Voice analysis trial gives wobbly results

Stammer to fall

Tests of voice risk analysis by the Department for Work and Pensions have produced varied results.

The first wave of trials involved new claimants at Jobcentre Plus, and reviews of claimants at six local authorities, being classified as low or high risk by operators with the help of a voice risk analysis system. A selection of claimants then had a face to face review to establish whether the information they provided was accurate and if it affected their benefits entitlement.

A big difference in the outcomes for low and high risk groups would suggest the technology is effective.

The department has published figures on the proportion of applicants from each trial who in interviews revealed information which affected their benefits. In three local authorities there were big gaps between the proportions for the group operators classified as high risk compared with those classified as low risk. In Birmingham there were changes for five per cent of claimants deemend low risk, and for 40 per cent of those in the high risk group.

This provided evidence that the voice risk analysis technology was helpful, but in other local authorities the difference between the groups was much smaller. In Wealden, those who should have had changes to benefits represented 12 per cent of the supposedly high risk group, barely higher than the 10 per cent of the low risk group. In Lambeth, the figures were 16% for low risk and 21 per cent of the high risk.

Jobcentre Plus also revealed a relatively small gap, with figures of 29 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.

"The department is committed to ensuring that decisions to use or not use the technology are supported by evidence," DWP minister Tony McNulty told Parliament on 11 March 2009, adding that the department is carrying out a second wave of trials over 12 months at 24 local authorities. The results are scheduled to be available in spring 2010.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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