DWP signs £3m deal to improve UC data-sharing and help councils ‘identify cohorts of vulnerability and target interventions’

A dedicated team with the department will work with Capgemini over the coming months to assess potential options to support sharing of government information to help identify those at risk

The Department for Work and Pensions has signed a £3m contract to enable improved sharing of Universal Credit data with local government and, ultimately, help councils to better target interventions providing extra support for the most vulnerable.

On 13 March, the DWP entered into an initial two-year agreement with Capgemini. Over the course of the engagement, the IT services firm will “support the DWP to build or enhance existing application programming interfaces or other data extraction routines in the Universal Credit domain, to provide a data egress service to fulfil new requests for UC data”, according to the text of the contract.

The document outlines that councils would like to be able to access DWP-held information on demand. This includes data on UC deductions for rent arrears, debts, or bills, as well as information on employment status – in particular people or households that are long-term unemployed.

If the DWP could enable such “real-time data to be extracted from the Universal Credit system”, this could give councils insights into citizens that may require additional advice or financial support – and then make the appropriate interventions to avert potential crisis, the contract adds.

The commercial agreement reveals that work to support this onjective, which is currently in the midst of its discovery stage, is being overseen by the department’s Local Authority Partnership Engagement and Delivery (LA-PED).

The contract states that the LA-PED unit “advised Local Authorities (LAs) and the secretary of state three years ago that we would provide UC data, to enable LAs to identify cohorts of vulnerability so they could target interventions”.

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Since then, the DWP has worked with various sector organisations and some individual councils, some of which “already have initiatives in play, some established and run by data scientists”.

“They would all like access to DWP/UC data to enhance their local picture to help them identify and target vulnerability speedily,” the contract adds. “While some would like us to provide them with ‘hits’ from data matching [that] conform to their definition of vulnerable, [this] wouldn’t work at a national level.”

DWP is thus seeking to create a means of enabling local authorities to better tap into Universal Credit data. The department is considering whether to build a dedicated platform, or to adapt tools created as part of the Scalable Approach to Vulnerability Via Interoperability (SAVVI) project backed by the Local Digital unit of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Over the coming months, Capgemini will work alongside officials as the DWP evaluates the options and  then implements its preferred choice.

The contract says: “Whether DWP go with SAVVI or… press for a DWP standalone solution for LAs, this has always been described as a ‘brand new data share’, and is intended to be strategic, making full use of secure remote access (SRA) available services, as well as utilising modern code and best-in-class security measures. DWP have more user research and horizon scanning to conduct and DWP still need to discuss our requirements with DWP/UC solutions architects. However, DWP are keen to accelerate this piece of work and don’t want to miss an opportunity to have a dedicated UC-based resource working… from the latter stages of discovery, through alpha (with real options appraisal)… to delivery and, [finally], live.”

The contract is scheduled to run until March 2026 and can be extended for a further six months beyond this date. If it runs to its full potential term, a total of £2.5m – plus VAT – will be spent via the agreement.

Sam Trendall

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