After the sixth Belgian state reform, the region of Brussels was entrusted with, among other things, the responsibility for managing the ‘assistance for the elderly' allowance (‘tegemoetkoming voor hulp aan bejaarden’, abbreviated to THAB in Dutch). Brussels-based public institution Iriscare was faced with the challenge of developing the application that would handle requests and process and pay the allowance – all within a very short space of time. With Cegeka at the helm, they rose to the challenge.
Iriscare is a Brussels-based ‘bi-communal’ public benefit institution. It handles the bulk of the responsibilities assigned to the Brussels Joint Community Commission (‘Gemeenschappelijke Gemeenschapscommissie’ or GGC in Dutch) under the sixth state reform. These responsibilities include, in particular, healthcare, assistance for individuals, and child benefits. In Brussels specifically, Iriscare is responsible for policies related to disabled individuals, nursing and care homes, child benefits and the assistance for the elderly allowance, among others. Iriscare commenced operations on 14 May 2018 and the actual transfer of powers happened gradually throughout 2019 and 2020.
In July 2019, Iriscare became responsible for managing the ‘assistance for the elderly' (THAB) allowance, both by granting and paying the THAB to its beneficiaries. Right from the beginning, a strict deadline loomed: by 1 January 2021, all monthly allowances were to be paid to anyone who was entitled to them. “This meant we had a clear goal: to make sure the new application was fully up and running by that date,” explains Frederick Taveirne, Director of Operations at Iriscare.
Calculated to the exact euro cent
Iriscare’s choice of Cegaka was based on the IT company’s track record. “In 2007, Cegeka had been awarded a contract to digitise the child benefit system, which was a federal responsibility at the time, and in 2018, following on from that, they developed the Itiniris application for Famiris, Iriscare’s child benefits service in Brussels, together with Iriscare’s IT department,” explains Philip Ringoir, IT director at Iriscare. Encouraged by this previous successful cooperation, Iriscare turned to Cegeka for the development of the application, named Alis.
Cegeka was able to apply the best practices it had learned during this past collaboration and incorporate them into developing Alis. For instance, payment orders needed the same functionality, whether they were to be used for child benefits or allowances for the elderly. “In order to develop Alis we were working with largely the same Cegeka team as for ITiniris,” adds Philip Ringoir. “This ensured that the kick-off of the project went smoothly. At the same time, we knew we could count on Cegeka to deliver and complete the project ahead of our strict deadline.”
Iriscare and Cegeka agreed that the single most important factor in applications of this type is to ensure that allowance payments are made on time and 100% correctly. “The calculated amounts have to be extremely accurate, down to the very last euro cent,” explains Fabio Mouro, who was closely involved with the development of Alis while working as a program manager at Cegeka. “While migrating the data from the federal application to the Brussels application, we compared the amounts that would be paid at the federal level with the amounts Alis calculated. They were an exact match.”
Individuals who want to apply for the allowance can now simply log on to the myIriscare portal and click on the ‘Assistance for the elderly allowance’ link. Once they have submitted their request on the portal, the Alis system creates a dossier. A case manager then verifies whether the person who submitted the request is entitled to receive the allowance. Finally, the calculation engine calculates the amount they are eligible to receive according to the individual’s medical category, income and family situation. In addition, the app will share any important information regarding derived rights with the relevant services. For example, Alis will inform the FPS Economy if the applicant is entitled to the social tariff for gas and electricity.
“We knew we could count on Cegeka to deliver and complete the project ahead of our strict deadline.”
Philip Ringoir, IT director at Iriscare
In close cooperation
Cegeka took on a very active role during the development of the project, according to Frederick: “It’s not that we explained the calculation engine to Cegeka and that they came back two months later and gave us the app. Instead, they were constantly involved in the thought process during the entire project.”
Cegeka’s active role was also evident during the development of Portiris, a centrally located application that processes the interactions between various Iriscare applications and external sources. “This was not our own idea. In fact, it was Cegeka that looked at where ALIS and other applications fit into the whole of our application landscape and suggested developing Portiris,” says Philip Ringoir.
A central data sharing application
This approach offered many advantages. For example, integrations with external parties such as the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (‘Kruispuntbank Sociale Zekerheid’), Irisbox, Fidus and Febelfin only had to be made once. “Once an endpoint is created in Portiris, all other applications can use it,” Philip Ringoir explains.
The Alis and Portiris architecture is built around microservices. As a result, the applications are scalable and the Iriscare application landscape is prepared to accommodate future expansions.
“Once an endpoint is created in Portiris, all other applications can use it.”
Philip Ringoir, IT director at Iriscare
“With Portiris up and running, our own applications also benefit from better protection,” Frederick Taveirne adds. “External services from the Federal Public Service for Social Security no longer receive information directly from our applications, but rather by exchanging messages through Portiris. What’s more, this system has made it possible to store audit logs in a central location – making it easier to run checks later to find out who has used our information.”
Working side-by-side on a complex project
Cegeka implemented the ALIS application in a complex environment, with a strict deadline, while interacting with several authorities and cooperating with various other parties. “During the implementation, Cegeka consistently engaged with everyone as a team, striving for the same goal,” says Frederick Taveirne. By using the Agile approach, Cegeka was able to address issues quickly and complete this complex project in time and within the set budget.
Philip Ringoir adds: “Cegeka’s team was very committed and showed great responsibility. If they ever came across a problem, they always looked for a solution straight away. Cegeka delivers, regardless of the challenges involved.”