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Improving government confirmation processes using SMS

Partner agencies: 
Department of Human Services
Registration date: 
Friday, 3 March 2017

BETA partnered with the Australian Government Department of Human Services to simplify the process parents undertake when updating their details with the Child Support Scheme.

Sending a confirmation SMS to parents made a big difference. We found this not only reduced the number of parents who called, but if they did call, they would do so later.

The outcomes of this trial show how a small change in a traditional application process could have a substantial impact on the overall experience for all parties involved. This finding could be applied across a range of Human Services’ or other government programs where people are waiting for a response or an update

Authors: Professor Michael J. Hiscox, Scott Copley, Jacqui Brewer, Andrei Turenko, and James Wilson.

Pre-registration information

Parents within the Child Support Program can apply for a Change of Assessment (CoA) when they experience a change in their circumstances that might affect their child support payments or entitlements. This is done by lodging an application with the Department of Human Services (DHS).

The aim of the study is to examine whether providing timely and salient information about the receipt and process of a claim improves process transparency and saves client time and effort by reducing the need for calls to check on the status of applications. It will also free up DHS Service Officers to respond to other client calls.

Additional trial information

Intervention start and end date: Tuesday, 07 March 2017

BETA ethics pre-registration number: BETA ETH 2017 - 010

Experimental design: 2-arm Randomised Controlled Trial.

Approximately 2,400 participants are expected to be enrolled in the trial during a 6-week period. Participants will be randomised into either intervention (new communication strategies) or control condition.

Data (number of telephone calls) will be collected daily until all participants in the trial have been allocated to a decision-maker.

Intervention(s): SMS communication from DHS to inform applicants that their application has been received and that someone will contact them once their application has progressed.

Control condition: Treatment as usual


Primary: Number of telephone calls to Child Support about the progress of Change of Assessment applications.

Secondary: Time between form lodgement and telephone call to Child Support regarding assessment form.

Expected sample size: Approximately 2,400


Hiscox, Michael. 2017. Increasing transparency of government processes using SMS messaging. AEA RCT Registry. March 07.