back to article Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit: A timeline

Universal credit, the proposed one online benefits system to rule them all, has always been Iain Duncan Smith's brainchild – but with his shock departure from the Department for Work and Pensions, will the government finally put a bullet in the troubled project? Announced with great fanfare in 2011, the programme intended to …

  1. Whiskers

    Perhaps the real mistake is in trying to make existing systems fit the new idea. It would be much easier, technically, to abolish all existing state benefits and start a new and entirely separate universal credit system to take over. Politically of course, this would be a very hard sell - not least to the civil servants and local authority staff seeing their careers vanish overnight.

    1. Bc1609

      Re: existing system and new idea

      I strongly suspect that was what IDS would really have liked - I can definitely imagine an army man looking at the absurd system where you get paid six different types of benefit and then have most of them taken away in taxes again, only to receive more top-ups for the amounts taken in tax (my wife and I have been on the receiving end of this and it's a bloody awful way to live and near-impossible to track or budget for properly) and wanting to throw the whole lot out and start again with a single layer of admin instead of the fifteen or so currently in place.

      Perhaps it would even have been possible in the age before centralized government IT projects - but maybe I just have a rose-tinted rear-view mirror. Plus of course the vested interests you mention - it's going to be very interesting when those DWP emails are finally released...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: existing system and new idea

        I think he had a simpler system in mind where you work 3days a week on the lord of the manor's lands and once every lamas day you get given half a sheep - if only we were free of this european meddling.

        1. Artaxerxes

          Re: existing system and new idea

          Thats actually more of an appealing way of working than our current 5 day a week, 9-5 lifestyle (9-5, who am I kidding, we work until we drop with just enough time to go home and sleep, if we get a weekend we're lucky)

          Is it a fresh sheep? Do you have to kill it yourself?

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: existing system and new idea

            Thats actually more of an appealing way of working than our current 5 day a week, 9-5 lifestyle (9-5, who am I kidding, we work until we drop with just enough time to go home and sleep, if we get a weekend we're lucky)

            Three days a week sounds good on its own, but that's just the work you do for the Manor. The other 3.5 days you farm your own strip field (0.5 on a Sunday you go to church, no lie in or the squire will be round to kick your arse).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: existing system and new idea

          I think the days of ministers having to sell ideas to civil servants are long gone. These days it's the other way round!

          So, the main factors blocking a complete re-working of benefits are political will and complexity of the reform.

          I've though a lot about how this could be done over the years having been caught up in the whole, government gives you this amount , then takes this amount, then opts you up etc.

          My conclusion is that the current system is crap and has been made worse and worse by succesive governments but....... a simple system is not as simple to ahieve as it first appears and it's hard not to start introducing exceptions and other complications once you get into the detail.

          Samre sort of thing goes for paying our taxes too..... there's so much lost in overheads and inefficienices.

          1. Jagged

            Re: existing system and new idea

            The system can't be changed because the minute someone tries, there will always be winners and losers. Which will in turn allow the media to find one of these losers and say "ain't this awful". Queue wailing and gnashing of teeth!

        3. Doctor_Wibble
          Trollface

          Re: existing system and new idea

          > once every lamas day you get given half a sheep

          Why half a sheep? Would it not be better to get a whole sheep every alternate llama day? Or better yet, stop short-changing people and give them a fckn llama on llama day instead of pretending it's the same as half a sheep?

          God, I despair at this country sometimes!

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: existing system and new idea

            A whole sheep?

            Bloody scroungers, not prepared to do a decent months work for a decent days pay.

            1. Afernie

              Re: existing system and new idea

              "A whole sheep?

              Bloody scroungers, not prepared to do a decent months work for a decent days pay."

              I sense the Yorkshiremen sketch.is imminent.

              1. Jemma Silver badge

                Re: existing system and new idea

                Well at least he hasn't decided he wanted to be called Loretta.. A transvestite/transexual IDS, that's a thought as buttock cringingly awful as an Ann Widdecombe lapdance..

                1. Afernie

                  Re: existing system and new idea

                  " Well at least he hasn't decided he wanted to be called Loretta.. A transvestite/transexual IDS, that's a thought as buttock cringingly awful as an Ann Widdecombe lapdance."

                  Really though?

