In 2003, the Dutch Government decided to consolidate its social welfare provision by making the Belastingdienst, the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, into a clearing house for social welfare benefits – Toeslagen. Previously, claims for the cost of childcare, rent or healthcare were processed and paid by different government ministries using separate systems. This meant that citizens had to provide the same information to multiple government departments. This enlargement of its scope made the Belastingdienst responsible not only for collecting taxes, but also for making social welfare payments in line with citizens’ changing needs and entitlements.
Over six million households in the Netherlands receive such benefits, making the change to the system a large-scale project. In 2006 it became clear that the technologies that the Belastingdienst was using to establish eligibility and pay benefits were not adequate: payments and changes were taking too long to be processed. At the end of 2006 the decision was made to deploy a completely new information system bringing together all these benefits. The ambition was to deliver a flexible service to citizens while connecting to other government information sources in order to qualify citizens’ claims for support, establish eligibility and prevent fraud.
In 2007 the Belastingdienst selected Getronics Pinkroccade (acquired by Capgemini in 2008) to deliver the system, which went live successfully in December 2011.
The new system makes all benefits information available in one place. Its self-service portals provide customers with an overview of their entitlements and any changes made to them. Customers access this information using their DigiD – the Dutch national internet identification service for public services.
A fundamental design principle was that a customer’s life events would form the basis for the architecture and process flow of the system. Moving house, births, income changes, marriages and separations are all events which may change people’s benefit entitlements. Customers can provide updates on these events via the portal and quickly see the consequences for their benefits.
The benefits system is integrated with the basisregistraties, a set of government databases which contain personal information on all Dutch citizens. If a citizen gets married or moves to a new address, the benefits system is informed directly by the basisregistratie, and any changes to benefits are processed automatically, with no effort on the part of the customer. Overall, these changes mean that the information in the new benefits system is far more up to date, and that customers need to contact the Belastingdienst less often than before.
The reforms have resulted in greatly simplified benefits provision for Dutch citizens. The Toeslagen system went live in early December 2011 and is performing well, with no major incidents or downtime. Over one million people visited the self-service portal, mijn Toeslagen, in its first two months, and people are using it as a single point of entry for their benefits. Previously, citizens had to report changes to all benefits entitlements separately and employees of the Tax Administration had to look at several systems to obtain a complete picture of a citizen. With the new citizen portal, citizens can pass on information about changes in their circumstances and immediately see the consequences for their benefits, 24 hours a day.
Improved online self-service means more digital transactions and fewer paper-based ones for the Belastingdienst. This, in turn, improves efficiency and the quality of the information in the system, reducing the time spent correcting errors and overpayments. Employees now have a single view of a customer’s account and benefits. Across the system, there is also more real-time insight into the payments load.
Automatic processing brings an enormous improvement and a more rapid service for customers, who can easily submit new information and understand their entitlements. Data received from customers can be cross-checked automatically with information held by other public sector organisations (e.g. city councils) to ensure accuracy.
How Capgemini and the Belastingdienst worked together
Capgemini’s biggest responsibility in the programme was the realisation of the system itself. It was designed according to Service Oriented Architectural principles and built on a Microsoft .Net platform. It uses the Sharepoint portal for the office environment, SQLServer as database and BizTalk for the exchange of messages. Capgemini also arranged maintenance and support for the system.
Content migration from the multiple legacy systems to the new solution took place gradually, and after an initial data conversion all changes to data applied to both the old and new systems. This meant that the new system was up and running for seven months before going live, allowing the Belastingdienst to develop the new ways of working that it needed. The shift from a batch-driven to an event-driven system with 24-hour SLAs for responding to customer queries has changed the ethos from “do it once a month” to “do it now”.
Capgemini supported the implementation, plus the organisational change that was required to enable staff to operate a swift and integrated service across all benefit areas. It worked with the Belastingdienst’s strong programme management team to mobilise and prepare employees for new ways of working.