Coalition IT reboot to drive welfare reform

Joint statement with Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP

The Coalition Government will take action to replace the Department of Human Services decades old welfare payment IT system with a modern platform, an important step in advancing welfare reform, Minister for Social Services the Hon. Scott Morrison and Minister for Human Services, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne said today.

“This important long-term investment will allow the Government to properly address the challenges facing Australia’s welfare system, maximise the benefits of e-government, reduce the costs of administering the system for taxpayers and help crack down on welfare cheats,” Minister Morrison said.

“This 30-year-old system consisting of 30 million lines of code and undertaking more than 50 million daily transactions is responsible for delivering around $100 billion in payments to 7.3 million people every year.

“Investing in a new system will boost efficiencies and help advance many welfare reforms - you can't fix the system if you can't change the engine which drives the system and makes it work. The efficiencies it creates will also mean the new system will pay for itself over time.

"This investment will also help us stop the rorts by giving our welfare cops the tools they need on the beat to collar those who are stealing from taxpayers by seeking to defraud the system.

“Previous governments have sought to kick the can down the road when it came to making this important investment but the Coalition Government is getting on with the job of building a new system that will benefit all Australians.

“If we want a flexible and modern social security system that meets the needs of those who rely on it, then we need flexible and modern infrastructure. This will ensure changes governments make to our welfare system can be implemented quickly and cost effectively.

“ICT reform will also ensure more government systems are talking to each other, lessening the compliance burden on individuals, employers and service providers. Creating a simpler system will make it easier for people to comply with requirements and spend more time searching for jobs, which is the key element of welfare reform,” Minister Morrison said.

Minister Payne said the multi-year project will be one of the world’s largest transformations of a social welfare IT system.

“Work will begin immediately to mobilise the project team so that we can go to the market early in the new financial year,’’ Minister Payne said.

“The project will be carried out in multiple tranches, with customers beginning to see benefits of the upgrade at the end of next year.

“The 1980s technology propping up the current system was built for an era of paper records. It is costly to maintain and incapable of taking full advantage of the digital age.

“Much of the complexity people associate with claiming government assistance is a result of the red tape created by the ageing system.

“The new system will be designed around the customer, ensuring people are directed to the appropriate services for their situation.

“The Government will benefit from faster, less costly implementation of social policy changes and better data analytics to inform policy decisions. Improvements to real-time data sharing between agencies will mean that, with customer consent, their information won’t have to be provided twice.

“Improved data sharing will also significantly increase the Government’s ability to detect and prevent fraud and non-compliance.

“This means customers who fail to update their details with us will be less likely to have to repay large debts, and those who willfully act to defraud taxpayers will be caught much more quickly,” Minister Payne said.

An Advisory Group comprised of experienced leaders from the public and private sectors will be established to oversee the early stages of the project, followed by the engagement with IT industry partners.

“This is an exciting opportunity to work on a unique infrastructure project that will benefit millions of Australians. We are looking forward to strong engagement from the private sector to help design and deliver the welfare payment system of the future,” Minister Payne said.

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