Author Topic: When computers make benefits decisions  (Read 571 times)

Sunny Clouds

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When computers make benefits decisions
« on: August 21, 2017, 01:28:14 PM »
A comment on a Guardian story:-

Comment below a Guardian article by a poster called  Guymonde: "I'm a councillor. One of my disabled residents has had her housing benefit stopped 24 times due to 'changes in circumstances '. On several occasions this was because the DWP decided her address was *** Rd rather than *** Road ( she has never moved home during this period)."

This was followed by comments about who pays what benefits-wise.  I've no idea whether the author, 'Guymonde' really is a councillor, or whether this is actually a true story, but it does sound horribly, horribly plausible, doesn't it?  Indeed, it's entirely plausible that if it's not true as stated, there's an underlying true story that's been slightly changed to avoid identifying the author or the claimant.

I used to have a middle name that was a single letter.  I did a formal change of name to get rid of it because computers can't cope with it.  English  names aren't supposed to be just one letter long, so obviously I wasn't filling in the forms right.  I even tried using a full stop or an underscore or a space but on many systems nothing worked.  I've no idea what someone does if their only forename or their surname is a single letter.

I wonder what other oddities cause computers to throw a wobbly, particularly in relation to things like benefits?


JLR2

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2017, 07:33:04 AM »
''I wonder what other oddities cause computers to throw a wobbly,...''

I'd guess those oddities commonly known as hackers would be amongst the worst. Heck alone knows what would happen were the DWP's computers to be hacked.

ally

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2017, 09:36:31 AM »
Its human error that causes computer gilches.   The Dwp computer holds the names, births, and addresses of everyone in the uk.  It's so easy for someone to misspell someone's name.  A number wrong for a date of birth, or, a spelling mistake in the address etc.  I spent a lot of time searching  for the NINO for those who didn't immediately pop up in the system.  Scottish names with McDonald, MacDonald etc were common computer gilches.  There's rules and guidelines in the Dwp on how to input change of addresses etc.  Shortened forms of addresses, such as Rd, or, St, were not allowed.  Therefore, whoever did so, would be admonished if found out.

Considering the Dwp is a massive organisation,  It's hardly surprising that mistakes occur.  I had targets to meet.  So many pieces of work to be Inputted into the computer per hour.  Not always easy if you're havng an off day.

ATurtle

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2017, 04:10:14 AM »
When learning how to write the programs that control these big computers, many "error points" were examined, that of the person inputting data, the source data,  and the type of data being input.  There are several ways of correcting these errors, but the end result always depends on the entered data,.

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You put Garbage In you, get Garbage Out!!
AKA GIGO

Then again, as the system is a government one, built and programmed by the lowest bidder,

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You put Garbage Into the Garbage System, you get Garbage Out!
AKA GIGSGO!
Tony.

"I choose not to place "DIS", in my ability." - Robert M. Hensel

Sunny Clouds

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2017, 01:36:12 PM »
I think it's true that data entry errors are a problem, however I notice a big difference between, for example, financial institutions such as banks, brokers, fund managers, pension companies etc. and some state computer systems in this regard.

That's to say that whilst a financial institution might go a bit bananas over verifying ID for money laundering purposes, their computers don't scream error or fraud or whatever if you include a house name they don't have on their system as well as a house number, or omit a house name they have.   They don't seem to go into meltdown over titles or combinations of titles and names.  There are oddities that we as humans just get used to but aren't obvious to a machine, for example...Ermintrude Brown has the title lady by birth, so she is Lady Ermintrude Brown or Lady Ermintrude.  Her friend Mohammed Khan got a knighthood, so he's Sir Mohammed Khan or Sir Mohammed.  He marries Ermintrude's friend, Miss Jennifer Jones, and she becomes Lady Khan, or, where her forename is required, Jennifer, Lady Khan but not Lady Jennifer or Lady Jennifer Khan.

But financial companies that will go berserk over whether you're really who you say you are wouldn't have any glitches at all if their computer tells them that the customer who just filled in the form as Sir Mohammed is the customer on their records as Sir Khan, and he'll be tolerant because he understands that the computer just rearranges the info.  And if the computer can't tell the difference between Jennifer, Lady Khan and Lady Ermintrude Brown, it won't matter because it'll just rearrange the info and they'll probably get letters addressed to Lady J Khan and Lady E Brown. 

And after all these years, I'm 100% sure that's not just a data entry issue, it's about programming a computer not to go into meltdown over such matters, such as whether Lady Khan and Lady Ermintrude do or don't use commas or whatever.  And, oh gosh, if somebody decides it's more to the point to refer to Lady Khan as Dame Jennifer Khan, the bank won't close the account, the worst that will happen is that her next cheque book will say something silly like Dame Lady Khan. 

In other words, yes, data entry is relevant, but I observe as someone not able to programme computers that it is possible to design systems in a way that is able to cope with information presented in lots of ways without going into meltdown, particularly without getting hung up over abbreviations and punctuation, computers that are capable of coping with Rd and Road or Rd. or whatever being the same thing, particularly if the postcode is the same, given that for the most part in the UK there will only be one address with a particular number in any given postcode area.  Thus the street name and neighbourhood and town and county are actually irrelevant and a computer should be able to accept that without going off on one.

