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47 million kronor of taxpayers’ money.
That’s how much the Swedish municipality of Södertälje has already saved in its first year of better decision-making based on data. “Unfortunately there’s been an increase in welfare fraud, which is why we had to get better at checking who’s entitled to support,” says Evalena Asp Ahlinder, Unit Manager for Operations Support in Södertälje municipality.
The cost of providing income support – previously called social security benefits – had been rising for several years in Södertälje municipality. Manual processing and a lack of shared processes made dealing with each case both expensive and time-consuming. “Our welfare workers had to spend their time on admin and manual checks instead of the welfare work they’re trained for. We realized we couldn’t continue working so inefficiently,” says Ahlinder.
Therefore, the working method at the municipality's welfare services needed to change immediately.
A dedicated team was assigned responsibility for checking each application using Dun & Bradstreet InfoTorg.
“We’d had InfoTorg for many years, but we didn’t use it in the way we do today. Together with our admin staff we developed report templates that enable us to quickly see the ‘household picture’, with data on any vehicle ownership, real estate and companies. The report template gives us all the data at once, everything needed to investigate what people are entitled to.”
And the results weren’t long in coming. In the first year alone, 47 million Swedish kronor was saved thanks to the new methods. According to Ahlinder, the trend has continued. “In 2014, we paid out 188 million kronor in income support, and the figure last year came in at 160 million. This is partly thanks to increased insights and better control,” she says. “We also have admin staff who investigate incorrect payments retrospectively and InfoTorg has also helped with this. In total, we’ve claimed back tens of millions of kronor.”
“Before, a lot of our work was based on gut feeling. If we were lucky, we got an anonymous tip-off about fraud or we discovered it ourselves after a while. Now we’re the ones who are one step ahead.”
The municipality’s working method has not only produced the desired effect of better investigations and savings for taxpayers, it has also achieved the aim of helping welfare workers during their working day. “All of our internal operational support is working to make life easier for the admin staff. They don’t have to spend extra time looking for information or sending letters. Instead the team takes care of all this. It means the admin staff can focus on giving a person the help they need, such as help getting into work.”
Despite the success of the method, where a team handles all the checks while the welfare workers focus on other areas, Ahlinder hasn’t heard of other municipalities working in a similar way. “No, I think we’re alone in working like this. I’d definitely recommend it. InfoTorg may not be cheap, but we consider it an investment, not a cost. You have to have the courage to tackle these issues. After all, defrauding welfare is to defraud our shared funds that should be going to people who are entitled to support – and no one else.”