Universal Credit: a brilliant idea guaranteed to fail

 Guest article by Professor John Seddon

While we should take our hats off to Iain Duncan Smith for his thorough analysis of social welfare problems, he is being misled when it comes to delivering the solution, the Universal Credit (UC). Anyone claiming for the new Universal Credit will be obliged to use the internet; in the words of the designers the service will be “digital by default”    

This is the first of two fundamental weaknesses in the plan for delivering the UC: it will require successful building of a large-scale computer system. As Gauld and Goldfinch (‘Dangerous Enthusiasms’, Otago Press) point out, in a veritable tsunami of evidence, the vast majority of large-scale computer systems fail.

Indeed we have seen reports in the Daily Telegraph this week that the Universal Credit has already been moved to the top of George Osborne’s warning list of projects that could fail. The chairman of the Commons public accounts committee has called the plan “a train crash waiting to happen”. Unsurprisingly, the concern centres on the IT.

The Child Poverty Action Group is not confident either. Chief executive Alison Garnham told Public Servant: “The Department for Work and Pensions is not famous for its success with new IT projects, and I really worry, because everything goes into one system” and “If it fails it will have really serious consequences.”

Duncan Smith has been persuaded by the IT companies this won’t fail as other projects have (think NHS patient records system, regional fire control centres and passport office). But they would say that wouldn’t they? The civil servants are confident too. According to a senior DWP source quoted in the Daily Telegraph, the department is confident it can deliver its side of the Universal Credit system on time. IT companies have persuaded Duncan Smith that this time things will be OK because they are doing ‘Agile’.

Agile – the building of computer systems in an iterative, ‘live’ way – is merely to do the wrong thing faster.   Which brings me to the second fundamental weakness: If the computer system actually gets built, the service will fail, because computers are terrible at absorbing variety, and taxation, credits and benefits are high-variety problems. Using computers to deliver the service will amount to an attempt to codify, in rules, the eligibility and entitlements for claimants; and as rules can never deal with variety, the consequence will be poor-quality, hard-to-get services for those who are the most vulnerable in society.

The plan is driven by an obsession with cost. Paradoxically, it will drive costs up. The assumption is that web-based transactions will be cheaper. But this is to confuse transaction costs (which will be lower on the web) with the true costs of service – the total number of transactions it takes for citizens to get a service. The failure of the web-based service to resolve peoples’ problems will generate massive amounts of what I call ‘failure demand’ – demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer.

I introduced Terry Moran, the DWP man leading the UC project, to my clients, in order for them to explain what they have learned about computer systems’ inability to deal with high-variety services.  In addition there is clear evidence that local fraud detection is far more effective than nationally-organised fraud detection. More importantly, I explained to Mr Moran how local authorities that have rejected DWP guidance on how to manage their housing benefits services are delivering benefits in a matter of days, dealing with each claimant in the round, preventing further transactions with other services.  These profoundly better and cheaper services – saving 20 to 40% of operating costs – illustrate how peoples’ lives are complex and their needs are better served by people, not computers; only people are able to absorb the variety of claimant needs.

I explained to Mr Moran that the same principles could be used by local authorities to deliver the Universal Credit; they would be able to create a Universal Credit service in months rather than years, with no major investment in information technology. It would be a service that is based on need and would help claimants in the context of their communities, building relationships that will be constructive aids to achieving the purpose as set out by Iain Duncan Smith – helping people achieve a productive life.

But the train has left the station. In the words of the chairman of the Commons public accounts committee the plan to deliver this brilliant idea is a train crash waiting to happen. It is guaranteed.

 

Professor John Seddon is an occupational psychologist, MD of Vanguard Consulting and visiting professor at 3 UK universities. He has received academic honours for his contribution to management science.

41 Comments

  1. Andrew Melvin says:

    John Seddon is right. Good idea, terrible plan for execution. Many people claiming benefits live their lives in states of chaos or crisis. Let us consider an illustrative example; Household A, with 2 children are in receipt of UC, paid to the household via the husband’s bank account. He has an affair, his wife kicks him out, he pays his mate to spend 2 nights on his sofa, then moves in with his new partner and her children (Household B); she kicks him out 4 weeks later; he pays for 2 more nights on his mate’s sofa and then moves back in with his wife. Does DWP seriously think that all the affected people are going to get on the Internet to update their circumstances or that, even if they did, the system would be equipped with the logic and business rules to make sense of all the changes during this period? More importantly, does DWP think that Household A’s immediate circumstances are going to wait whilst the “real-time” PAYE system catches up with all the changes to household incomes caused by this upheaval? Who is going to pay for groceries or feed the meter in Household A whilst it does? At present, in all likelihood Household A’s rent and Council Tax are being paid direct to landlord/council, Household A is unlikely to fall into arrears on either whilst things are sorted out. Under UC, Household A is also expected to be capable of budgeting prudently and paying its own bills.

