Freedom of information response

Risk-based verification/Algorithms or artificial intelligence software

Publication date: 
Monday 21 September 2020
Request: 

1. Does/ or has your council use any risk-based-verification services provided by an external company to help with processing welfare claims? Please state how long you have been using it for, and if you have recently cancelled a contract using it then state the date of cancellation. Please also say which company provides the service and the cost of its use to date or to the date that it was ceased. Please also say the cost per annum of use.

2. If you no longer use risk-based verification please state why or direct me to any public board meetings where it is discussed. Please also say whether you have any figures on its accuracy in decision making (percentage accuracy) or if you consulted with the public on its use.

3. Does your council use any other algorithms and/or artificial intelligence software/ automated decision making software in the process of delivering public services?

If Yes, please provide details:

(i) Of the algorithms or artificial intelligence software you use;

(ii) Of whether you use a commercial product or whether you have developed your own system. If it's a commercial product, please say the cost of the contract

(iii) Of the purpose for which the algorithm and/or artificial intelligence software operates;

(iv) Of the decisions the algorithm and/or artificial intelligence software is asked to make or assist;

(v) Of the type, classification and amount of data that the algorithm and/or artificial intelligence software uses in the decision-making process;

(vi) Of the process by which the decision made or assisted by the algorithm is subject to human review;

(vii) Of the process by which you inform an individual that they have been subject to a decision made or aided by an algorithm and/or artificial intelligence software?

Please also say whether you have done any checks or reviews for any potential bias in the system before implementing it.

Response: 

1. We have used RBV supplied by Coactiva since from 1st April 2012 to date, although we are due to change suppliers shortly once the new citizens access module is implemented. Unfortunately we can’t advise on the costs to date as this contract was originally outsourced to a previous Managed Service Partner and is now embedded within the overall ICT budget. We can state that at the point of implementation it was at least cost neutral due to the admin savings it delivered.

For clarity, RBV, in respect of HB/CTS, is only used to guide the assessor on how much evidence we need a claimant to supply to substantiate the information in their claim i.e. whether we need payslips to back up income, confirmation of ID etc.. It does not play any part in decision making on entitlement or amount of entitlement.

2. There are no specific statistics on accuracy because various safeguards are built in to the process agreed between the DWP and software providers.

3. We do not use any algorithms or AI to make automated decisions for delivering public services. Any decisions are always made by human intervention/review by suitably experienced professionals using data from various streams within the organisation. In certain circumstances pseudonymised data from disparate systems is correlated/matched to help support decisions but never to automatically make them.  

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Where the copyright is owned by Thurrock Council, you must apply to the Council to re-use the information. Please email information.matters@thurrock.gov.uk if you wish to re-use the information you have been supplied. For information where the copyright is owned by another person or organisation, you must apply to the copyright owner to obtain their permission.

Request reference:
FOI 10224