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back to article Universal Credit? Universal DISCREDIT, more like, say insiders

The controversial Universal Credit online benefits system is so flawed that skilled IT staff working on a pilot scheme have been forced to enter data by hand, two high-ranking whistleblowers have told The Register. The senior civil servants contacted us separately to warn that a trial of the new benefits system shows it is …

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Just maybe...

...the useless ****ers of government could deploy the apparently unlimited and technologically skilled resource used to spy on people's private communication to fix this instead?

No, thought no.

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FAIL

Re: Just maybe...

"Government sources reveal 'one dole to rule them all' in 'total disarray'"

Is anyone surprised? Anyone at all?

"Our second source warned that the Universal Credit was in such poor shape that it could cost Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith his job."

Good. Fucking good riddance.

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JDX
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Re: Just maybe...

Or maybe the spying projects are in just as bad shape, which should cheer you up at least.

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Re: Just maybe...

I think you will find that, for most government IT, scopes are creeped and costs are pared until the inevitable result is a ramshackle result that doesn't work.

Contrast that with any Gov IT related to defence or intelligence: in those cases, scopes are creeped and costs are bloated, until the inevitable result is a ramshackle result that doesn't work.

The key difference is that different groups of shareholders enjoy the divdends

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Ru
Facepalm

Another year, another catastrophically broken government IT project. Same idiots, same mistakes. Every single time.

Is it actually possible for any UK government IT project to actually pass at least two of these criteria: on time, on budget, works as expected? How about just one of those?

Where does the justification for these projects come from? Has one ever made things better, justifying further projects?

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Trollface

Maybe that's why...

The inquiry into GCHQ's PRISM-alike interweb snarfing program is being held in secret?

Because they don't want the great unwashed knowing that it they p*ssed science only knows how many billions on yet another broken system!

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dwm

https://www.uk.gov/ seems to have gone astonishingly well.

I am increasingly of the opinion that Valve's assertion that, "HIring people is the most important thing you do" is correct, and that the success of this particular IT project is down to the fact that UK.gov recruited much better, much more effective people to undertake the work.

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(Written by Reg staff)

It's good, if you're the sort of person used to trawling through out-of-the-box Wordpress installations running the default theme. Otherwise it's a bloody nightmare to find anything. Take the MoD's website; whereas before you used to go to mod.gov.uk now it's some pointlessly long URL like "gov.uk/government/functions/physical/spending/money/defence". Important information's gone from being 4 or 5 levels deep to about 20.

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@gazthejourno

Important information's gone from being 4 or 5 levels deep to about 20.

I suspect that is probably intentional ....

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Unhappy

I *still* haven't had a decent answer out of them as to why they're using Google Analytics on a UK government website. It's almost like they want to share every detail of UK citizen/government interactions with the US...

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"I am increasingly of the opinion that Valve's assertion that, "HIring people is the most important thing you do" is correct"

It's especially correct about hiring clowns in Whitehall and Westminster.

Unfortunately they don't get hired in the usual way, so all they have to do is turn up, look serious, and jiggle their chins around.

Everyone else has to at least try to pretend they're good at something.

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Big Brother

Deja Vu, anyone?

"... the government trying to do something massive and unprecedented, yet without the culture or operational infrastructure to do so.."

...or the wisdom, or the experience, or the understanding, or any sort of clue whatsoever...

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Loads run well....I tax my car...check my MOT...

The data that loads into the VOSA system to monitor LGV hours runs well..

Funny how some things run properly......maybe if they use the UC system to deprive people of money it would run better ?

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Happy

Ah, someone from GDS reading the articles.

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dwm

@gazthejourno

I'm biased, I've met a couple of the people working on the project. That said, that's not been my experience.

Their search tools seem to be well-developed; a query for 'mod' swiftly showed a raft of pertinent pages, with a link to the top-level MOD page right at the top: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-defence

That's a URL that's meant to be found, not meant to be typed — but I'm not sure that's a critical failing in a world with history-based auto-complete and powerful, functional search tools. (Also, trimming elements from that URL produces index pages that actually appear to be useful.)

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Arguably this one is "fit for purpose" if the purpose is to reduce the number of benefits paid out

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I think I've found your problem - it's not mod.gov.uk it's just mod.uk - which then redirects to https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-defence .

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https://www.uk.gov/ seems to have gone astonishingly well.

You're joking right? That's not an IT project. It's a bleedin' website. Those clowns are supposed to doing the Digital ID bit of Universal Credit. Unlike the rest of that project, they haven't even got far enough to fail yet.

