UK Benefits Blockchain Test May Expand

Blockchain, FinTech, News, Regulation | March 31, 2017 By:

The U.K. government is mulling whether to expand a public benefits pilot program that uses blockchain to securely deliver funds.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) started the pilot program last summer. London-based FinTech firm GovCoin Systems Ltd. (which later became Disc) manages the program. It used about 30 participants who agreed to accept benefits using an app available through the blockchain, then spend their funds with test participants RWE npower (a electricity utility) and Barclays bank.  The goal was to help those without bank accounts manage their money.

The trial initially raised questions from political opposition and technologists, both worried that privacy would be compromised and that government would dictate where entitlements could be spent.

Both concerns have been dismissed by the current conservative government.  Conservative peer Lord Henley, the parliamentary under-secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions, said the government would not have data access and no plans to control where money was spent beyond the trial period.

The small-scale results were positive, but Henley indicated that there has not been a firm commitment to a fuller trial.