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Government abandons benefit-cheat lie detectors

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The government has abandoned plans to use a telephone-based lie detector to catch benefits fiddlers, following criticism by scientists that the technology is no more reliable than tossing a coin.

Analysis of "Voice Risk Analysis" (VRA) software did not conclude it is effective, the Department of Work and Pensions said.

"The evidence is not compelling enough to recommend the use of VRA within DWP," it explained.

The trials, begun under the previous government, cost £2.16m. A total of 24 local authorities were involved in the most recent batch of trials, and 23 reported results.

The software, supplied by Israeli firm Nemesysco via Capita, measured fluctuations in benefits claimants' voices to calculate whether they were "low risk" or "high risk", requiring further investigation.

Out of 12 authorities who tested the system during benefits reviews, only one reported it was a success. Only three out of nine who used it on calls by new claimants said it was successful.

Results from one out of two authories testing it on claimaints reporting a change of circumstances were jusdged successful.

The poor results will come as no surprise to the authors of a 2007 scientific study on VRA, who said it is based on "charlatanry".

"No qualified speech scientist believes in this nonsense," the authors, two professors of language science, wrote.

The Department of Work and Pensions said: "At no stage did the evaluation carried out by the Department explicitly consider the effectiveness of the technological aspects of VRA." ®

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