Shops contest COI benefits overhaul

The Government is looking for creative and media agencies to develop advertising to back changes to the ways it pays pensions and other benefits and has set aside £25 million for the three-year task.

COI Communications is drawing up a pitchlist for the task on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. It is in the process of pairing creative and media agencies to pitch jointly for the brief.

Creative agencies including Lowe and Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy are expected to pitch. The media agencies involved include Optimedia, PHD, Zenith and Naked.

The appointed agencies will back the department's payment modernisation scheme, which seeks to modernise welfare delivery across the board. A key part of the initiative is to increase numbers of people having benefits paid directly into their bank account to 85 per cent by 2005.

The department hopes that this will generate savings but needs to reassure claimants about the planned changes. It is also said to be considering ways to help claimants who have difficulty getting or setting up bank accounts.

The agency search coincides with large shake-ups across the welfare system.

Alistair Darling, the secretary of state for work and pensions, this week launched a single service to cover the needs of job seekers and people claiming benefit. The Benefits Agency and Employment Service will be replaced by Jobcentre Plus, focusing on parents and the disadvantaged, and The Pension Service, which will launch with 26 centres around the country to deal with customers over the telephone.

Other elements of the department's modernisation programme include the introduction of electronic claims facilities for income support, Jobseeker's Allowance and Incapacity Benefit.

The pitch continues COI's recently established practice of asking creative agencies to pitch with specific media agencies. The current sexual health pitch, being contested between D'Arcy/PHD and Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners/Naked, was the first example of this.

The department's recent agency appointments include PHD to its Pensions Credit strategic media planning brief and Brahm to handle advertising and direct marketing to back Jobcentre Plus. Recent major advertising campaigns include D'Arcy's £5 million social security fraud activity and BMP DDB's campaign to encourage pensioners to receive the Minimum Income Guarantee.

COI refused to comment on the news.

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