    To proceed with the currently proposed delivery model is not merely courageous, Minister, it’s heroism of Thermopylaen proportions.

    Historians will recall that the Gates of Thermopylae was the scene of a suicide mission by King Leonidis and his 300 Spartans.

    Reply
    • netty says:

      I love this analogy because it is so very true. I am only just beginning to look into all the proposed benefit changes, so know very little about how universal credit will be operated. If I am getting this right, are claimants expected to make their applications and correspond with the DWP through computers and the internet? If so, I guffaw at the prospect. Unless you are under thirty and therefore was taught technology from a young age, or you actively seek to understand it, the majority of older people – 40′s, 50′s, 60′s and above are not computer savvy . In fact, a lot of older people I know actively avoid the use of this technology. It also appears to have been overlooked that if most of the claimants are the unemployed in receipt of a pittance and could not afford a computer or the ongoing cost of broadband. Like you said, Andrew, there are library facilities, but these are often packed and time limited. And what about vulnerable claimants with physical and mental impairment who may not be able to get to their library or understand the use of the technology. It is already a giant inconvenience to claim benefits through the telephone system where you often have no direct contact with the benefit agency, but are put through to a call centre (after hanging on the line at your cost forever). Gone are the days when you walked into your local job centre and made a claim with a giro landing on your doormat the following week. Now it can take up to six weeks to get a benefit payment and in the meantime you are expected to ‘eat cake’. Also, I notice from messages on this website that under the proposals which seek to reduce fraud, that there is a provision to penalise people where they are negligent in maintaining their claim. If this is the case, there will be a lot of penalising, which may be one of the ideas behind the change as every little penny counts to the coffers of the government. I hope I have got it wrong.

      Reply
  2. Andrew Melvin

    That’s a great example. It illustrates really well why online delivery won’t work.

    I can imagine wife of Household A going to the library to update her circumstances, queueing for a computer, clutching the 60 page guidance notes. Three quarters of an hour into her one hour slot, she presses enter and gets the message PAGE NOT FOUND.

    Another day with no groceries.

    Charlotte Pell
    Researcher for Professor John Seddon

    Reply
  3. Fred Pernet says:

    “Seek first to understand before being understood” – Steven Covey

    Don’t you just love the armchair experts who join up a few dots based on some scant facts they can gather, apply their world view and then tell the world the ‘image’ looks like a monster.

    My suggestion is you base your arguments on solid facts and leave the speculation to the rag press. I would have hoped for better from a scholar.

    I am working on UC and we are making huge progress. Is it perfect? no. Are we headed in the right direction? absolutely yes. Are we aware of your POV? yes and we are addressing it.

    A key agile value is to respond to change over follow a plan. The skill is putting mechanisms in place so this happens at the beginning of programme and not at the end.

    As for knowing the future – …”failure is guaranteed” – I wasn’t aware the learned gentleman has a sideline in Clairvoyance – wow. Please can you tell us the lottery numbers for next week – we would be most grateful

    Fred Pernet

    Reply
    • netty says:

      I get where you are coming from and I understand that a robust computer system is needed for the DWP to operate the change. However, the benefits would appear to me (with scant knowledge I accept) are one sided in favour of the benefits agency. Andrew is right in saying that many claimants live their life in chaos and crisis (much of it brought on by unemployment and having to deal with ‘authorities’), and I would add to this depression. Though the present system of contact through telephone is seriously flawed, at least the caller knows that they cannot get through and will continue trying. With an on-line system an email could potentially lay unread for some time with the applicant having no idea of the delay. This system will terrify the living daylights out of many people I know who don’t have access to a computer, have no knowledge of how they work and certainly could not address any problem incurred in using this technology. Like John I am not clairvoyant, but as a benefit claimant I do know myself and am aware of my own limitations (for god’s sake I can’t even use a dvd player or mobile phone) and am far from unique in this outlook and lack of skills. It is not even considered that there may be people for whom this holds no interest, but we are increasingly been dragged kicking and screaming into communications which are largely for the benefit of the people in charge. I applaud all efforts in trying to streamline or simplify the system, but it is a mammoth task and it is only to be expected that there will be some reluctance and resistance to the change – it’s human nature. But, I feel that being on the receiving end of this, yet untested, system and the uncertainty this brings is realistic and potential flaws should be highlighted and discussed in advance so that they can be considered prior to implementation.

