Did your child turn eighteen and did he or she continue his or her studies? In that case you had to submit a child benefit form to your employer each year. As of 1 September 2007, over 90% of the parents have been released of this burden. The government has made sure that from now on students older than 18 are registered with the child benefit funds fully automatically.
Apart from the far-reaching simplification within the Flemish and federal authorities, 225,000 paper dossiers are also replaced by electronic ones, without any intervention being required from the citizens.
In other words: the former child benefit application form is binned.
Child benefit application form in the bin
eGgovernment in top gear: the government completes the entire process fully automatically, and as such relieves citizens from all the work.
Children under 18 are of school age and as a result the government automatically pays child benefit to the parents. When their children turned eighteen, parents had to apply for child benefit themselves by means of a form they received from the school or university concerned.
No more paper
Until the Flemish Ministry for Education and Training came up with the idea of abolishing all this paper work. The reason for this is that in October schools send digital lists of all enrolled pupils and students to the Department of Education. The Department therefore knows perfectly who is still studying. Even when someone deregisters during the school or academic year, this is automatically entered in the database.
That is why the people in charge of education and the CORVE experts sit around the table with the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (KSZ) and the two largest child benefit funds. Why only two funds? Because the National Family Allowance Office for Salaried Workers (RKW) and the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-Employed (RSVZ) account for 90% of the child benefit payments. The other smaller and strongly differentiated players will join later on.
Data are exchanged through the MAGDA platform which forwards the information from Education and Training to the federal government and then to the child benefit funds. To this end one single XML data flow is set up between all the institutions.
Longest electronic chain
It involves 75,000 certificates for secondary education and 150,000 for higher education each year. In terms of technical data, it is one of the longest electronic chains in Belgium. It starts with the educational institutions and runs via the educational administration through the Flemish MAGDA platform for data exchange to the Federal KSZ, the Federal child benefit funds and the different payment offices.”
“Fine-tuning all these links to one another is not just a technical tour de force. We also had to steer the communication between the partners in the right direction and have each party commit to paying part of the costs. Moreover, we had to build in guarantees so as to avoid double payments or citizens not receiving any child benefit at all.”
Advantages for citizens
The advantage for the individual citizen is abundantly clear: he or she is released from the annual duty of completing the application form (unless his or her son or daughter studies in Wallonia or abroad) and of making sure that it reaches its destination in time. Most Flemings probably not even notice any change, because the familiar automatic payment continues without interruption. A mere 10% will still receive a form from the educational administration in the near future.
The schools have been relieved of some of their secretarial duties. No more pupils and students who come asking for a form or a stamp.
Advantages for the administration
“In theory only the Ministry for Education and Training will have a bigger workload”, says Lieve van Leuven. “In fact, in the past we had nothing to do with this whole arrangement. However, it is part of the service we provide to the educational community and the citizens. Especially the child benefit funds will have less work. This prospect motivated them to help invest in this process. Just think of the time and energy you save when you no longer have to process 220,000 forms manually!”
The advantage for the government lies in the fact that the process greatly reduces the number of errors. This should, among other things, result in fewer erroneous payments and consequently fewer recoveries.
The project coordinator chaired the first meetings at the beginning of 2005. In September 2007 over 200,000 dossiers were exchanged electronically. As a result, the realisation of such a complex project which had to be built from the bottom up took only a short time.
In 2007, the project was awarded with the first Flemish Innovation Award and the Belgian eGovernment Award.
Tips for project managers
1. The most important tip is certainly to work together with Belgium’s specialised partners in the field of data exchange (mainly CORVE and KSZ). Because of this support, pitfalls are avoided.
2. Spend sufficient time on a thorough analysis of your project. This is even more important in a project which is co-financed by different partners: in case of unexpected setbacks, there is always the risk of a partner withdrawing from the project.”
3. Spend a lot of time on communication. The partners must be made well aware from the very beginning where you are heading and that their investment will make a profit. In addition they must really trust one another. It is essential to involve senior officials from each of the institutions concerned. Coordination between the commissioning bodies and the technical partners must be optimal as well. Another very important aspect is the communication between the different implementing bodies within the Flemish government, the federal government and the child benefit funds.