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Claimants (Computer Assistance)

Volume 19: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give details of the scheme he is proposing to help social security claimants work out their benefits using a computer; where this will take place; at what cost; and if he will make a statement.

The Department is currently developing an experimental micro-computer system, designed to be used directly by members of the public to ascertain their possible entitlement to a number of welfare benefits. The system is based on one designed by the University of Surrey which with the Applied Psychology Unit (Cambridge), is helping with the development work. If the present work is successful we intend to evaluate the system by running it in a small number of varying locations, from about July. Final decisions have not yet been reached on the precise number or location of the sites, the hardware to be used or the research contract. It is therefore not possible to give precise costings, but I expect the total cost of the development and experimentation phases to be of the order of £80,000, not including DHSS staff time.