      Reply
  4. Karin Lane says:

    Are we aware of your POV – oh the irony. I assume you mean point of view, however, POV is also a derogatory slang term for someone who is poor! So I ask you, are you really aware?

    Reply
  5. Bob Corrick says:

    @Fred Pernet – I note that the agile manifesto also values “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”, and I suggest that this is a more fruitful area for your consideration than ad hominem comments.

    Reply
  6. Mark Foden says:

    There is a copy of the text of the recent Starting Gate review report on Universal Credit at…
    http://ukcampaign4change.com/2011/10/10/universal-credit-internal-report-now-published/
    It’s not the actual report but I have no reason to doubt its veracity.

    My eye was caught by this sentence at the end of paragraph 8…

    All this gives a high degree of confidence that, notwithstanding the inherent challenges, the programme can deliver Universal Credit.

    …then this one, immediately following, at the beginning of paragraph 9…

    There is a greater degree of uncertainty around the achievability of the intended economic outcomes because of factors which are not within DWP’s control e.g. the general state of the economy and availability of jobs.

    Are the reviewers saying that that they think the technology and processes will be delivered but are less sure about the benefits?

    I can’t help feeling this supports Mr Seddon’s view.

    Reply
    • Bob Corrick says:

      It sounds like a “big bang” approach – from the report: “HMRC’s Real Time Information (RTI) programme… both DWP and HMRC are clear that timely delivery of RTI is a hard dependency for UC.” (Universal Credit).

      Given that past performance is some guide, I for one wouldn’t bet on the delivery of technology and processes either.

      Reply
  7. Rebecca Dodd says:

    I note Fred that you only refer to how well the plans are going. You mention “plans” and “mechanisms” not people or (dare I say it) customers. One of the main points of view (thanks Karin!!) is that the people who will need to access Universal Credit need the local touch…and real hands on help to navigate these types of issues. A point you have not really addressed. As someone who deals with the front line and those very customers, I seek to understand the DWP solution to that Fred. If you “seek first to understand” can you confirm how much to the folks at the DWP really understand the people who may be derailed by this new “agile” order?

    Can I also suggest you seek to understand why people like John and many many others are so sceptical of the “plans” and “mechanisms” – this might be better than just hitting back. Most of us who are yet to be 100% convinced, are genuinely worried about the impacts on our communities and the most vulnerable amongst them. In light of all the other “failures” we’ve witnessed, you can forgive a degree of worry and scepticism and steer clear of the barbed comments. It’s the DWP who have to prove their point not us…..so go on convince us!!

    Reply
  8. Karin Lane says:

    Ad hominem comments?!? As the kids would say, and no doubt many potential Universal Credit recipients – WTF? I had to look the definition up – this is what I got ‘is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it’. Was that what I did? Or did I just ask a question, albeit in a clearly mildly sarcastic manner? Any way must go and look up some words in Latin to make myself sound clever and impress my colleagues with.

    Reply
    • Bob Corrick says:

      @Karin Lane – I’m sorry to have used some odd words Karin, my comment was directed at Fred Pernet, not you! I find myself more in tune with your comments and those of Rebecca Dodd, not with Fred. I commented because I thought Fred was referring to John Seddon in a rather malicious way (without seeking to understand him, in fact). I hope you see this.

      Reply
  9. Karin Lane says:

    And now getting back to the issue! Are the people who are designing the system, designing it for the customer – or to fit the new process? Current HB forms are notoriously difficult for customers to complete – will any lessons be learned? How many of the system designers have tried to claim a benefit to actually see how difficult it is (obviously not actually claiming but maybe in a mystery shopper scenario)? Process mapping only shows part of the picture – the reality of claiming almost any benefit is much more difficult and can be frustrating and undignified. Leaving aside the technicalities of running such a huge system, will it be less difficult, less frustrating and more dignified for users? For those without access to a PC in their homes (and there are many) I think we can guess the answer.

    Reply
  10. MCW says:

    Lucky Andrew Melvin has obviously not claimed housing benefit. In order to “empower” recipients it is not paid to the landlord directly it is paid to the recipient.

