Voice risk analysis pilots: perspectives from staff, claimants and potential claimants: research summary: summary

Document type
Adams, Lorna; Oldfield, Katie; Barlow, Jane
Date of publication
1 December 2010
Research report; 716
Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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Summary of a piece of research designed to feed into the overall evaluation of the Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) pilots. Piloting of the VRA process for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claims began in late 2007 and was extended with a larger scale trial taking place through to the end of 2009. The research sought to collect qualitative evidence from staff, claimants and potential claimants on their views and experiences of the VRA process.

The primary objective of the research was to understand whether VRA is viewed positively or negatively and whether or not VRA was likely to deter those with a legitimate claim from making a benefit claim or whether a negative experience was likely to put off claimants continuing with their (valid) claim. The methodology consisted of a mixture of focus groups, in-depth interviews and site visits to local authorities and a call centre

A VRA call starts with a calibration process that establishes the normal pitch and tone of the claimant’s voice. It is against this baseline that the indication of the risk of an untruthful statement is based. Calibration is undertaken by asking the claimant a series of factual questions relating to details about which are deemed to be non-contentious such as their name and address.

After calibration, the operative goes through a script which asks questions about the details of the claim and whether the circumstances of the person are still as was outlined on the claim. Topics covered include the claimant’s income and savings and those of their partner. At the end of the interview claimants are asked whether the information they have given is correct. This is equivalent to the declaration which has to be signed on the Housing Benefit application form.

If, during questioning, the software detects that there is a risk that the statement is not truthful a message will flash on the operative’s screen and a beep will be heard in their ear piece. There is a set script that has to be followed which means that the operative does not probe for more information or challenge an answer that has been identified by the software as being of high risk.

At the conclusion of the interview the claimant is put on hold while the operative reviews the identified risks and decides upon the next course of action. It should be noted that this course of action is not based exclusively upon the VRA. It is based on a combination of VRA outputs; the operative’s understanding of the claimant’s reaction to certain questions (such as playing for time, nervous laughter, aggression); and their personal judgement based on their experience of handling benefit claims.

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