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Anonymous Coward

www.gov.uk is nothing more than a collection of links to other sites. It could have been knocked up in Wordpress

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Whoopsie.

" such as the scheduled change to minimum wage, which will be cut by 12p an hour to £6.31 for adults and by 5p to £5.03 for 18-to-20-year-olds by October. "

One of the few things this gang of public school bullies has yet to cut is the national minimum wage

Its about time the Bitter and twisted IDS was sidelined. He seems to be heel bent on taking revenge on the country for being booted out of the leadership of this out of touch with reality bunch. Monthly payments wont work for those who are far below the breadline - ignore the Daily Wail spin, the rich Benefit claimants are a micro minority, most are ordinary honest working folk who have paid into the system for years only to be treated like parasites by a political cadre full of professional parasites.

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Re: Whoopsie.

Indeed, the minimum wage is to be **increased** by 12p per hour in October.

https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

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Re: Whoopsie.

Who cares? Minimum wage is just a twisted way of keeping a whole set of jobs off the market.

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Re: Minimum wage

No, I think it's actually an attempt to make sure that working people have enough money to live on. It might not work, but I'm pretty sure that's what the intent is.

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Re: Whoopsie.

Why is this bad?

A minimum wage is a way of saying "We have decided that it is beneath human dignity to work for less than this amount."

If this set of jobs you mention goes "off the market", it can't be that great a loss, or the market would have "decided" that minimum wage was acceptable.

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Re: Whoopsie.

@Destroy All Monsters

Who cares? Someone doing 60 hours a week (WTD) will be about £20 a month better off.

A light lunch for some (burp) but a significant difference for someone on minimum wage.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Whoopsie.

"One of the few things this gang of public school bullies has yet to cut is the national minimum wage"

That's been fixed in the article. Again, please please please email corrections@thereg with stuff you spot wrong in a story. We can't read every comment.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whoopsie.

" such as the scheduled change to minimum wage, which will be cut by 12p an hour to £6.31 for adults and by 5p to £5.03 for 18-to-20-year-olds by October. "

Fail to see the specific issue here ... universal credit is, as far as I understand, intended to modify benefit payments on a near-real-time basis from income data submitted by employers. If minimum wage goes up then the employers will increase the amount they pay, report this into the UB system which will then adjust the benefit payment. If (and it probably is if) it works this is better than the current scheme where if pay goes up the benefit system only finds out some time later by which time overpayments may have been made and need to be reclaimed.

If you're one of the people now on a "zero-hours" or equiv contract (e.g. someone we know who does local deliveries for one of the parcel firms) then if monthly income is very variable you currently end up with the problem that when you have a "bad month" with little paid work your benefit payment has probably be calculated on the basis of the "good month" you had several months earlier - i.e. you end up with no pay and no benefit that month.

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Trollface

Re: Whoopsie.

@diodesign

So you all get the chance to edit your posts instead of proof reading them whereas us commentards don't get the chance to edit our typos *and* we have to proof read all of *your* posts *then* send in corrections because you don't have them time?

Nah, I'd rather the howlers remained. Like this sneak peak:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/27/slideshare_movie_spam_scam/

2 weeks in and for shame, it's still there.

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Re: Whoopsie.

"...this out of touch with reality bunch".

Hmmmm. Who is more "out of touch with reality": the present government, which is trying to get the nation out of the clutches of the moneylenders; or the previous Labour government, which threw the nation into those clutches?

I have no affinity with any of the three major parties - I would not dream of voting for any of them. But this particular issue is absolutely clear-cut. Labour got us hopelessly in debt, and whoever followed them was going to have to try to dig us out - and become hopelessly unpopular in the process.

Two-party democracy - donchaluvit?

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Re: Minimum wage

I think a better description is "enables working people to have a wage high enough to not be able to claim benefits"

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Childcatcher

Re: Minimum wage

@JohnMurray

"I think a better description is "enables working people to have a wage high enough to not be able to claim benefits""

No, that would be the (still too low) living wage and even then there is the fiscally insane process of taking taxes off employees via an expensive bureaucracy before handing some of it back in the way of tax credits.

Raising the living wage to an index linked £10/hr and the basic tax threshold to £18k would be better all round.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Whoopsie.

"it's still there"

Not any more.

C.

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Re: Whoopsie.

The problem with a minimum wage is that it doesn't take into account the minimum cost of a reasonable life. Such things as housing, getting to work, washing...

