Social Security Scotland took two weeks to spin up cloud-based contact centre

Scotland’s welfare and benefits agency moved to a cloud-based contact centre in just two weeks as urgent measures were put in place to continue service levels at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social Security Scotland had to transition from a conventional contact centre to one that was wholly online in the space of a fortnight as it moved 509 staff to remote working roles using the cloud solution as the pandemic disrupted normal service.

The agency, which has offices in Glasgow and Dundee, rolled out the Amazon Web Services Connect platform from existing AWS cloud infrastructure in order to sustain a range of devolved benefits during lockdown.

Since standing the service up, the agency has now taken 26,579 phone calls and made a further 19,104 outbound calls to clients, as well as offering support to 10,836 enquires via the Webchat component of AWS Connect.

Nicola Gallen, Central Government, AWS, revealed details of the “rapid innovation and collaboration” during a broadcast at the DigiLeaders tech conference this week.

She said: “At a time of national crisis, and huge economic and public health uncertainty, it was really important to make sure that people were still able to get support and information about devolved benefits including funeral support payment, carers’ allowance supplement and young carers’ grant. In just two weeks the cloud contact services were implemented and deployed. No new hardware or phone lines were required.”

As the lockdown came into force, a short-term workaround so that citizens could still access services was developed; the agency and Chief Digital Officer, with support from the Scottish Government Digital Directorate, then put in place a web enquiry page offering a call-back service from staff working from home.

Meanwhile, the agency worked with AWS to expand the existing cloud-based solution to include a cloud contact centre, Amazon Connect, allowing staff to work from anywhere and handle web chats and calls seamlessly. The platform allows people to easily connect, via an instant live chat with call centre staff to get real-time advice and support about their benefit payments.

Andy McClintock, Chief Digital Officer, Social Security Scotland, said: “As the Chief Digital Officer for Social Security Scotland it was great to see the collective thinking and innovation come together at pace during extremely challenging times whilst everyone was working remotely. The collective desire from all parties ensured that planning, decision-making and the establishment of the interim service was completed rapidly and stood up with remote staff.”

The Social Security Scotland Digital and Technology Strategy set out a “cloud first” approach and following a thorough technical evaluation and commercial considerations the agency chose to create the new platform using AWS Cloud with an automated “Infrastructure as Code” principle.

The agency’s offices were set up to create at least 1,500 jobs and once fully operational will provide a local presence across Scotland, providing face-to-face support and advice, supported by centralised administrative functions.

At inception, the Social Security IT systems were described as being ‘the largest, most complex IT programme of change since devolution” with an IT spend over the course of the project estimated at circa £190m. The new agency was set up to process payments of £3.3bn for 1.5 million citizens.