When Craig Eblet joined the Department of Labor and Pensions (DWP) from the private sector more than 20 years ago, he admits it was a small shock. “I came from an organization where we had our own engineers, our own IT department, and we used to just get it done,” he says. “DWP was very different.” But Eblet, who is now director of digital delivery for shared platforms, says the transformation he has seen over the past two decades has been remarkable.
“We were on a great journey. Now we have about 4,000 people [in DWP Digital]including highly skilled engineers, user researchers and fast delivery to make sure we have complete control over providing excellent digital products and services to the organization and the country. ”
This inner experience was vital when the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020. DWP Digital had to ensure that all DWP services remain secure and stable for its 20 million customers, even if those colleagues who could have moved to work from home. About 10,000 rapid changes to IT have been introduced, and the universal digital credit service has been strengthened to handle more than 10 times more claims.
This experience has been a step towards change, which is considered to be the largest digital public sector program of its kind in Europe. The Digital Future DWP strategy has five objectives: to provide excellent services, to create new user-centric solutions, to use new technologies and data for innovation, to adopt common approaches to technological components, and to build capacity and capabilities. “Sometimes there is an opinion in the government that everything takes years,” says Eblet. “Now we’ve proven to ourselves and others that DWP Digital can.”
Almost 40 projects have been launched recently, one of which has created a more convenient way to claim child support. Instead of a 40-minute phone call with an agent, users can now access online apps 24/7 and spend an average of 18 minutes filling out an application. Another service has allowed customers to apply for a retirement loan online, with two-thirds of new claims now being filed that way.
Emma Stace is running a new benefits transformation program. She recently joined DWP Digital from the Department of Education (DfE) as Digital Director of Health Care and Disability Care Services. In line with the department’s broader digital mission, the project aims to make the service more streamlined, data-driven and easy for users to navigate the benefits driven by DWP, including paying for personal independence.
“With the help of the health assessment service, for example, at the moment users have several assessments related to different benefits. We are trying to create an assessment that can get many benefits. This is a truly innovative part of our work, ”says Stace. “We are a large, long-established organization, and we have data on many, many systems. But we want to use the data in the right way at the right time to make the best decisions possible, improve the user experience and speed up the process. ”
Part of the problem of realizing ambition Digital future the agenda is capacity building in the team. “We know we can deliver individual products and services in a flexible way, but now we want to scale this up to achieve much greater benefits for many services,” says Eblet. The department plans to hire more than 1,000 digital professionals, such as architects, developers, security experts and more, at its seven digital centers across the country (Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Blackpool, Birmingham, Sheffield and London). Hybrid work may be an option if some employees work part of the week in their DWP office and part of the week at home.
It’s a chance to work on some of the country’s largest IT projects and have a tangible impact, Eblet says, and it’s “a really good place to come and use your experience and grow further with fantastic learning. And while there may still be speculation that working in government is a bit difficult, the truth is that we are at the forefront of some of the latest tools and we are using them on a huge scale, adding real value. ”
There are also opportunities for collaboration between departments. At DfE, Stace has led an intergovernmental network of CEOs on digital innovation and says she is in regular contact with others to discuss issues. One notable example of such work was the time when HMRC helped DWP verify the identities of people remotely during the blockade, eliminating the need for face-to-face meetings. “We all learn from each other all the time,” says Stace. “It’s a very supportive and friendly environment. You are not in direct competition with each other as I felt working in the private sector. People really help each other.
“I like the challenge, the complexity, the scale and the sense of purpose,” she adds, reflecting on what she enjoys most about her work. “There’s nothing better than getting something, and it really helps people. It’s very satisfying. “
Ready to make a change? Learn more about the career opportunities offered by DWP Digital