    The recipient is therefore required to budget. Of course if they do not it is then up to the landlord to evict those in arrears…

    Reply
    • Andrew Melvin says:

      Actually MCW, HB is paid directly to private tenants, not to Social Housing tenants, and generally it is paid less frequently than monthly. “Of course, if they do not (budget and pay their rent), it will be up to the landlord to evict those in arrears…” Indeed. And where do you think those people will go first, for assistance? To the very people who have a statutory obligation to house the homeless, of course, who will then have to decide whether or not the tenant has made themselves intentionally homeless. It’s going to be a mess…

      Reply
  11. Ian Savigar says:

    Facts: Using systems thinking and taking the service to the customer we have reduced processing times to around 30 minutes for a customer who brings in all of the required information.

    Their confusing (statutory worded) letters are explained to them before they leave so they dont need to call us back or make a backdated claim.

    Overpayments, backdates and appeals have all reduced since we ditched the backoffice front office approach.

    Potential fraud (which I suspect would never have been found) is identified quickly in a face to face meeting.

    We input directly to core software because we cant find any simple customer friendly system that works without work arounds.

    We worked closely with Performance Development Team and found thousands of examples within the current system where automated information exchanges between DWP, HMRC and LA’s simply added waste and duplication to the process.

    But most importantly we now treat our customers in relation to the event that has happened in their life and try not to see them simply as a benefit customer, so once we have sorted benefits we ask the what else question.

    These things will be lost in a faceless “digital by default” system and this is not because the people at the Job Centre or in the Contact Centres are bad people that is because the system they are working with thinks economies of scale are the solution.

    “Monthly Payments and Payments direct” aside this system of work is likely to make the Poll Tax situation look pretty tame!

    Where are people going to go? LA’s will have no resources, the voluntary sector will have fewer resources.

    We met with the Project manager responsible for Universal Credits and we were told about Agile, we were also told that they liked our approach using systems thinking and that the design team would benefit from our views. Several months later we are still waiting for our invite!

    I’m certainly not against the principle of Universal Credits and i’m not against a core system that will make calculation and award simpler, but I am extremely concerned about the planned delivery model and I would urge the powers that be to reconsider before we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

    Reply
    • Patrick OCorr says:

      The removal of ‘real’ Customer Service is a significant problem, evidently. But the opportunities for fraud and error online are a monumentally gigantic issue. The problems with links to HMR&C have been known about for over a year.
      (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/minutes171110.pdf)

      Big money is being paid out to the corporate providers of the UC solution by the UK government and all the normal IT Govt suppliers, who havent graced themselves with Universal Success, are there of course. (http://www.information-age.com/channels/it-services/news/1666348/dwp-awards-accenture-500m-universal-credit-it-deal.thtml)

      However, responsible financial probity should be enacted if UC isnt delivered to spec in Oct 2013. If the Project delivery companies fail to deliver then the Project delivery companies should financially suffer the pain too and pay the lost value of the contract back! Obviously there wont be a ‘system’ to deliver and DWP will have the current ‘systems’ fully retained at least.

      But this probity must be matched with ‘political’ financial responsibility. If the Minister (or Responsible Manager) fails to deliver then the Minister (or Responsible Manager) should financially pay too! This should be for each year that UC is in development? A political officer falling on their sword and taking a delayed and lucrative directorship from a large UK company is certainly not the answer and many would feel this is ‘not cricket’.

      The ‘agile’ explanation doesnt wash either. This is the llikely ‘excuse’ when it all goes P/S. Even the dusty old Gartner have said Large Projects cannot be Agile. So that ‘smokescreen’ has its problems too it seems. Search Google for “Large Agile Govt projects” and you get:
      (http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/public-sector/2011/10/the-limits-of-agile-emergn-ceo.html)

      The signs are not good – well over 18 months off delivery! The provision of a workable benefits service to the populace is a tenet of government. UC is beginning to look like it will royally fail that responsibility. There will be some with their fingers crossed… for 18 months.

      Tip: bookmark this page and come back on UC Delivery Day in October 2013.

      Patrick

      Reply
  12. John Seddon is known for his forthright points of view. It doesn’t mean his systems thinking view of the world is wrong!

    Is there any evidence that large scale IT systems deliver the ROI, cost-savings and additional value – seemingly these are always celebrated in the planning, but never observed in the delivery?

