Benefits Agency: Earnings Top-up (ETU) Benefit: Dataset of Pilot Project
This dataset contains data from the administration of the Earning Top-up (ETU) pilot scheme introduced by the Department of Social Security in 1996. The ETU scheme was established for a trial period of 3 years, although benefits were still being awarded up to September 2000.
The data held in the ETU system can be described within four main categories:
- (1) Personal & Claim Details: Included the applicant and, where appropriate, their partner's personal details i.e. their names, address, dates of birth, and National Insurance Number (NINO). Income details whether from employment, other benefits, capital or a pension were also included; as was information about the claim itself, whether it was a new claim or a renewal of an existing claim. The system recorded the date of the claim and a claim reference number, it was also possible to attach a marker to any claim record to highlight issues such as a lost instrument of payment or if the claim was undergoing a fraud investigation. Finally the amount of benefit awarded and the start and end date of the award and the date that the award was assessed were recorded.
- (2) Employment Details: Details of the applicant and/or their partner's employment, whether employed or self employed, the starting date of employment, the frequency of pay (i.e. weekly, fortnightly, 4 weekly or monthly), the number of hours worked, and the name and address of the employer.
- (3) Weekly Income Details: Details of the applicant or their partner's weekly income used to assess the level of benefit, i.e. their gross income and any deductions for tax, National Insurance and superannuation.
- (4) Payment Details: Details of type of payment of award whether by order-book or ACT (Automated credit transfer) i.e. payment to a bank or building society including account details if appropriate or serial numbers and dates of issue of order-books and giros. Details of instruments of payment including amount, start and end dates and frequency. Details and amounts of any under or over payment of benefit to the applicant or their partner, and details of adjustments arising out of under or overpayment of benefit.
Hardware: ICL mainframe.
Operating System: VME.
Application Software: Cobol SCL.
Logical structure and schema: The data file originally transferred to NDAD was a single CSV file with 1392 fields and 4825 records. The fields were arranged in a hierarchical grouped structure but many were empty. It was decided that the dataset would be better represented if the original file was split into several smaller tables with fewer fields. The dataset was separated in to 8 tables covering details of the claim, assessment of the claim, income, payments and adjustments to payments. The tables are linked by the fields Claim_key, Payment_key and Adjustment_key.
How data was originally captured and validated: Data was input by staff in the Employment Service and Benefits Agency offices handling claims for the Earnings Top-up benefit. The data was taken from application forms but was supplemented by the use of other systems such as the Departmental Central Index and Common Enquiry System. These were used to verify information supplied by applicants.
The Departmental Central Index (DCI) contains information on the personal details i.e. name, address, date of birth etc of all holders of a UK National Insurance Number (NINO). The DCI was used to update or confirm personal details for ETU applicants. If personal data was amended in the process of making an application for ETU it would also be amended on the DCI and on any other related benefit systems. The Common Enquiry System (CES) provided information about any other benefits claimed by ETU applicants and was used as part of the process of assessing their entitlement to ETU.
The Earnings Top-up Scheme dataset is dynamic in the sense that data may be overwritten when a claim record is updated or amended. Expired claims were deleted from the database in accordance with the Department's policy on data retention. When existing claims were renewed details of the earlier claims were overwritten.
The Earnings Top Up (ETU) benefit was an extra statutory pilot scheme introduced on 8 October 1996 for a trial period of three years to provide payment of an earnings supplement to people aged between 18 and 65 who were in remunerative work, but with an income below a certain level, and were not responsible for a child under 16. As a trial scheme ETU was only available in selected areas that had been identified as suffering from high levels of unemployment and low pay. Two levels of benefit were available, a lower rate scheme that was operated in parts of the North East of England (the area around Newcastle upon Tyne), West Yorkshire, Wales and Essex; and a higher rate scheme covering parts of the North East of England (the area around Sunderland), South Yorkshire, the South Coast (the area around Bournemouth) and Scotland. The two schemes used different combinations of benefit rates and income thresholds to see how they influenced the decision to take up and stay in work.
An evaluation of the scheme concluded that it had provided a small improvement in employment opportunities for low paid workers in the target areas, although the take up rate had been low, ranging from 18% of those eligible in 1996 to 23% in 1999. It was suggested that in some ways the scheme was overtaken by the introduction of the minimum wage.
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