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Department of Social Protection

High Volume Scanning and ICR Solution Provides Significant Benefits for DSP

Department of Social Protection

The Challenge

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) is responsible for the disbursement of over 20 billion Euro worth of payments to its clients across the state each year. Historically, it has relied on an elaborate paper-based system of applications and paper forms to determine eligibility and facilitate the processing of these payments.

This arrangement generated huge volumes of work – much of it repetitive and monotonous – as staff keyed data into the variety of systems needed to support their work. In addition, the time taken to manually digitise forms slowed down processing and made the process more prone to errors.

Following a competitive tender process, Inpute Technologies were awarded a contract to design and implement a suite of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) solutions across the Department’s 123 decentralised HQ and network of Intreo offices. The aim was to digitise forms and thereby eliminate repetitive, paper-based manual processes.

The Solution

Eoin Fleming at the DSP explains that this engagement was a series of individual projects, in which Inpute designed a suite of specific solutions tailored to the needs of each scheme.

“Many of the scheme application forms we use can be quite complex, and with multiple pages. Some can run to as many as thirty pages.”

Fleming explains that as Inpute’s solutions began to prove themselves, the Department brought it’s Forms Design Team on board. All existing forms had been designed for manual processing. For scanning purposes, the Design Team introduced a less congested layout, with reduced detail per page, and a lot more “white” space. This allowed the Inpute solution to process the scanned forms more efficiently, faster and with minimum errors.

However, re-designing the paperwork wasn’t an option in every case. For operational reasons some forms couldn’t be changed. Instead, the scanning solution had to be optimised to deal with the form as it was.

Despite these complications, Eoin Fleming reports that the customised solution worked exceptionally well. “The process is speeded up greatly… a clear example of a huge improvement in processing because of scanning.”

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