HC Deb 22 February 1999 vol 326 c164W
Mr. Cousins

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what studies have been commissioned under the Housing Benefit Computing Strategy Study; when such studies were commissioned; what agencies are employed in the study; how much expenditure has been committed so far; and what are the implementation milestones to completion. [71786]

Angela Eagle

The Housing Benefit Computing Strategy (HBCS) study was announced on 5 March 1996 to explore the benefits of integrating local authority Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (HB/CTB) computer systems with the next generation of departmental computer systems. A range of studies were commissioned in 1996. They included a national survey of local authorities (to establish details of their existing systems and their attitude towards a national computing system); an HB/CTB process mapping exercise (to baseline the business requirements of an integrated system) and a financial analysis (to model the costs and benefits for the department and local authorities of such a system).

Further analytical work has been undertaken during the course of 1997 and 1998. At present, only the Department is involved in continuing work, but local authority Housing Benefit practitioners and a number of consultancy firms have been involved in the past. Excluding civil service and local authority costs, expenditure of approximately £640,000 has been committed so far. The study into whether Departmental computer systems should take account of HB/CTB is continuing. Integration of local authority and Departmental computer systems is a major undertaking and progress is dependent on the implementation of the Department's overall information systems/information technology strategy. Final decisions on the outcome of the HBCS study and any future implementation plans will be dependent on this.

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