in this case a ‘get financial support’ service, we will have a more efficient, sustainable and adaptable organisation, [and] a simpler, more consistent and, ultimately, better user experience”.
The proposed unified ‘get financial support’ service for citizens to access benefits is being developed to a “very ambitious timescale”. This plan sets out intent to complete the creation of an alpha service for digital testing – to help inform a wider “business case” for the SMP – by the end of the first half of 2024.
The alpha service will comprise a “clickable prototype… based [on] a service blueprint and in keeping with GDS design patterns”.
Over the coming months, the creation of this service will be supported by user research and business analysis that will involve “carrying out a current state assessment describing what happens now – with respect to the process, data, and technology, [while] defining ‘to be’ processes” for the new financial support tool, the contract added.
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Coforge will assist this work over the next six months by providing the DWP with five digital experts including a delivery manager, an interaction designer, a user research, and two business analysts. The firm’s deal with the department runs for an initial term of one year and, during the latter half of the contract, the company will support the delivery of a second, to-be-determined statement of work.
Over the initial one-year term of the deal, up to about £925,000 is expected to be spent by the DWP. If an optional 12-week extension is signed off, the value of the contract could rise by an additional £230,000, taking total spending to a little shy of £1.2m.
The contract adds that the overall aim of the Future State Project is to consider – and ensure the success and sustainability of – the department’s operations in the long term.
“This project is looking into the far future – 2030 [and beyond] – to supporting efforts to make DWP more efficient and our service offering more user-centred. The way that DWP and its service offering are organised [currently are] impacting: our ability to meet our policy intent, [and] the efficiency and efficacy of the business, and is, ultimately, making for a confusing and inconsistent user experience, sometimes preventing people from accessing help when they need it most. Our current set-up is unsustainable.”
The overall aims of the wider Service Modernisation Programme – which will run for at least six years, up until the end of the current decade – is to “transform the customer experience of approximately 20 million” citizens accessing services in a wide range of areas.
This will include services in “child maintenance, working age [benefits], carers and disabilities, state pension [and] pension credit, and disputes”.
Alongside this front-end transformation, the scheme also has a remit to “fundamentally change the role, and services delivered for approximately 14,000” of the department’s staff – equating to one in six of its workforce.
The aim of this work “will be create the conditions for colleagues to thrive [and] do their jobs effectively… with all the right skills, able to join up and tailor services to meet individual customer needs, being supported by confident leaders that are landing change effectively”.
The project has been added to the major project portfolio since the last annual publication of programme data – meaning that detailed information on timelines and projected spending is not yet available.