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Local Councils Should Steer Well Clear of Jeremy Kyle Show Tactics

Stephanie Hartland reacts to the news that local councils are using lie detector software to try to catch out suspected benefit fraudsters.

Recently, news has emerged that more than 20 local councils are using lie detector tests to crack down on suspected benefit fraudsters. Whilst the government hasn’t given the green light for the use of this technology, and has in fact branded it unreliable, Freedom of Information requests have shown that councils are in fact ignoring this advice.

The test is composed of ‘voice risk analysis’ (VRA) software that is used to analyse phone conversations and pick up stress levels in people’s voices. The creators of this software claim that it will become apparent when a person is making fraudulent claims as they will express a level of stress that will be picked up by the software. Yet scientists have criticised the software and have claimed that there is no evidence that the software proves anything at all.

It seems bizarre relying solely on the use of such technology to judge if someone is telling the truth. We are humans, not robots, and there are a vast amount of reasons as to why someone may be stressed – the very fact that someone may be taking time out of their day to discuss their financial troubles is a good place to start.

Even though the VRA software is unreliable, councils have been spending vast amounts of money on it, in some cases millions of pounds. There is a contradiction here, in that councils are spending great amounts of money, on software that has been shown to be unreliable, with the aim of saving money through preventing benefit fraud. Wouldn’t it make more sense not to spend millions on the VRA software in the first place?

Although people are known to abuse the benefits system, there are people who really need the help and support. They rely on the money that is given to them, and if they were to fail the lie detector test, resulting in their benefits being cut, this could result in disastrous consequences for them and their families. For this reason, it is appalling that councils are using such methods which are known to be unreliable anyway.

It is difficult to see why councils are using these unreliable and expensive methods. Have people simply been watching too much Jeremy Kyle? The idea of being able to tell if someone is lying or not simply through using VRA software over the phone is undoubtedly desirable, but it is not realistic. Councils need to stop using this untrustworthy method and focus their attentions on finding real evidence to prevent benefit fraud.

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