Headlines: May 7th, 2003

Pension order books and giro cheques for benefits are being phased out during the next 18 months. Some 13 million people will receive a personalised letter and a leaflet giving details of their options and information about what to do next. They can choose to be paid through bank or building society accounts, or to take up the new Post Office card account.The switch to electronic payment has involved the installation of computer terminals in 19,000 local offices at a cost of 1.5 billion pounds. The ‘Horizon’ project has taken four years to develop. One of the aims of the project is to reduce fraud and make a significant cut in the 80 million pounds lost annually through lost and stolen order books.

The ‘Horizon’ network also provides the infrastructure for Government one stop shops if the trials now in progress in 287 post offices in Leicestershire and Rutland prove successful. The trial post offices offer low level advice and information on benefits, welfare, council housing, employment and education. Customers can carry out a range of transactions such as paying council tax and they can access the Internet.

The approach to change management adopted by the Department for Work and Pensions is being closely studied by public bodies anxious to learn lessons about introducing e-government. The publicity campaign will cost 25 million pounds and extend over three years. It will rely on personal letters, a general information leaflet, information on the Internet and TV and radio advertising.