    There is clear evidence of massive failure in large scale IT projects which have clearly not been able to deal with the variety and complexity of ‘exceptions’. Universal Credit is essential for many families – real people living real lives – not service users or end outputs or cases or …..Government needs a ‘nudge’ to think differently about the delivery of services and how work is to be organised.

    Reply
  13. Geoff Hughes says:

    As someone living in Greece, I like the first comment about the invaders and the pass at Thermopolae.

    In fact, the true historical story makes John Seddon’s case rather better.

    Conventional wisdom was that the process for the Persians to conquer Greece was to come through the narrow pass at Thermopolae one-at-a-time. It was therefore easy for a small force of 300 Spartans at the top of the pass to kill the invaders as they came through one-at-a-time.

    However, after some days when many 1000s of Persian troops had been kept waiting in the valley behind the pass, a local Greek showed them (for just a few coins) an alternative, wider route inland. The Persian forces stopped queueing at the foot of the pass and simply ‘flowed’ through the wider route, attacked the 300 Spartans from behind and then moved rapidly onto their next target.

    So, flow triumphed in the end.

    Reply
  14. Edward Hubbard says:

    I emailed Lord Freud in support of John Seddon’s campaign for a better Universal Credit. To support my case, I recounted my own experience as a Jobseeker who foolishly did two days work and found himself caught up in the DWP call centre labyrinth. Even sending a fax of my payslip and ensuring it had been received was very, very difficult because the call centre with the fax machine did not accept incoming phone calls. I have had further problems since. I just feel so frustrated that I cannot talk to someone face to face and sort everything out. I have also briefly worked in call centres so I know everything John Seddon says is true.

    I therefore have no doubt that the Universal Credit is guaranteed to fail. I seriously doubt, however, that it is a brilliant idea. I think the media have given Iain Duncan-Smith much too easy a ride on this. IDS claims he is abolishing six work-related benefits, but it seems to me that all he is doing is hiding them within the new Universal Credit. This is simplification only in the very limited sense that claimants will now receive one payment into their bank account instead of two or three. It does not make the task of calculating the benefit any easier and it does not make this calculation process any more transparent to the claimant – indeed, it may make it less transparent. Even if the Universal Credit were to be delivered face-to-face by people trained in all aspects of the new benefit, it would still depend for its success on claimants regularly informing DWP staff of any changes in their circumstances (and these circumstances – e.g. hours worked – can change on a weekly basis) and on DWP staff being able to accurately perform very complex benefit calculations taking into account constantly changing circumstances. So while a Universal Credit delivered on the John Seddon model would certainly be better than the one being proposed, I wonder whether it would be good enough to be considered a success (even defining success narrowly as paying people what they are legally entitled to). Has John Seddon considered the possibility that the Universal Credit is so inherently complicated that no human being could ever design a system that would administer it effectively?

    Strangely, the government has stumbled upon part of the answer to the complexity of the benefits system when it adopted the Liberal Democrat manifesto policy of raising the personal allowance to £10,000. Surely this policy, especially if extended even further up the income scale, ought to make possible a phasing out of the Working Tax Credit, at least.

    Reply
  15. Ben says:

    The complexity of all benefits there are now will surely be too complex for UC to handle thats even before the systems are implemented – i agree train crash waiting to happen – these fools need to get in the real world.

    Reply
  16. Kerry says:

    In my family I look after the children (who are both under 4)and my partner is on long term incapacity benefit for severe mental health problems. He can care for himself but would not be able to care for 2 young children and I am therefore not returning to work until they are both in school. I would like to know how the UC is expected to be implemented for people in situations such as ours. My partner is entitled to receive his own money by way of his incapacity payment and the income support for our family is therefore paid to him, a huge and well publicised effect of mental health problems is that money does not have a true value and it therefore disappears as quickly as it arrives. I receive the Child benefit and CTC payments and use these to ensure that we eat every day and that my children have the things that they need. Housing benefit goes straight to the landlord thankfully as this ensures that it is paid. When the UC comes in and all of these have to be paid in one sum, how will this work? If it s paid to my partner things will go downhill very fast! but he is entitled to his own money… CTC was bought in to ensure that mothers received money for raising their children that they more often than not did not receive following the tax relief that the fathers had for having a family. Has this changed? This is really worrying me :(

    Reply
    • netty says:

