Belfast Telegraph

Transforming the Disclosure Service by taking AccessNI online

By Mark Gibson, Business Development Manager for NI Direct at BT Business in Northern Ireland

The benefits of digitalisation can, in many cases, go beyond pure economics. That's particularly true when it comes to transforming the way a government department charged with protecting society operates.

AccessNI - part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) - is in charge of criminal record checks in Northern Ireland for anyone seeking to work with children or vulnerable adults and, until recently, had been relying on an outdated paper-based disclosure system.

The benefits digitalisation could bring to this most important of tasks were obvious - from faster clearance times to reduced administration costs - and the process of delivering the transformation of such a vital service, one which holds accuracy at its heart, needed a confident and proficient hand on the tiller.

That's where BT Business in Northern Ireland came in, working through the NI Direct Strategic Partnership with the Digital Transformation Service (DTS) which provides Public Sector organisations with access to a network of IT services and partners to digitally transform the delivery of public services.

Mark Gibson, BT's Business Development Manager for NI Direct said: "Given the high level of security required, the need for 100% accuracy, not to mention the opportunity to significantly improve the customer experience, the project could have been seen as a tall order but we identified a solution, developed it and delivered it on time and under budget.

"We created an online disclosure service which allowed users to track cases and the business unit to report in a much more efficient fashion, all located on shared government infrastructure and integrated with other UK agencies."

"We realised significant efficiencies by going on-line" Tom Clarke, General Manager at AccessNI, said. "We reduced staff costs, removed layers of work no longer necessary such as checking of poorly completed paper forms, improved the quality of the jobs in AccessNI leading to better morale and, most importantly provided a better and quicker service to our customers, including the ability to track the progress of cases."

Implementing the project, delivered by BT Business in Northern Ireland with DTS and partner Civica, called for a collaborative approach involving stakeholders at all stages of the process.

"We were able to bring organisations that apply for AccessNI checks on board at an early stage to develop a solution which worked for them and us," Tom said. "We developed an animated slide show explaining how the on-line application process would work and took it on a roadshow around our customers to demonstrate the benefits that we would all gain from going online."

Shaun McCann, Head of Business Transformation at AccessNI, said: "The benefits of BT Business in Northern Ireland's agile approach were clearly evidenced by the 80% uptake of online services within two months of its launch and a current utilization of 96.7%."

Some benefits were more unexpected such as the reduction in disputes about the criminal record information disclosed and an increase in applications from individual's who wanted a basic check in order to obtain employment in the public and private sectors.

Positive feedback from applicants included: "We are getting Enhanced Disclosures back within a day.  We never thought this was possible."

And it hasn't stopped there, according to Shaun, who lists further digital transformation on the horizon.

For instance, AccessNI is planning to develop an update service which means applicants won't need to obtain a new disclosure check for each new role or volunteering position. If an applicant opts to join that service their disclosure certificate can be updated with any changes to the criminal record on information about them held by the police. Employers will be able to access that information with a free on-line check.

These are just some of the benefits which BT Business in Northern Ireland has helped bring to AccessNI's digitalisation process, one which has proven transformational benefits, not just for the organisation, but for everyone involved, including the protection of society as a whole.

For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland please email

Belfast Telegraph