Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Genuine job seekers fail lie test

Voice-risk analyser software
The trial of the system by councils will continue to 2010

Lie detectors are unlikely to be used in job centres after genuine benefits claimants were wrongly identified as "risky" during a pilot project.

Some councils are testing a phone-based system - Voice Risk Analysis - to help process benefit claims.

The system analyses voice stress levels and can identify liars, it is claimed.

When tried in a job centre in Nottinghamshire, almost two thirds of applicants initially considered high risk were found to be genuine.

Officials said there were no plans to roll out the system to more job centres.

Income support

The technology was first used in the insurance industry but began to be adopted by local authorities in 2007.

People found to be high risk are given further interviews before any action is taken.

Several councils have said they have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in fraudulent claims.

But last year in Nottinghamshire some callers making applications over the phone for jobseekers' allowance and income support had their voice patterns screened.

Technology question

Figures seen by the BBC reveal only 37% of those initially identified as high risk had their benefits reduced after further investigation. Almost a third of those classed by the system as low risk eventually had their benefits reduced.

The Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP) said there were no plans at the moment to use Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) in any more job centres and no claimants lost benefits on the basis of voice screening alone.

A spokesperson said: "Currently, VRA is not being tested in Jobcentre Plus, but JCP remains interested in the ongoing local authority trials.

"The DWP will consider the emerging findings from these before deciding on further trials or any extension of the use of the technology."

The pilot programme in councils will continue until 2010.

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