      I note your comments Kerry and sympathise with your worries about this. I am currrently only learining about the universal credit and everything I am reading in comments on the site is instilling me with dread. Does the lump sum payment into the claimants account include housing benefit and council tax benefit where they live in social housing? I hope not. Arguments about teaching people financial responsibility is hogwash and can be evidenced by the large scale growth in high interest fringe lenders, county court judgements and bankruptcy applications. If rent and council tax payments are made direct to the claimant, we will see large scale evictions and where there are children the duty and cost of rehousing will lay with the local authority or social services. The courts, the councils, the DWP, Social Services, charities, advice agencies etc will be stretched to capacity and the stress to the claimant and their family as well as the agencies will show in their physical and mental health. People advocating ‘financial responsibility’ do not seem to grasp that a person living on the breadline who faces a dire situation like needing a new washing machine or fridge or beds for the children, or christmas time , or escalating utility costs will be extremely tempted to dip into the HB and CTB to cover these emergencies. It is niaive to think otherwise. How about teaching the bankers some financial responsibility, it is their lack of prudence that has caused this mess and the governement is seeking to reduce the deficit through large scale negative change targetted at the most vulnerable. I wish you well Kerry for the future, and though it is of little solace, you really are not on your own.

      Reply
  17. Sue Watling says:

    Universal Credit is an ideal opportunity for raising awareness of the realities of digital exclusion which the UK Government RaceOnline campaign currently puts at 8.5 million. Digital exclusion is complex with no one size fits all solution and by nature is it invisible in an age when the public platforms for discussion and debate (like these) are in themselves digital ones. The most invisible of all categories of digital exclusion is users of assisitive technologies – in particular users with sight loss – because all too often the designers of the online systems do not adequately test them with screen readers or alternative navigation systems in mind. Universal Credit and digital by default policies are simply social disasters waiting to happen.

    Reply
  18. Paul Stanway says:

    Mr Seddon,

    You are right! But alas, politicians and high-level bureaucrats seem to love their flagship schemes and their panels of experts and their comprehensive IT systems that nearly always screw up. It’s an illness – the desire to transform everything into a quantifiable financial transaction that minimizes human interaction.

    Reply
  19. Amanda says:

    Well I let houses to DHSS tenants, I am afraid that I shall be starting to evict them as i can not trust the tempation for them spending the rent before it gets to me, I have some lovely tenants but they have got into problems when payments had to be paid direct to themselves till they had to prove they had debt problems eg spent my rent for 2 months then housing benefit could be paid to myself direct, tenants preferr the rent to be paid direct to myself as it stops temptation and bullying partners spending it down the pub or betting shops, I am afraid that we will have millions homless as even myself that has been working in this market place working with the homeless vulnerable and single parents, I personally need to sleep at night, and with even the threat of this coming into place is enough for me to start selling ! Where are this people going to live ! hopefully squat in the silly goverments officers property whilst there away on hoilday so they come see what i stupid idea this is , are street will be filled with homeless people and children, Even myself as a hardened land lady will not take the risk , I pray wake up and scrap this idea

    Reply
  20. Simon says:

    I work in bank integration projects. I have never seen one work. I have watched a credit card company carry out a merger and it was a resounding success. Why? Very simple three teams gather their own requirments. And shock horror a user group determined the users requirements and channel needs including web, telephone and paper. The three teams got all there requirements included and the web portal and service elements were the success measurements of the system. It was designed backwards. The office can amend processes the end user MUST have simple effective servicing by multiple channels that fit their technical ability including meeting people. Rant over. Requirement gathering, agile, solutioning its all Bull***t, it does not and has never worked. Designed your end service and go backwards. Its harder but it makes things work.

    Reply
  21. Andrew Currie says:

    How many senior politicians actually have to struggle with using a computer? Very few I guess – they have staff to do that. If you have little practical experience of something how can you accurately judge its appropriateness?
    There are more failed government IT projects than make it into the news.
    When Jobcentre Plus introduced ‘jobpoint’ terminals they had a fundamental & serious flaw but my complaints were arrogantly ignored. Of course someone eventually realised & the system was altered but they never admitted their error.
    Of course a big IT project will fail but the private sector will still make good money from it.

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  22. Jack says:

    I wonder if the building societies are bracing for this ?

    As benefits tenants are migrated to UC so private landlords will post the keys back. The Building Society would be looking at carrying out repairs to the BTL properties and collecting rent …. that they cannot get direct from UC.

    Bankruptcy against the landlord would be in the burgeoning county court queue with all the possession orders against rent arrears tenants being brought by those micawber landlords still holding keys. For ease of re-possession such landlords will use “Section 21″ … the fast track for tenants to jump the social housing queues and become the mandatory responsibility of local authorities to house.

