Press Release from John Seddon’s Office
Service design expert Professor John Seddon has a message for Margaret Hodge today as she chairs another session of the Public Accounts Committee on the implementation of Universal Credit this afternoon.
“The National Audit Office got it wrong. The problem is not weak management, ineffective control or poor governance. The problem is the design. A standardised IT system cannot deal with complex and variable demand from benefit claimants. In my open letter to Iain Duncan Smith in January 2011, I urged him to abandon the plans to deliver Universal Credit online because I knew it would fail and why. The crucial factor is the complexity of the service. When what is being delivered is simple and unvarying, moving it to telephone or internet channels may be effective. When it is complex and variable, as benefit claims always are, it is an expensive mistake to attempt to deal with the demand online.
David Cameron was right to say today that Universal Credit is immensely complicated. But it is only complicated because the design is wrong.
I have strong evidence from pioneers in local authority benefit offices that a simpler approach will deliver better service at much lower costs. The essence of the better design is for skilled staff to deal with claims at the first point of contact, usually face to face. Claimant needs and problems come in a variety of interlocking forms and guises; solving them all at first point of contact face to face results in huge cost savings since it reduces further demands on the DWP and on other public and voluntary services. It’s counter intuitive but true”.
About John Seddon
John Seddon is a service design expert, occupational psychologist, researcher, professor, management thinker and leading authority on change in the public sector. He is a visiting professor at Hull and Derby University Business Schools and author of several best sellers including Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: the Failure of the Reform Regime and a Manifesto for a Better Way.