The Department of Human services has started early in its efforts to generate goodwill for its billion-dollar welfare systems replacement - even before a single line of new code has been created.
The welfare payments infrastructure transformation (WPIT) is the biggest IT project in Canberra, and will see the sprawling, legacy systems that currently calculate and pay all of Australia’s Centrelink benefits ripped out and replaced at a cost of some $1.5 billion.
The DHS is still in the process of picking its first systems integrator to roll out the initial module of the software side of the program, but has long flagged its intention to grease its path with little process changes along the way, that will help sell the changes to customers and stakeholders.
The first WPIT tweak has seen the department speed up youth allowance claims, ironically enough, by allowing them to be rejected faster.
Previously, even incomplete or obviously ineligible youth allowance or Austudy claims from students would have to got through a full claims process before being formally rejected because they lacked necessary documentation, or didn’t meet basic eligibility criteria.
As much as 40 percent of all claims are rejected for being incomplete, driving youth allowance processing times up to an average of nine weeks, before they can be sent back to students to have a second go.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said by simply changing the system to reject claims straight away, the average time to respond to an applicant is down to five weeks, and the application backlog has been cut from 80,000 pending claims to 35,000.
“WPIT is the most significant transformation to the way we process and distribute welfare payments in 30 years. It is pleasing to see these tangible results, saving time and money,” he said.
The department claims 60 percent of students say the changes have made the application process easier and they are less likely to have to get in touch with Centrelink to manage a claim.
It will be welcome news for the department which is busy swatting away a deluge of public criticism, plus a number of formal reviews, related to its automated debt recovery system, which has been described as heavy handed and indiscriminate.