    So with swamped county courts and local authority housing depts that is the future IDS.

    If I could inform you. The call for an effective central monitor of benefits claims goes back at least 40 years. The problem being that when the system set up postwar only contributory benefits got a central record. Means tested benefits relied vicariously on the National Insurance central records.

    For claims which were 100% means tested there was not necessarily any record to detect multiple address claiming. This inbuilt loophole was well exploited by the IRA in the 70s using single parent mothers whose “Liable relative” could not have his NI record flagged at Newcastle.

    One we caught in 76 (By fortuitous information received) had 48 addresses each with benefits in payment. One of these addresses was a suspect IRA active unit address.

    I think the Professor is right about IDS … brave analysis followed by a plan doomed to create chaos. Or as the IRA might say “We always claimed per household (UC style) … just used the same claimant in each one knowing the system had no means to detect it”.

    Reply
  23. Charles Tomlinson says:

    I myself can not see any way that universal credit online can or will work.
    I work with homeless people who don’t have a roof over their head far less a computer or the knowledge to work a computer. I am also a computer specialist who has never came across a system that works perfect in any business. Computers and IT systems are fallable to breakdown and hacking.
    They are only as good as the people building the platform and inputting the information and if the goverment are anything to go by god help us.

    Reply
  24. agnes says:

    for people who are currently claiming WTC/CTC when will we find out that we are moving on to UC………will we have access to any form of calculators so we can work out in advance if we are going to be worse off as a result of migrating to UC…….In my case I feel I will be worse off ……Loan parent working 30 hours pw, at the moment tax credits dont take account of maintenance payments for children but I think UC will……also will likley have savings over 6000 – as saving up for new roof and central heating for home…..which is going to need replaced in next few years……If im going to be worse off I want to know ASAP so I can start finding ways of cutting back but cant find any calculators that will work this out for me…………I dont want to be one of those people who find out at the last moment that im worse off……and as every penny coming in at the moment is accounted for – with no pay rises on the horizon, making cut backs is not something that people can just do overnight……..I think a lot of people – especially lone parents may find themselves worse off

    Reply
  25. older people are disadvantaged already they dont have or use computers to comment and therefor cant have their say shame on you all and all the sites are hard to use pity they didnt think first

    Reply
  26. Billsheep says:

    The forerunner for all this was the Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study (WPLS) “owned” by HMRC but only of interest to DWP Head Office (to measure the “effectiveness” of Jobcentres in achieving “job entry rates”). The whole thing was driven purely by internal bureaucratic demands and rested on linking records via the National Insurance Number (NINO), also “owned” by HMRC. Under WPLS, HMRC refused to provide DWP with income data and, of course, the employment records were always out-of-date in any case. From this problematic basis, the Coalition has jumped straight into UC, effectively reversing the power relations between HMRC and DWP. In this case, Sparta and Persia could be drowned by the sea. As for the benefit claimant, they were never a concern. They’re nothing but a NINO.

    Reply
  27. missc says:

    I am an agency worker who had worked three shifts last week and nothing this week, so have had to sign back on again and go through all of that because I was 90 minutes over the 15:59hrs allowed on jobseekers. You know when they roll off what I have to do and not do as part of your jobseekers agreement, my gut tightens, its as if I know I am some sort of scummy slave with no rights in their eyes. On paper, this UC should be much better for me, if it takes into considertion my working and residential circumstances (trapped in a house with no public transport at all and cannot move because of companies like rent checks etc even though I am an excellent tenant). If the Universal Jobmatch is anything to go by, this UC will be pure hell.

    I am crippled by paying to the child support agency for a child I am not allowed to see (ex gets more money that way) and so working six hours at £7.50ph, travelling 75miles round trip, and parking charges, tax/NI, and then CSA, I worked it out that I will have worked for £17.

    six hours running around on a ward with no break, £17. I wouldnt mind so much if I was self employed and this was my expenses, but its not, and I love my job, just its very competitive to have this job at all. I cannot see how UC will make it better to work, even if there were enough jobs. How can I maintain a car for work on these figures? I would like to see that bus service running in the middle of nowhere to take me at 6am to get me to work at 7.15am and back again late at night, Id love it!! The cost of living in itself is thievery, and resident parents claiming through the CSA get ALL their benefits AND the child maintenance from the non resident parent ONTOP of their benefits, not even reduced yet my rent and livings costs are NOT even taken into consideration at all. How is this right? How is UC going to address these issues and make working something worth doing, something that we can AFFORD to do. So many other things that need addressing and sorting before UC can be implemented IMHO.

