Is the Child Benefit office so scrapped for cash?

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1BillionHex

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I had an amusing conversation with CHB yesterday... Well, it would have been amusing if I had accidentally took a second dose of my medication  >erm<

To cut a long story short, they told me that they do not keep records of letters received or conversations because their "computers can not hold all of that information". This was because I had sent a letter to them in June 2012 confirming that my step-son was continuing on with his level 3 course but they decided I had not gave them enough information and (according to them) they did not have details of the course he was already on because they don't store the data.

Anyway, at first glance, this might seem reasonable... How much stuff does CHB store in their database?

Sorry about this but getting "techie" here but stick with me here ;-)

Let's assume that the member of staff tapping away at his (or her) keyboard can enter a contact report which has the date and time, a brief summary of the details and the staff's name or ID number. The record would look something like this:

Code: [Select]
01/04/2013 11:01:01
Customer phoned to ask about their child's (Timmy Droptables) CHB. Confirmed with customer they need to send notification of further education course to continue receiving CHB as the child is over 16.
Jimbob Biggerstaff.

That's 238 characters (or bytes) but a larger record might go up to 512 characters (or bytes).

Assume they have 10,000 calls and interactions per day.

512 times by 10,000 equals 5,120,000 Bytes (or roughly 5 megabytes)

Assume they have this 365 days per year.

5120000 times by 365 = 1,868,800,000 (or quite a bit under 2 gigabytes)

Over 10 years:

1,868,800,000 times by 10 = 18,688,000,000 (or quite a bit under 20 gigabytes)


That might seem a lot but if you had 5 standard DVD discs, you could fit 10 years worth of notes onto them. Though for easier access they would use hard drives. A typical hard drive that can hold up to 2,000 gigabytes will cost 72. Of course, they would use 4 of them so if one fails the data is still there... So that extremely hefty bill would cost 288 (inc VAT and at retail prices). Yeah, of course, you would have to factor in electric and the cost of a small server in case they don't already have one they can use  >doh<

To make it simple, I have not included other bits of data which would add an overhead but even if that doubled the information stored it would all sit comfortably on a 2,000 gigabyte hard drive.. Or maybe they're using it to run a really big Minecraft server? j/k ;-)

Okay, hope I haven't confused you but the point is, to store all these text records... Not word docs or scanned letters, could easily be done very cheaply. So what is their game and is this something that's going to continue to propagate (after all CHB is now a part of HMRC)?

Just a thought but if anyone else has had "officialdom" giving similar excuses, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Okay... rant over with ;-)

Bob.

DarthVector

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Certainly sounds like a contrived excuse to me.

I wonder what you'd get back if you submitted a Data Subject Access Request to them? I find it very hard to believe that their records really are that sketchy.

KizzyKazaer

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Hmmm, do they not have paper records?  Actual casefiles that can be recalled from a central storage depot - that's how the DWP maintain their claims (or they did when I was working there from 1999 - 2005, anyhow.)  We used to fax off requests to the huge complex of out-of-town warehouses where the files were kept, and they would usually be couriered to us within 24 hours.. One would expect HMRC to have a similar system: after all, they deal with the tax side as well - there has to be paper records for that!

1BillionHex

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Yeah, KizzyKazaer and DarthVector, exactly.

Seems all a little too convenient for them to say they don't store records. HMRC keeps records like squirrels and nuts.

Makes you wonder why there's still so many people not getting the benefits they would be entitled to but I was told about the lack of records storage by two separate phone advisers and a line manager.

Crazy!
Bob.

KizzyKazaer

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HMRC keeps records like squirrels and nuts.

 >lol<

The other bit of nonsense is about what goes onto the computer - again referring back to my experience with the DWP, we had a special screen called 'Notepad' (part of the specialised benefit processing software, not to do with Word or other common applications) onto which we could type 'free text'. We developed our own internal shorthand - using your example, a processor's note might read: "Ltr recd to 'v' stepson in FTE till <date>"  (letter received to verify that step-son is remaining in full-time education.)  I would be very surprised if HMRC staff did not have a similar option  >erm<

1BillionHex

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I just done a Google search and came up with "Revenue blames incomplete data set for not contacting 300,000 families affected by imminent child benefit changes"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/jan/03/hmrc-fails-communicate-child-benefit-changes

Gosh, I wonder how that happened  >doh<

But then, maybe if they don't store their data, no-one can pick up a copy on a bus or train LOL.

Bob.

Dic Penderyn

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Why don't they just ask Atos for their copy.
Be careful in what you wish for, God has a sense of humour

1BillionHex

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Why don't they just ask Atos for their copy.

There's no need to swear  :-( j/k lol

ally

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Kizzy you're right.  The dwp computers had notes in the claimants records where you could put relevant information.  For example if you drafted a letter to someone that would be in the notes alongside what advice you had given them. The date letter was received, and date you replied etc. However, where I worked letters were not stored for any length of time once dealt with. I'm pretty sure the cb centre will be the same.