The problem for this country is that successive governments have massively increased the costs -

Housing, the selling off and not replacing council houses coupled with unlimited publicly financed rents has pushed rental up, rental yields up and therefore the price of houses up by an enormous amount. Add the blunder in the last budget with more housing lending and the prices are not falling to match the fall in wages.

Energy - for getting to work, washing, keeping house warm etc. has been a complete disaster ever since 'privatization' with more or less unrestricted hikes in taxes and prices. My latest gas and electric bill suggest a cost of £200 a month (on a summer bill!) for a tiny 3 bed semi with top notch insulation and double glazing and heating that has been off the entire time!

I can not, can not under any circumstance, compete with a guy in India who pays a few pence for a house, nothing for heating etc. if I have bills like this and the only competition is price.

Government needs to become radically cheaper. It can do this by cutting staff hugely - so a single flat benefit for all, a single flat tax on all that is earned, nothing more - no bbc licence fee, no road fund licence, no council tax, no vat, no any of the others.

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Re: Whoopsie.

"I have no affinity with any of the three major parties - I would not dream of voting for any of them."

So I assume you support a "minority party" then? If you don't vote at all, you don't get to complain.

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Re: Whoopsie.

"So I assume you support a "minority party" then? If you don't vote at all, you don't get to complain".

What on earth are you talking about? I don't "get to complain"? What is that supposed to mean - if anything?

Assuming it does mean something, why does my right to free speech depend on my voting for one of the small selection of unpleasant, incompetent, unrepresentative parties on offer - most of which are war criminals?

As Jerry Garcia said about 30 years ago, "Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil". So why are you so insistent that we must all choose evil?

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Re: Whoopsie.

'"So I assume you support a "minority party" then? If you don't vote at all, you don't get to complain"'.

Moreover, why do you assume that I support *a* party at all? Can you not imagine that a citizen might wait until an election is pending, and actually scrutinize the manifestos of the various parties to determine which of them is least unappealing at the time? Or weigh up the character of the party leaders, to see if any of them seem at all trustworthy or competent?

If, in your world, everyone "supports a party" continually through thick and thin (like loyal football supporters), that makes nonsense of even the tiny sliver of democracy we are supposed to have. Instead of exercising your privilege, as a citizen, to choose the best possible government, you are simply barracking for your tribe.

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Re: Whoopsie.

...or even, shock horror, scrutinise the CANDIDATES, up for election WHERE YOU ARE VOTING, not the parties, and not the party leader. There has never been an election in this country where people could vhose between different candidates for prime minister, they have always been in (very safe) different seats.

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Meh

Re: Whoopsie.

"Who cares? Minimum wage is just a twisted way of keeping a whole set of jobs off the market."

Your PoV may depend on wheather you're talking about the US or the UK "Minimum wage."

They are not the same.

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In other news...

... Pope Catholic, bear seen defecating in woods, yet another major Government IT project egregiously fucked up.

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Anonymous Coward

Skills and fail

"What he is trying to do is quite admirable, yet the civil servants just aren't up to it. They wouldn't last a minute in the commercial world due to their poor work ethic, interpersonal skills and competency levels."

While we do need a public sector they really do seem to have an impossibly infinite skill of making the biggest mess for the maximum cost. Sometimes I think it would be good for the public sector to sell up to the private sector for almost anything and then reintroduce services piecemeal and properly. After shedding however many public sponges who cause these problems yet take our hard earned money for doing so.

Any group will stagnate and lose their effectiveness over time. In the private world they then fail to a better operator. In the public sector they just demand more money and make worse decisions. And we pay for it.

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Re: Skills and fail

Look, the 'incompetent and lazy' civil servant is a stereotype. I'm sure that many civil servants could be described as such, but I'm also sure the problem with this project is that it was impossible to implement in the timescales involved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Skills and fail

@Anonymous Coward 101

"Look, the 'incompetent and lazy' civil servant is a stereotype. I'm sure that many civil servants could be described as such, but I'm also sure the problem with this project is that it was impossible to implement in the timescales involved."

That is probably a strong factor. Our public sector exists to employ some people so they dont show up on unemployment figures. Apart from that they are an attempt of the worst effort to do something. I am not calling the hard working front liners who have to tolerate the mess but the NHS were employing secretaries at a time that they were sacking nurses. At the time there were complaints that not enough medical staff were in hospitals.

