Three core ICT systems at the Department of Human Services (DHS) that are nearing end of life will collectively be a focus for the agency for at least the next five to seven years.
The DHS 2012-13 Annual Report provides open ended timelines for ISIS and Centrepay and a firmer timeline for Cuba. It also provides some information on the progress of the Customer First initiative.
Income Support Integrated System (ISIS)
ISIS is the major Centrelink IT system for income support and family payments to over seven million people. It is described in DHS’s annual report as “limited in its ability to meet a 24/7, 365 days per year standard for online self-service”.
The push for digital service provision is likely to accelerate following the recent change of government, with the Coalition’s August 2013 ICT Policy outlining plans to get all major Federal Government “services and interactions with individuals online” by 2017.
The DHS Annual Report provides an estimated cost for the development of a business case for the replacement or upgrade of the ageing system. It states that the business case, which is expected to be complete by 2015, has been allocated $16.2 million over two years (2013-14 and 2014-15). While the ISIS business case was announced in the 2013-14 Budget, no funding figure was provided and the Budget papers indicated that funding was to be found from within existing DHS allocations.
“The technology upon which ISIS was developed is ageing. As the software has been modified over its life it has become increasingly complex and changes are becoming more difficult to implement,” according to the Report.
“The Department is working on developing the business case as announced in the 2013-14 Budget,” said a DHS spokesperson. “Further information, including for the ICT industry, will be made available as appropriate as work progresses.”
Cuba Child support system
The 2013-14 Budget also included $34.7 million in funding for the replacement of the Department’s Cuba Child Support System for the administration of child support services and payments. The system is due to be completed by the end of 2015. Funding has been allocated over a number of years, including $13.2 million for 2013-14 and $7.3 million for 2014-15. The remaining $14.2 million has been allocated between 2015 and 2017.
“The current Child Support computer system is getting close to the end of its useful life,” says the Annual Report.
The Cuba system was implemented in 2002 and currently supports approximately $3.2 billion in annual payments across 1.5 million individuals.
The new system is expected to be based on SAP Commercial Off-the-Shelf software and provide “increased functionality”, system integrity and full online service capabilities.
DHS approached the market for expressions of interest for a systems integrator in July 2013.
The “very old system” underpinning Centrelink’s direct bill paying service was found to be “ineffective and inefficient” in the June 2013 Independent Review of Centrepay headed by Anna Buduls.
Centrepay functions may be included in DHS’s new Customer First work management system, according to the Buduls review, although “there has been no Centrepay specific IT strategic planning undertaken to date”.
“The Department is currently briefing the new Human Services Minister, Marise Payne on the findings of the [independent review] report,” said the DHS spokesperson. “Any future actions will be determined in due course.”
Implementation of Customer First began in 2012-13 as part of DHS’s broader Service Delivery Reform Program. The initial phases of the Customer First system include a trial rollout of Centrelink services, with later stages to involve the integration of Child Support and Medicare services.
“As at 30 June 2013, over 23,000 staff in more than 500 sites were using the system,” says the DHS Annual Report.
“In the long-term the Customer First system will deliver a single, consistent method of work management.”
The Annual Report cites a number of other ICT related initiatives relating to mobile service provision and multi-agency collaboration.
DHS has begun implementing a number of components of its Service Delivery Reform program that was commenced in 2011 with the aim of improving the Department’s delivery of Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services. The establishment of smart centres or one-stop-shops for the integrated provision of the various DHS functions is underway.
DHS is establishing a virtual network to provide phone and processing services for Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare programs across Australia.
The Department is also participating in a number of multi-agency initiatives, including the introduction of full ATO services at eight DHS sites.
It is also involved in the Australian Government Mobile Service Centres that cover around 500,000 people in rural and regional areas. DHS staff works alongside staff from ATO, the Australian Electoral Commission, the Victorian Justice Department, and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.
In addition, it is delivering the whole-of-government myGov online service which was officially launched in May 2013. myGov currently provides eHealth record, Child Support, Centrelink, Medicare and Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) services to around 1.3 million users, with plans to expand it in the future to include DisabilityCare Australia and ATO services in 2013-14.
DHS representatives sit on the myGov board along with officials from ATO, the Department of Finance, the Department of Health and the Attorney-General’s Department.
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