Promoted by Liberata

As originally seen in ‘Public Sector Technology’ published by Raconteur in The Times on 10th November

The public sector is under unprecedented pressure to deliver yet more savings. But more efficient use of data and technology means this can be achieved without having to compromise on services.

The forthcoming government spending review will focus on the need for Whitehall departments to make further savings of £20 billion, on top of the £17 billion announced in July’s Budget and years of reduced expenditure. The challenge, says chancellor George Osborne, is simple: we need to do more with less. It’s a mantra that is being adopted across the public sector, including local government.

The good news is there is much room for improvement when it comes to efficiency and many departments have already invested in proven technology, which could be used to drive savings in other areas.

“It doesn’t need to be about squeezing or cutting existing services, but rather how you can reduce the amount of work you need to do to achieve the same or better outcomes through the re-use of efficient processes, technology and smart data to guide this,” says Charlie Bruin, chief executive of Liberata UK.

“It’s not a pain-free way of doing things and there’s still a political will required. But it’s about using data to target services better and re-applying efficient practices, which are already proven to work, to reduce the overall demand for service, rather than cutting the services themselves.”

This more effective use of existing processes and technology can lead to what Mr Bruin describes as the “innovation dividend”: payback from government investments in innovations that have already been made, but which could be applied more widely. This could account for a significant proportion of the 25 to 40 per cent savings that will be required in the upcoming spending review, he adds, simply through the re-use of innovations that deliver more efficient working.

As well as the benefits that come from driving customers to use web-based communications and eliminating errors in paper or online forms, Mr Bruin gives two examples of how public sector organisations can use data-driven technology to achieve real savings.

The first revolves around more effective use of joined-up data, drawn from both public sector records and third parties such as credit reference agencies and other public domain information, to accurately identify fraud and error in claims for council tax reduction or housing benefit, where there is evidence of a mis-match with eligibility criteria.

With most cases selected on the basis of real-time evidence, rather than scoring, staff can more accurately target those where fraud or error may be present, rather than examine the totality of all claims.

“By combining broader sets of data you get a richer data analysis where you can more accurately assess the extent of fraud and error within your existing case load,” Mr Bruin explains. “If you superimpose on that what we think a fraudulent or erroneous claim looks like and use people who assess claims day in and day out to create a system of advanced rules – in our case over 80 of them – it is possible to re-use successful methods which are proven to reduce the workload at the same time as producing a better outcome.”

Using its service technology business CapacityGrid, Liberata is currently working with a consortium of 12 local authorities, led by Pendle Council, to conduct council tax reduction reviews. This has resulted in more than a third of the 15 per cent of cases flagged up by the data proving to have fraud or error present.

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