The DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) has announced that it is launching a new dedicated customer information platform called Searchlight that will be accessed by over 80,000 civil servants. The new system is designed to help staff dealing with benefit claims, allowances and credits and speed up the process of getting financial help.
Searchlight is a prototype version of the software that is already being used by some 20,000 DWP employees and a further 80,000 will be getting access under the new move. This will include HMRC, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the Ministry of Defence, the Scottish government and local authorities around the UK.
The new software was announced by project head Stephen Hedley in a blog post on DWP Digital following Searchlight winning the Best Public Sector Project in the National Technology Awards this month. The software brings together the previous system of using multiple screens to access customer information into a new single page system.
The new software will replace an ageing system that wasted a lot of time due to timeouts and malfunctions. This meant people contacting DWP for any queries were often unable to complete the query due to a system problem or had to wait an excessively long time for the information.
The platform will hold some 22 million UK citizens information and will be managing the payment of over £168 billion in benefits, allowances and credits every year. Work has been going on for two years to develop the new system with DWP staff and a team from the BPDTS Ltd working together in-house on the project.
The aim of the system is that it has better user design and is maintained by a team led by the DWP. This means if there are problems, the department is better placed to deal with them quickly due to an in-house team. The system works on PCs but also on tablets and smartphones and will be run from the DWP’s hybrid cloud environment that uses the Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The use of the Amazon cloud platform for Searchlight will also allow the DWP to add to it and continue to develop more features. Additions planned for the future include allowing authorised users to view and update historical customer data as well as to allocate national insurance numbers to new customers.
The DWP is also very conscious that Searchlight has the highest level of security to protect the sensitive data of customers. This means that it uses the latest industry security standards as a minimum to make certain no-one can access the data.
The aim of the new system is ultimately to make the DWP more efficient for customers and therefore mean that ringing the DWP telephone number with a query will no longer mean a prolonged wait. It should also mean better coordination between the various departments of the massive government department, reducing the risk that your information isn’t connected and that problems occur in the future.