          2. BongoJoe
            Coat

            Re: a fckn llama on llama day

            I think that llama day is the Welsh version of lamas day...

            icon --->

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Have an upvote

        Not for your trouble but for sorting out my Logic circuitry. I was wondering if this news was a JoeJob or a JoeLogic failure. Now I...

    2. Ian Bush

      Perhaps the mistake is that believing once you've had the initial idea the implementation is the easy part

  2. kmac499

    van_IT_y projects

    DWP Universal Credit system to be twinned with DEFRA Rural Payments system.

    Two systems totally screwed by ministerial micro mismanagement.

    I genuinely feel sorry for any IT worker with either of these on their CV. or any of the other vanity projects such as

    the Passport\Asylum system

    the Police IT and Comms ( Airwave)

    the Emergency Service Control Rooms

    the Courts Libra

    the NHS anything

    Etc etc...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: van_IT_y projects

      Totally forgot about the "Airwave" project... I was on the receiving end when I ran with the Met police.... the system had such terrible reception it wouldn't work very far underground so whenever you went into the tube station, good luck calling for backup... there were even some police stations which had terrible reception so instead they replaced it with a "panic button", which of course, someone accidentally pressed once a night.. and then everyone's airwave was filled with the sound of "Acton police station is UNDER ATTACK! Acton police station is UNDER ATTACK".... then the circus followed where you had to call a guy who was smoking a cigarette in the car park to go in and just check that no, they weren't under attack....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we get a breakdown of where this money actually goes?

    It would be interesting to see which drain it is going down and whose trough it is filling. 15.8bn that's over half a HS2*.

    *Before all the extra costs have been added due to all the errors and mistakes made during the lifetime of that particular white elephant.

    P.S. Giving people on welfare the money to pay their landlords directly is probably one of the most stupid ideas the government has ever thought of. Which would you put first? Rent or Food? Especially when the council have a legal obligation to house you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      15.8bn that's over half a HS2*.

      Work it out in man years, and it becomes far more distressing. If we assume that there's little or no additional hardware over existing systems, then costs are all manpower. At an assumed average cost of £75k per employee, we're talking about a system that will absorb over 200,000 man years.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      "Giving people on welfare the money to pay their landlords directly is probably one of the most stupid ideas the government has ever thought of"

      Yay, and giving people benefit money to spend on food, 'leccy and clothes is stupid, the payments should go straight to the People Commisariate Of Poor People's Food.

      No, if ***I*** am the claimant, *I***I**** should receive the benefit. My landlord's not the benefit claimiant, ********I*(********* am.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You misunderstand.

        Food, Leccy, Clothes are things you choose to buy from whoever you want, rent on the other hand is a fixed cost for the roof over your head that is currently in most cases paid direct to the landlord so it's a case of if you have never had it you won't use it for anything else. Giving it directly to the claimant while cutting other benefits is going to put many claimants in a situation where they have to choose whether to use that money for other essentials. This is not a good idea because ultimately these people will get evicted and be unable to rent non-social housing meaning that they will be put up in travelodges (I have seen this in Tolworth btw) due to the severe lack of social housing. Will this help with the ultimate aim of reducing the welfare bill? Not a chance, if anything it will increase it. Therefore I stand by my original comment that it is the most stupid idea the government has ever thought off.

        You make in interesting point about the People Commissariat Of Poor People's Food and I wouldn't put it past this or a future government to do just that using a voucher system like they do for milk. How you stand on such things is determined by how many channel 4/5 documentaries about people with 40 kids or living by sea on benefits you have had the misfortune to watch.

        1. Jason 24

          Anecdotal I know...

          But there's not a cat in hells chance that giving the housing benefit payments to the other halfs brother would be a good idea, he really could not be trusted to actually give it to the landlord, it would be frittered away on full price dominoes take aways for the family or any other tat he fancied.

      2. KeithR

        "No, if ***I*** am the claimant, *I***I**** should receive the benefit. My landlord's not the benefit claimiant, ********I*(********* am."

        Ah, but your landlord is "Business" - the Tories' natural constituency. It's OK to give public money to private interest...

        http://www.thecanary.co/2016/03/18/osborne-distracts-britain-budget-drops-utter-bombshell/

        Here you go, banks - have £22 BILLION. No, really - keep it. On us...

        Love, Gideon.

