Government Gives Job Centres Digital Facelift

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Signing-on will be carried out using digital biometric pads, with free Internet access to be provided at Job Centre Plus sites

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is rolling out biometric signature-recognition pads, PC workstations and free Wi-Fi connectivity at Job Centres around the country.

The new technology, which is estimated will save the department £2 million per year, will replace the pen-and-paper systems formerly used by jobseekers signing on for their benefits, while helping users look for jobs online.

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Signing-on pads

“Long gone are the Full Monty days of job cards in the windows and queuing for your dole,” stated Minister for Employment Esther McVey.

The scheme will see 23,000 pads installed at 700 Job Centres around the UK, along with the installation of 6,000 PC workstations and Wi-Fi at Job Centre Plus sites, she said.

Such pads are reportedly already in use in Central European banks, and use biometric data, rather than images, to verify a user’s signature. The data stored by the DWP is based on sample signatures provided by the user at the time of first use, and even in the event of a hack could not be used to reconstruct an image of the user’s signature, according to the BBC.

The workstations are intended to allow users to search for jobs, as well as keeping on top of their claims, calculating their benefits and updating their CVs, the government said. They will replace standalone podiums, resulting in an estimated savings of £2m per year, in addition to the more than £1m estimated annual savings from eliminating signing-on booklets.

Nationwide rollout

The workstations have already been installed at a number of Job Centres around the UK, while rollout of the electronic pads is to begin this month, and is set to be complete by the spring.

The DWP said it will provide tech coaches to help users adapt to the new devices.

The department is in the midst of building IT systems for the Universal Credit scheme designed to overhaul Britain’s welfare benefits, which has reportedly faced difficulties and inter-departmental conflicts.

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