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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has no immediate plans to update its online claims website, which only supports outdated systems like Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.
Earlier this month, V3 revealed that the process for claiming certain disability and pension benefits online was restricted to systems running out-of-date software.
The DWP has since updated V3 on the situation, pointing out that the current online claims system was introduced back in 2006 and that while the system is in review, there is no timeframe for an update.
A DWP spokesperson told V3: "We are reviewing the existing Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance and Overseas State Pension online application system, and in the meantime anyone who is unable to use the existing online system to apply can always phone to make a claim."
Of the three benefits limited to the old XP and IE systems, one of these – the DLA – has been updated to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system, the spokesperson said. PIP uses a different web form based on more modern architecture, according to the DWP.
As of 8 April 2013, people in the North have been able to make PIP claims using the new system, and from 10 June this will be rolled out across the rest of the country.
However, as part of the PIP upgrade, all claimants will be required to attend a face-to-face assessment after registering their interest via the new online form. So the process has effectively become more time-consuming and complex for applicants, and more costly to process for the DWP – although the department will no doubt be hoping this helps it to reduce the £3.5bn it is currently losing to benefit fraud and error.
Applicants for the other two benefits, the Attendance Allowance and Overseas State Pension, will need to continue to claim online if they have a suitable old system, or as the DWP suggests, pick up the phone.
V3 readers were unimpressed, but not surprised about the situation and wrote in with their own personal examples of working with public sector IT.
“There is no funding for updated, let alone modern, hardware nor funds for staffing,” noted Brian Bartlett, who has worked for the government in the military and civil service.
“The times that I have successfully leaped ahead of the lagging IT capabilities was always on my own hook, my own expense. Yes, there are frequent initiatives directed from above but invariably the requirements (often irrationally) demanded result in the multi-million/billion pound/dollar IT disasters we read about far too often. Even when successful, you still find the lack of funding for training, staffing, and maintenance support.”
Archie Lukas, who was previously an IT professional in the NHS, pointed out that XP was late arriving at the organisation, and that it was actually uninstalled from new Dell PCs in Buckinghamshire and other regions because the existing software would only run on older operating systems.
“Windows NT 4 was in use until 2006 in NHS Buckinghamshire and – having only just got to grips with the newfangled Millennium software from BT, Fujitsu and Cerner, supplied by the £6m defunct NPfIT [National Programme for Information Technology], which won't run on Vista or Win 7 – they are stuck up a small stream without a valid mean of propulsion,” he said.
“Last thing I did was order 400 Dell PCs with Windows XP on, which were in storage to ensure continuity. Two hundred were installed in 2010. Management were deaf Luddites.”
Madeline Bennett is editor of V3 and The INQUIRER. Previously, she was editor of IT Week. Prior to becoming a journalist, Madeline was an English teacher at a London secondary school. Madeline is a regular technology commentator on TV and radio, including Sky, BBC and CNN.