Universal Mistakes


Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith, a man so utterly useless and invisible as leader of the opposition he was apparently the best the Tories could turn to for reshaping the benefits system. No wonder it’s working as well as a Sherbet Water Wheel then. Today the National Audit Office has said that the reshaped single payment encapsulating six previous benefits was of “poor value”.

They said the following were issues:

  • Officials were “unable to explain” the reasoning behind the timescales or their feasibility
  • There were no “adequate measures” of progress
  • Computer systems lack the function to identify potentially fraudulent claims, relying instead on manual checks
  • £34m investment in IT systems was written off
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) lacked IT expertise and senior leadership
  • Delays to the rollout would reduce the expected benefits of reform

Source BBC Website

The big problem is that on the surface the principle of bringing all these together makes sense and stops those who are “sponging off the system” from taking advantage of loopholes as well as making more money from the dole than from work. The issue comes when it’s applied to those who are severely disabled and not capable of work. The “fit for work” embarrassments are well documented with several declared “fit” dying not long after – or even after – they have died. The whole thing is an embarrassment.

Nearly half a billion pounds has been spent on this so far with a further £2 billion to be spent by 2023 when the system would be at full capacity. Is it me or should that money be going to those who need it rather fund the umpteenth computer system for a government? Already nearly £200 million has been spent on a system that didn’t work and new system is now in place for a pilot project in Manchester. If this was a company it wouldn’t be an issue but this is our money we pay to ensure quality public services are provided and successive governments have wasted money on IT that is not up to scratch in the NHS and the MoD.

So what do benefits actually cost us in real terms? :

  • Employment and Support Allowance – £3.58bn
  • Jobseekers’ Allowance – £4.91bn
  • Income Support – £6.92bn
  • Housing Benefit – £16.94bn
  • Personal Tax credits – £29.91bn
  • Pensions – £74.22bn

Figures from 2011-12 on Guardian.com

If you include all the benefits pensioners get from the system it totals more than half the overall budget of the Department for work and pensions – when was the last time a politician said we need to sort that area out? I am in no way saying our pensioners are all well off but if the figures say we are spending that much perhaps we need to stop universal pension benefits rather than attack other vulnerable groups all the time. By pulling all the pots together you can stop the repetition of admin and staff involved and get a more streamlined approach, but that hasn’t happened.

This experiment with people’s lives is going wrong and yet Iain Duncan Smith is effectively misleading the public and parliament in saying it’s all on track when it’s not. When more is being spent on a computer system than we spend per year on supporting this country’s hardworking and fantastic carers (£1.73bn for an allowance) then there is a problem at the heart of the system and a wee shift around will not solve it.

This is not a brave move, it’s politically motivated one based on the grass root Tory supporters who don’t like the working classes and those who can’t fend for themselves. The system does need reform but must revert back to the original purpose of the welfare state and have the most needy and vulnerable at the heart of its focus. IDS has failed in doing that.


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