Cornwall Council’s use of a Lie Detector Test
The use of a lie detector test, or to give it its official title voice risk analysis (VRA), is being used by a Capita who have been hired by Cornwall Council to check if people were telling the truth when claiming the Council Tax Single Person Discount (SPA). This met with some uproar from both Councillors and the public. It resulted in one Cabinet Member quitting, and a Motion being submitted to full council to ban its use. It was disappointing that the Motion was not debated, but kicked to a committee for investigation.
Furthermore, Cllr Robinson asked a question to the Leader on the use of VRA which was not fully answered. So in line with the council’s constitution, the answer has been sent to all Councillors explaining the use of VRA.
Individuals are told at the start of the voice risk analysis (VRA) interview that the call will be monitored and recorded for the detection of fraud. When a VRA interview is conducted, the trained assessor calibrates the technology by asking a series of questions that the caller would know the answers to immediately, such as confirmation of name and date of birth.
The assessor will then ask the interviewee a series of open questions and will then, using behavioural analysis, risk score each answer using pre-defined criteria.
Once an interview is complete, the responses are reviewed alongside information gathered during previous review processes.
So how are people selected? the official line is as follows:
Capita apply a ‘Balance of Probability’ approach when identifying cases where a taxpayer has stated that they are entitled to SPD, but this strongly conflicts with the analysis/credit searches conducted. Such cases will be carefully selected through the application of appropriate criteria and only high risk cases will be considered for telephone interview. Residents are then invited to undertake a VRA telephone interview for further assessment of their entitlement. The VRA technology has not been deployed within our own Contact Centre and it will therefore only be applied to those residents who are invited by the Capita SPD team, located in Bromley, to undertake the telephone interview.
I do though agree with the council zero tolerance on benefit fraud, but I still do not think VRA should be used. More so as the technology is far from accurate. The use should be stopped until the relevant committee has had time to investigate. I also await the further information on how many people have been subjected to this treatment, and if anyone refused to take part.