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Interesting coincidence with him resigning right when the docs were to be published

    I will concur with the mash on this one:http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/politics/politics-headlines/i-forgot-to-resign-over-benefit-cuts-last-year-confirms-duncan-smith-20160320107332

    1. Killing Time

      Re: Interesting coincidence with him resigning right when the docs were to be published

      Oh you cynic. Sadly though, my first thoughts when he resigned in a blaze of glory were equally cynical.

      Politically and personally, would you want to be remembered for resigning on a principle (apparently he has some) or for squandering nearly half a billion pounds of public money in a time of austerity with sod all to show for it.

      Hmmm…it’s a toughie….

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Interesting coincidence with him resigning right when the docs were to be published

        But he doesn't have "sod all" to show for it.

        In a time of austerity, he's generated what someone just up-thread calculated as 200,000 person-years of gainful employment. In pretty decent jobs, too - that's assuming an average salary over 30k. So if the project has been going for 5 years, that's 40,000 full-time, middle-class jobs sustained for that time.

        If you're Secretary for Work & Pensions, that sounds like a win to me.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Interesting coincidence with him resigning right when the docs were to be published

          Or he generated a few 1000 low paid installer jobs and a few 1M/year bonuses for chums at the usual suspects.

          1. JimC

            Re: Interesting coincidence with him resigning right when the docs were to be published

            > Or he generated a few 1000 low paid installer jobs and a few 1M/year bonuses

            > for chums at the usual suspects.

            Quite right, after all we want government to learn from the efficient private sector don't we...

        2. KeithR

          Re: Interesting coincidence with him resigning right when the docs were to be published

          " In pretty decent jobs, too - that's assuming an average salary over 30k."

          Oh, PLEASE. Just fucking STOP IT.

  5. Gareth Morgan

    As someone who has to make sure that a benefits calculator is kept up to date, I might be expected to have an interest in this.

    Putting to one side the competence of designers and developers (far to one side), the whole project has been comprehensively shafted by political, rather than feature, creep. The original concept of a simple benefit, which was welcomed by benefits professionals, has been replaced by an increasingly complex and, in parts, unworkable system. A top-down design always has this potential danger, as detail is implemented, but in the case of Universal Credit that has been associated with rule changes, almost all of which have introduced new complexities. Most of these have been aimed at reducing entitlement, not just by lowering rates or qualifications, but by introducing sanctions and other time based limits. Add to this localisation and devolution, Treasury ignorance and HMRC's core place in the development of bottle-necks and all is clearly going to go to plan.

    The people who are going to suffer at the end of this are not just those who don't, as IDS said, vote Tory. The worst hit will be the growing number of low earning self-employed who will face a complex, monthly nightmare of reporting their accounts to DWP, having a higher notional income than their real earnings, limited carry forward of losses and their 6 months previous earnings used to reduce their current benefit.

  6. Chris Miller

    To reshuffle or not?

    Cameron seems averse to reshuffles. In one way, this is commendable, ministers need time to grasp their brief and moving them every few years means they rarely achieve competence. But the downside is that catastrophic projects continue, because the minister's political reputations are nailed to them - that's been the problem with IDS and Universal Credit (good idea, woeful implementation). HS2 is another obvious example that needs to be swept away by a new broom.

  7. billat29

    IDS finds ejector button. Presses PIP.

    He finally found a way to get out from under this mess without confessing failure.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: IDS finds ejector button. Presses PIP.

      And also pointing at various squirrels to ensure no-one looks back more than a few months at his illustrious carreer that has gleefully spread unhappiness and death to more than one country.

      As the Borrowers say 'IDS, you've been seen!'

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: IDS finds ejector button. Presses PIP.

      He does seem intent on destroying the Tory party to save his own skin. And, frankly, I'm cheering him on.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: IDS finds ejector button. Presses PIP.

        IDS is a secret militant agent. Recruited at Cambridge by shadowy agents of the TUC to undermine the establishment from within and bring about the Bennite cause of exit from europe.

        Now that would make a movie.

  8. Anonymous Blowhard

    "Can we get a breakdown of where this money actually goes?"

    I think it would take a lot of explaining!

    By my rough arithmetic assuming £100 per hour, 8 hours a day and 228 working days per year (365 - 104 weekends - 8 statutory holidays and 25 days annual holiday) gives over 86,600 man years.

    According to this, the current day cost of the Channel Tunnel was £13bn, and that was over-budget by 80%, but still something of a bargain compared to UC.