    And I should just say, I am currently in receipt of housing benefit, and I pay my landlord. I have never not paid him, it is an unfair generalisation to make that HB tenants have to pay landlord direct or they will just spend it. Insulting. If MOST of us DIDNT get it direct, to pay the landlord ourselves, we would never have been able to take up rent as many landlords have a long list of NO DSS NO PETS NO THIS NO THAT NO LIFE. However, yes for those who feel they would rather it go to landlord direct, this should be made available as an option, also.

    We have the opportunity for a fairer, simpler system, and yet this will likely be bastardised by a corrupt few.

    Hope I am so wrong…

    Reply
  28. James Melly says:

    Fred Parnet

    I’ve some facts for you.

    April 2008 direct payments introduced overnight which affected 95% of my tenants as they/are in receipt of housing benefit.

    Credit Worthiness destroyed overnight. Had to withdraw cash from credit cards to pay the mortgages. To use your earlier analogy a great of my tenants received a nice windfall courtesy of UK Taxpayer.

    To further help the tenant take money from whom it was initially intended it was decided that they would be allowed to spend their following months rent check as well. So, from a landlords perspective you evict and it can happen all over again. Not that the eviction process is that and obviously although its in blak and white the money has been spent we the landlords have to foot the bill for taking them to court.

    Never able to recover the money as you cannot deduct from people’s benefits.

    No national records exist as to how much money has been taken from landlords.

    Policy not extended to social and council properties just penalise the private landlord.

    Official justification for the policy “a social experiment to teach claimants how to manage their finances”

    Council running courses where tenants are invited to attend to teach them how to manage their money,

    Red tape introduced at local HB offices which creates a situation where you cannot contact the council about a tenants ongoing claim because “they don’t have authority to discuss”. There is a form which gives full authority to discuss but claimants are encouraged by HB officers not to sign and hand it in as they may feel pressurised.

    The tenant spends 2 months money it’s then paid to the landlord. The tenant then moves and the council by the tenant direct once again.

    Entire policy initially opposed by the then Conservative party and now years own the line after kissing some babies heads and making bold statements about reducing the deficit the government decides to repeat the whole thing all over again.

    I’ve wrote to all the ministers and despite having a portfolio of over 30 properties I get a letter bask from the office of ministers advising me they are to busy to respond.

    Claimants not attending job centre appointments which then triggers HB to be suspended. I am not told the resin for it bring suspended and getting it reinstated as its beyond my control as I can’t do it or them. Plus the only way I know this is the reason is because the claimant tells me. This is because I’m not allowed to be told as its in breach of the data protection act.

    Claimants being issued with cheques with no bank account to pay into. They then have to cash it as the likes of cash converters for which they get charged a high fee to do so. I have to drive these claimants there to limit the risk of them spending my rent money.

    Claimants who have absolutely no idea how to operate a computer told to apply online. This is hard work of many of them are illiterate so obviously it down to do help them complete the firm because without my intervention it would never get one.

    The chap responsible for introducing the new IT system died at Christmas. Since this death the government has appointed another outside company to oversee it all. Basically, no due diligence whatsoever.

    Pathfinder schemes a failure. Only 1 out of the 4 pilots has gone ahead which omits a large section of the claimant demographic. The remaking people used as Guinea pigs not using the new UC IT scheme isn’t up and running.

    So now I have given you all the facts tell me who persuading an old policy under a new name is a good thing. I would love to know how allowing a tenant to legally steal from the UK taxpayer by paying LHA direct is somehow offset by imposing a bedroom tax on the most vulnerable in society.

    This final note isn’t a fact, it’s an educated reasoned guess. If you don’t listen to people who have experience the claimants will feel the pinch and watch the crime rate soar as they find an alternative way to feed themselves.

    Reply
  29. Annie Other says:

    @ James Melly – your tenants obviously feel that they are better off on the streets. Try lowering your rents, maintaining your property, and making a connection with the individuals who treat a rented unit as a home. Better still, you may be better off leaving the occupation of ‘landlord’ to someone with a more even personality. You might like to try ‘parking warden’?

    Reply
  30. John Crawford says:

    Having worked in the private sector for 40 years successfully directing and managing change projects, I am amazed how in the public sector they always make a mess. It is not the party in government at fault, but it is the civil servants and overrated highly paid consultancy companies.

    Reply

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