If the public sector cut back to what they currently do well and reintroduced services with new reason and resolve to fix problems then we wont have a comment section which discusses the expected fail because its the public sector.

My comment has down votes because I suggest the public sector restarts its poor 'services'. This comment section has plenty comments talking about expected failure and of course it failed. Yet the comment talking of fixing the problem gets down voted. No wonder public services suck.

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Thumb Down

Re: Skills and fail

"Look, the 'incompetent and lazy' civil servant is a stereotype"

It certainly wasn't a stereotype when I worked for the civil service. Lazy, useless, unskilled jobsworths were about 80% of the workforce, and if you didn't fit (or wouldn't alter to fit) that culture then you took the high road.

And if this is merely a stereotype, why do we have bungled failure after bungled failure - energy policy is a costly disaster, defence procurement is and always has been a costly mess, fire control centres were a billion pound mess, awarding a rail operation contract is beyond the skills of the twerps at the Department against Transport, the Department of Health wasted billions on failed IT, £3bn a year wasted on benefit fraud, DEFRA ***ed up their IT systems so that farmers were denied billions in EU entitlements, immigration IT failures, the MI5 database upgrade...

How many more examples do you need?

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Big Brother

Re: Skills and fail

"... Lazy, useless, unskilled jobsworths were about 80% of the workforce..."

Yup - and they're unemployable elsewhere, but they're all members of Unite - Mr Millipede's puppet-masters - so your options of dealing with them are very limited.

Also, see Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:-

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

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Facepalm

Re: Skills and fail

I think the public services need a restart themselves. There are some rubbish civil servants but there are probably more excellent ones. Unfortunately with the civil service run the way it currently is, firing anybody is more or less impossible, so the incompetent stay in their jobs or get shuffled from department to department by frustrated management. In the meantime their behaviour and attitude influences others so that the competent are more tempted to leave and all the time the pressure from the top is to work harder for less money, which is another disincentive for excellent people who could enjoy better treatment, better pay, better conditions and a bit of human dignity in the private sector, to stay. Some of them do, but they are making a genuine sacrifice to do so.

There are also non-trivial problems to do with steering any large organisation - public or private sector. When a minister suddenly makes a press-release influenced reactive change of direction, the organisation can't make a brisk u-turn because government is more akin to an oil tanker than a smart car. If the minister accidentally announces they are going to do something differently then suddenly everyone on the relevant project has to change everything to fit through the latest half-assed whimsical dictat. Of course, what ministers hate is experienced, knowledgeable civil servants explaining why their idea is terrible, has failed in the past and is totally unworkable, hence the pressure for a far worse system of politically appointed senior civil servants.

Maybe one reason that large private sector companies seem more efficient is that the shareholders don't vote in a completely new board and chief executive every few years who are solely interested in reversing everything the previous board and chief executive does and consequently can't make any plans beyond the few years of their own domination.

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Re: Skills and fail

My experience of being a civil servant is that we worked hard, were underpaid with an employer constantly trying to blame us for their poor leadership and ideas.

I do remember sitting next to a group of private sector "partners" who were paid a lot more than the rest of the civil servants who worked with them and yet had fewer skills and were often lazy. The only way one of the "partners" got sacked was when he left a copy of a letter to a friend on the photo copier stating that he didn't have the skills for the job and how he couldn't believe he was getting away with it.

I got so fed up with the being mucked about by various government initiatives and being asked to compete for my own job that I left.

I more than doubled my salary on leaving the civil service and while I saw many cock-ups in the civil service I've seen as many in the private sector, although mostly better covered up.

So, I would say that it's largely a myth that civil servants are all lazy and incompetent. It is however true, in my experience, that they may well be fed up with being mucked around by whatever government fashion is being pushed through as policy this week and constantly being told they're much worse than anyone in the private sector.

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Re: Skills and fail

Regional Fire Controls actually weren't that much of a mess, they were good idea but not in the way they were to be implemented.

The intended North West Fire Control (Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire & Gtr Manchester) is still going ahead albeit without Merseyside who have decided to pursue a joint police/fire service control and is due to go live next year, on schedule I might add.

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Re: Skills and fail

Impossible to implement in the couple of years its been hammering around, heavens I could have implemented such a simple system in a couple of evenings at home. It really isn't - and shouldn't be - rocket science or difficult. Its a database with some numbers and a rule.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Skills and fail

that is my experience as well. I'm pleased you had the guts to leave because it certainly ain't fun working in the CS with the constnat restructurings and bullsh*t

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