    1. Elmer Phud

      any bets on HS2's costs?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the project has been going on too long to be cancelled"

    That is a sad conclusion. We've wasted X amount of money but rather than fess up to it we will continue to waste more.

    Anyway, any new benefits system should not be IT-driven:

    1. Define the new benefit entitlements

    2. Implement it using a paper-based system

    3. Migrate each step of the paper-based system into IT, incrementally

    The trouble is, step (1) is always stupidly designed. As someone who has in the past claimed Working Families Tax Credit (child element), the number of forms to fill in each year was simply ludicrous.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "the project has been going on too long to be cancelled"

      Anyway, any new benefits system should not be IT-driven

      But UK GOV (still) believes that IT is the way to drive "transformation", not the other way round. So that isn't going to happen.

      Listening to all those "Web2" types didn't help that attitude.

      Now, is the DartCharge payments facility still "Alpha" ?? <clickety-click> Yep, it is. Quelle surprise. Can't even get that simple thing into a production state.

      1. Jagged

        Re: "the project has been going on too long to be cancelled"

        Have you ever worked in any organisation that doesn't believe "IT is the way to drive transformation" ?

        They are all like that, rather than make the difficult decision, get IT to do it :/

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: "the project has been going on too long to be cancelled"

        I......

        Dam was reading these in a http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/everyone-on-bus-writing-status-updates-about-each-other-20160321107351 frame of mind.

        WTF posts stupid links like that on a serious magazine?!!! Bastard!!! Fucking bastard I can't read any more of this twaddle its all getting unconscionobbly real. Bastard!!!!

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: "the project has been going on too long to be cancelled"

      Step 1 is always political as what is defined as requireing benefits alters constantly.

      Not only that but I doubt if they had costed the expense of looking after* those affected by going off to serve thier country. What sort of cost has it been to try to manage the basic rebuilding of the physical side before abandoning them to the streets? The numbers of homeless young-ish men with mental issues and camo-trousers is increasing.

      *we have a very long history of creating 'heroes' and then pissing on them when they return batterd, skint and unable to cope. We spend all our money on kitting them out for war (sometimes) and there's none left when they get back. There should be no need to rely on charities if the same country that paid to train, transport, feed etc.etc. actually continued to appreciate their help.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: "the project has been going on too long to be cancelled"

        > There should be no need to rely on charities if the same country that paid to train, transport, feed etc.etc. actually continued to appreciate their help.

        Irishmen?

        What?

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "cancelling the project would result in a huge write-off, something that the department will be particularly reluctant to do"

    An alternative view would be to ask if there's actually anything salvageable.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A word to chill those who lived through the 80s (and 70s)

    "Nimrod".

    A (mainly) IT project which led to GEC-Marconi being a worldwide laughing stock. (And younger readers going "Who were GEC" might already guess how things ended).

    Mysteriously, the 3,000 change requests a year, each year (that's over 10 a day every day) from the MoD never get mentioned.

    BACKGROUND: The RAF always wanted AWACS - a less capable but proven US system. UK civil servants insisted a British candidate needed consideration. Cost us £3 billion before it was axed. Jim Prior was Chairman at GEC and then a cabinet minister under Thatcher. But there was no conflict of interest. Apparently.

    And for the tinfoil hat brigade, quite a few scientists from Marconi committed "suicide" in inventive ways. My favourite being the poor sod who decapitated himself by tying a noose around his neck, and a tree, and driving off ....

    AC - I know too much !

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: A word to chill those who lived through the 80s (and 70s)

      "Mysteriously, the 3,000 change requests a year, each year (that's over 10 a day every day) from the MoD never get mentioned."

      We should not forget the fact Generally Evil Company, Go Easy Corp GEC was known as the home of the 9-to-5 Engineer.at the time due to management viewing them as vermin to be trapped or killed.

      Or their insistence on using a GEC mini computer for the main functions (rather past its sell by date in cycle time and memory) or it's novel use of the fuel as a coolant.

      But at least it never got into service.

      When the MoD spent a shedload of cash on the Nimrod upgrade in the early 2000 it did.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: A word to chill those who lived through the 80s (and 70s)

        Based on an airframe that was taken over by the government when it disastrously failed as a commercial project so it didn't look like a complete failure.

      2. kmac499

        Re: A word to chill those who lived through the 80s (and 70s)

        I remember GEC had quite an enlightened set of career paths. It didn't insist on promoting capable scientists\engineers into management but gave them a path to remain in science\engineering.

