Lambeth Council set to fork out nearly £400,000 on ‘robots’ for its benefits team

By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter

Lambeth Council is set to fork out nearly £400,000 on ‘robots’ for its revenue and benefits team.  

It means robot software will be used instead of humans for “repetitive, low-skilled” digital tasks.  

Software company UiPath describes the technology: “Just like people, software robots can do things like understand what’s on a screen, complete the right keystrokes, navigate systems, identify and extract data, and perform a wide range of defined actions.  

“But software robots can do it faster and more consistently than people, without the need to get up and stretch or take a coffee break.” 

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software contract is expected to run from September 2021 to October 2024 at a cost of £396,000. 

It will take over several tasks, including low-risk housing benefit claims, changes of address, and assessing Blue Badge applications.  

According to a council report: “Automating these processes aims to reduce the day-to-day workload for the staff in the revenues and benefits team.  

“Overall, this will produce a more reliable, faster and accurate service to residents at a lower cost to the council.  

“This project will free officers time from repetitive low skilled data entry tasks and allow more attention to be focused on complex decision-making tasks.” 

Concerns have been raised globally about the impact of robots on job losses.  

Bill Gates, among others, has suggested that organisations could pay a ‘robot tax’ if they replace humans. 

But according to Lambeth’s report there is expected to be “no” staffing impacts. 

It says: “This project commits to a positive impact on staff wellbeing to remove repetitive mundane tasks from their workload, allowing for more creative and problem-solving work.” 

Lambeth Council said there are no projected job losses linked to the move.

A spokesman said: “This project aims to produce faster, more reliable and more accurate housing benefit assessments, and resolve accessible transport cases quicker.

“It also aims to cut the amount of data entry tasks our staff need to complete, meaning they can give more attention to complex decision-making.

“There are no projected job losses as a result of this project.

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