Telecom Signaling Industry News

TMCNet:  Conservative council leader quits over 'lie detector' tests on benefit claimants

[January 22, 2013]

Conservative council leader quits over 'lie detector' tests on benefit claimants

(Guardian Web Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Conservative group leader at Cornwall council has quit her post over the use of 'lie detector' tests on people claiming benefits.

Fiona Ferguson, who was responsible for corporate resources at the unitary authority, cited concerns about the use of Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) software. In her resignation letter to Jim Currie, Tory leader of the council, Ferguson warned that using VRA would not help the council to pursue fraud and would be "extremely damaging to our reputation".

She added: "It is clearly right that Cornwall Council takes a strong line against people who deliberately mis-claim tax benefits but in this case I am more concerned about the impact on the vast majority of honest claimants." Ferguson claimed in her resignation email – which was placed online by councillors – that Currie had threatened to sack her from her Cabinet post if she revealed the details of the lie detector test being used. Ferguson also announced that she was launching a petition to require any use of the technology to be approved by a larger meeting of the council.

Private outsourcing company Capita says on its website that VRA is "capable of identifying stress and emotion in a caller's voice pattern".The contract will cost the taxpayer around £50,000 but is intended to save many times that in preventing false claims, according to Cornwall Council which states that research carried out in other areas of the country suggests around four per cent of single person benefit discounts could be false claims.

A council spokesman said yesterday: "As part of this 'zero tolerance' approach to fraud the authority has commissioned Capita to carry out a review of all council tax payers who are receiving a 25% single person discount on their council tax bills." He added that letters asking for claimants to provide information on the current circumstances have been sent to more than 30,000 households and that telephone interviews will be carried out with a number of claimants to verify the details they have provided.

"These interviews will be carried out by trained assessors who will use specialist technology to assist this process," he added.

Currie said: "There is tremendous pressure on the council's budget and we need to do everything we can to prevent fraud. This will not affect people making genuine claims but we estimate that identifying and removing inappropriate claims could save the council at least £1 million.

In her resignation letter Ferguson said she noted that the techniques used by Capita were trialled by the Department of Work and Pensions in 24 local authorities on the processing of Housing Benefit between August 2008 and December 2010.

A subsequent report said: "From our findings it is not possible to demonstrate that VRA works effectively and consistently in the benefits environment. The evidence is not compelling enough to recommend the use of VRA within DWP." Capita said it was not commenting on issues surrounding Ferguson's resignation. In response to the DWP report, the company said: "The selective use of VRA technology for the purposes of verifying high risk applications for Council Tax Single Person Discount is a useful additional tool in the validation process of identifying fraudulent claims. The technology is not used in isolation." Southwark Council in London has also reportedly used the Capita technology, to check households where a 25 per cent council tax discount was being claimed. Harrow Council has said that it used VRA software in a pilot scheme for housing benefit and council tax benefit claims but stopped using it a number of years ago.

(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

[ Back To Telecom Signaling's Homepage ]

Featured Events

5G NA Signaling Day

November 14-16, 2016
Sheraton Dallas, Dallas, TX

Featured Webcasts

Securing The Signaling Interconnect: Oracle's Perspective On Recent Security Events

Today's telecommunications landscape is changing rapidly, and the "institution" of trust between networks that has been assumed over the decades is no longer relevant. We are now hearing of vulnerabilities in CSP interconnection points that have been known ...

Applications of Wi-Fi Calling

With all of the discussion about faster data access and richer content, it could be assumed that voice services no longer play an important role in the business model of the communications service provider. Join ReThink Technologies Research and Oracle Communications as we explore ...

Featured Whitepapers

Oracle Communications Diameter Signaling Router Main Differentiators

Diameter is the protocol used by network elements in LTE and 3G networks to enable and monetize services, such as voice, video and data. Diameter enables revenue-generating data services; including tiered data plans, loyalty programs, application specific QoS, content provider and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions ...

Multi-Layer Security Protection for Signaling Networks

The sanctity of mobile operators' networks and brands will depend greatly on their ability to deliver QoS guarantees to roaming and interconnect partners, while simultaneously protecting increasingly multimedia-savvy and socially connected ...

Featured Datasheets

Oracle Communications Diameter Signaling Router

Centralizing Diameter routing with cloud deployable Oracle Communications Diameter Signaling Router creates a secure signaling architecture that reduces the cost and complexity of the core network and enables elastic growth, interoperability and rapid introduction ...

Oracle Communications Mobile Security Gateway

The Oracle Communications Mobile Security Gateway is a high performance gateway that allows the Communications Service Provider (CSP) to cost effectively expand network coverage and increase capacity by incorporating Heterogeneous ...

Oracle Communications Evolved Communications Application Server

As service providers drive their networks toward an all-IP and virtualized state, they require the means to design and deliver compelling high definition voice, video and multimedia offers via Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) ...

Featured Infographic