        They had a inventive set of job tiltle names parallel to the management grades. Which IIRC the highest grade, once you had proved yourself academically by pubishing papers producing patents etc,. was "'World Authority"

  12. Jemma Silver badge

    The secret diaries of Iain Duncan Smith, part the second..

    Day 1021: Find out Gollum, all right, all right, George Osborne, actually Witch King of Angmar's nephew. Should have guessed, explains why Theresa May goes all Rudolf Hess and drools whenever in same room... Even creepier than hook handed terrorist crush..

    Day 1028: In retrospect using Orc programmers not the best idea, but not as bad as their idea to use Ada for the coding, still we can always blame windows 8..

    Day 1029: Most job centres still using Windows for Workgroups... Bugger.

    Day 1035: Find out that Euro MPs get more money for less work than even I do. Most offended. In other news Theresa spending a lot of time 'straightening Gollum's tie'.. Would be convinced of innocence of that, if for some reason they didn't need to do it in broom cupboard...

    Day 1050: Ooohh, a referendum on Europe, poor old Dave, he will soon, I suspect, enjoy the full Corporal Jones experience. He won't like it up 'im.. At least not without KY.

    Day 1051: Eureka! Have figured it out. If I resign I can stuff them all at the same time.. No more Euro MPs, no more Dodgy Dave, no more whinging peons AND I can blame Gollum, totally stuff the party (oh you of little reality) and get away with it..

    Day 1052: blamed Gollum for being too nasty to the peons (if you don't drive them ALL to suicide you can harvest them again, benefits claimants don't grow well if you plant them, but they make good fertilizer..). Went on Andrew Marr show, he saw right through it. Pesky Andrew Marr.

    Day 1053: Relaxation, no more Gollum, no more Theresa. Looking forward to holiday somewhere rural and unspoiled, someone recommended The Shire, at least I think that's what he said.. I don't profess to understand the thing about pervy hobbit fanciers (maybe he means Liberal Democrat counsellors); Didn't feel like asking for details. I will miss the looks on young Conservatives faces when Ann. W did the bellydancing at conference, I thought it was only Orcs who had greeny-grey skin and bulging eyes..

    Day 1060: Resignation horrible mistake! One more episode of Time Team or Quincy will take the gentleman's way out. Had high hopes for Four in a Bed, turned out not to be East Anglian dogging show. Most disappointed, turned out to be odd couples playing hunt the bathroom pubes for cash prize, Ick, almost as bad as Balrog porn (see Ann.W); After all I paid my TV licence and I only have 5 TVs. On other note, wondering why short hairy archaeology presenters on mind so much.. It's always the one with his favourite spade.. But Mick will kill me if I try anything..

    Day 1061: Umm, why does that man in the pullover look so familiar...

    ----

    Thanks to Cassandra Clare and the Secret Diaries.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: The secret diaries of Iain Duncan Smith, part the second..

      His mistake was poor spelling (not surprising given his lack of education). Should have used Oric.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recruiting

    CWJobs has been sending me the same job for 3 months now. Deputy IT Director for the DWP, based in Warrington, on £80-100k.

    I'm not surprised that they've not filled the position yet. They might as well just call it "fall guy". Nobody in their right mind would want to be associated with that poisoned chalice, even for £100k a year... Talk about career suicide...

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Recruiting

      You are not familiar with the idea of "departamental scapegoat"

      I know a few professional ones. You look at their career and it reads fail, double fail, quadruple fail and you wonder how the f*** could these guys be still employed. Then you realize - they are teflonated and they come and sell that as a service.

      You have a project which needs to be failed - you bring them in, they fail. They are sacked (and quite often paid a golden handshake), you have assigned the blame, they go onto their next project.

      Lovely job if you can have it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Recruiting

        OK, no right-minded techie looking for career advancement would take the job. Techies don't enjoy failure, they enjoy succeeding.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Shadowland

    In the world of horrific TLAs, IDS must be one of the most feared.

    1. Simon Westerby 1

      Re: Shadowland

      He's more of a TnA then TLA ... TBH ....

  15. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Supposedly using the government's new agile approach to IT projects, ..."

    Well, there's your problem - agile instead of DevOps. Oh, what were they thinking...

  16. David 164

    Anyone else was expecting a much more detail article?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019