JLR2

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2017, 08:12:11 AM »
Just thinking, OK in my case that's me being optimistic, but if the information being put into the DWP's system is put in correctly but is based on deliberate lies by an assessor for the original assessment what chance would any system stand in working out what is right or wrong. Following such input those further down the line will not be aware that the information they are presented with is in fact suspect but will taking the information presented to them on their screens take it as indeed fact and process it accordingly with the result it will take things reaching the highest levels of the appeals system to see things sorted out.

In the meantime the honest claimant suffers not those responsible for the original entry into the system by pressurised assessors of untruths and down right lies. 

huhn

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2017, 07:11:24 AM »
I just found my bank did not change my details for 16 years, they send the letters to the correct place but when they had me  this week send the review letter for custumer  I found all details are old. it looks like a does not know what b  is doing and c makes it again different and nobody talks with each other >yikes< >yikes< >yikes<


Sunny Clouds

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2017, 11:06:38 AM »
 >doh<

ATurtle

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2017, 02:28:40 PM »
My comment above was not the fact that the programmers should stop computers from throwing out Sir Clive Sinclair when he opened his account as Mr. Clive Sinclair, it's when the operator puts in Sir Clove Sinvlaor instead.   We appreciate that someone with the National Insurance Number AB123456C is the person with NINo AB123456C whether they are single, married, knighted or other and however we type in the name it is the same person.  However, if the NINo is entered as AB124356C this is someone totally different and unless the operator takes the time to check that the names match, then there could be problems.

With so many weird and wonderful spellings of names now, it is all but impossible for a programmer of a system such as the DWp database to include all possible spellings, Ciaron, Ciaren, Ciaran, Kieron, Kieran, Keeran etc. Then comes the problems with HCPs dictating the results of their examinations, is the left and right from their viewpoint or the patient's.  I know, and you know it should be from the patient's point of view, but if they reverse it, someone like me is left on the wrong benefits for 18 months.
Tony.

"I choose not to place "DIS", in my ability." - Robert M. Hensel

bulekingfisher

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2017, 02:10:28 PM »
Computer's can not make allowance's for when circumstance's change so the dead are leading the living in to oblivion + this practise should be STOPPED instantly as it is dangerous + positions should face man-slaughter charges

Sunny Clouds

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2017, 01:40:33 PM »
I agree.

With things done on paper/card, there was still a sense that it was very much the human that was in control, but I have a sense that with some spheres of activity it's almost as if the computer is in control, or at least as if people behave as if it was.

People seem to be increasingly recruited to feed a computer information and ask it what to do, not to tell it what to do.  That's not denigrating the front line staff, it's a criticism of the way things are imposed from above.

But computers should again be tools of the job, not tools of politicians and management.

I think the way I see this is analogous to an organisation I once worked in where, like so many organisations, they started getting staff to log on and off computers even to go to the loo.  Well, ok, clocking in to various places of work isn't new, I can remember doing it with an old-fashioned card more decades ago than I care to admit to.  But it can get to the point at which people are so micro-managed it hinders their ability to do their job and in the organisation I'm remembering, they lost goodwill and also effectively reduced the hours people worked and the amount of work they did.  After all, if your boss is going to be petty about how often you go to the loo, why would you stay late out of dedication to your job and your customers?

Like jobseekers' agreements.  People spend so long doing irrelevant things that it gets in the way of seeking work.  If I end up on jobseekers or its equivalent in the future, I shall be as blunt as I was when briefly on the dole in the distant past.  I shall say that when it comes to looking for work, I shall do two things: firstly I shall do what they require of me in the way of jobseeking in order to get my dole; and secondly I shall do what I actually need to do to get a job.  E.g. I shall produce two sorts of CV: an off-the-peg one meeting their textbook requirements; and a tailored one for each job I apply to that I think I'm actually likely to get as opposed to the ones they tell me to apply for, to which I shall send the CV that meets with their approval.  In the old days, they just said to do things the way I wanted, and I managed to get various part-time and temporary work for a short while until I could get a permanent job. 

These days, though, you have to play the game.

I'm afraid that if I end up on a benefit where I have to keep a computer log, they're going to be a bit unhappy because I'll fill it in with a vengeance.  Entry after entry after entry. 

Yes, I'm obsessive, but then that's part of why I'm on the sick.  I've a suspicion the delay in processing my PIP application is that their computer had indigestion over the length of  my application and appendices (about 150 pages or so including the actual form).  If I need to appeal, I can guarantee I'll put in as much again and probably more.

Thank heavens I don't work for the DWP.  I'd feel so tempted to smash up my computer.

ATurtle

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2017, 04:26:19 PM »
Let's be honest, if a computer is programmed with the fact that something like, Cerebral Palsy and that it is a genetic illness that cannot be cured, then the computer will know not to bother the claimant again.  In the case of something that can be cured or alleviated by treatment, then another code can be used for the recall for another WCA.

All it takes is a computer input technician and a doctor to go through the 12 million different illnesses, disabilities and conditions that people are prone to.
Tony.

"I choose not to place "DIS", in my ability." - Robert M. Hensel

Sunny Clouds

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2017, 06:26:00 PM »
 >lol<

KizzyKazaer

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Re: When computers make benefits decisions
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2017, 09:24:05 PM »
Quote
Thank heavens I don't work for the DWP.  I'd feel so tempted to smash up my computer.

Believe you me, in my days of frustration as a benefit processor, it was a close-run thing at times...