Public Services > Central Government

DWP tests market for appointments booking system for Universal Credit

David Bicknell Published 26 May 2017

Potential procurement raises questions as to the future of a cross-Whitehall appointments booking system under GaaP


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is considering procuring a dedicated appointment booking system for Universal Credit claimants.

And the fact that it is doing so raises the question as to whether the development of any cross-Whitehall-based appointment system under a Government as a Platform (GaaP) architecture is still a possibility. It is understood that there are no active plans, at this stage, to develop a cross Whitehall appointments service. But those plans could change or be further explained once purdah ends after the General Election on June 8.

The DWP Appointment Booking System (ABS) is being introduced to support the provision of the Universal Credit full service (UCFS) under which claimants’ appointments with DWP staff are created and managed.

The booking system will host staff locations, availability and skill sets which define the types of appointments the DWP staff are trained to handle. The information will be used to find a DWP staffer within a jobcentre that is available and trained to handle the appointment.

According to the procurement note on Contracts Finder, there are currently 740 jobcentres across the UK and Northern Ireland, with over 10,000 DWP staff supporting claimants. Each member of DWP staff who supports claimants will have a calendar in the Appointment Booking System. When UCFS is fully rolled out in June 2018, it is anticipated that 25-30m appointments will be created and managed on an annual basis via the booking system.

DWP says it needs a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year system with a service level agreement (SLA) that provides 99.90% availability because  the appointment booking system will be supporting the UCFS which allows claimants to access their online claim at any time.

DWP adds that it plans to integrate the booking system into UCFS and its platforms. The entire booking process will actually be performed via the UCFS user interface with Universal Credit utilising the Appointment Booking System Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to create and manage appointments.

In terms of the functionality required, as well as the 24x7x365 availability, the appointment booking system will have to incorporate:

  • DWP staff availability: including the ability to search for available appointments within a Jobcentre by date range, appointment type and duration, staff attributes (i.e. Welsh speaking) and channel, such as face to face, phone, or digital
  • Room booking: the ability to search for available rooms within a Jobcentre by date range, duration and room attributes (e.g. hearing loop, conference phone)
  • Calendar optimisation: DWP has 50 different appointment types and a range of appointment durations from 10 minutes up to one hour in length. The system must be able to assist in calendar optimisation to ensure that the DWP member of staff’s time is utilised effectively.
  • Performance: APIs will need to be able to respond in less than 0.5 seconds for each call, and be expected to be able to retrieve availability for all DWP staff in a single job centre for a week and show a single consolidated calendar for all DWP staff in a job centre for a day
  • Appointment prioritisation: DWP need to ensure there is sufficient availability for certain appointment types.  The system will allow a time period to be reserved for a specific appointment or appointments.  This reservation will be possible at a job centre level and also for specific DWP members of staff. 

DWP said there will be a requirement for data to be migrated from DWP’s current booking system to the new booking system.

The DWP documents suggested that the purpose of the Request for Information (RFI) document is to better understand the supply market for the proposed booking system and to see what capabilities exist in the market. DWP also plans to host one-to-one supplier demonstration sessions on Monday June 5 and Thursday June 8 at techUK’s offices in London.

If a broader GaaP appointment booking system is no longer on the cards, DWP could potentially draw on the experience of vendors who have been involved in other public sector appointment systems, such as the NHS e-Referral service.



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