back to article Watchdog sceptical UK.gov's Universal Credit can handle 8.5m benefits claimants

Brit MPs have expressed serious concerns about the Department for Work and Pensions' ability to transfer 4 million people on legacy benefits to its embattled Universal Credit programme. A brief history of the Universal Credit rollout The programme, which began in 2010, is designed to replace six separate means-tested …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More dead vulnerable people. I guess Tory voters just love to see that. They keep voting for it....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why bring in a political party?

      Not like any political party hasn't got blood on it's hands if they've been in government.

      We need to sort the benefits system out, the question is how much EXTRA funds can we afford to give it in order to make sure those with genuine hardship aren't impacted. The system as it stands is a mess and must change.

      All political parties agree on this.. none of them, not a single one would be able to do it without someone, somewhere being negatively impacted. To say otherwise is fantasy.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why bring in a political party?

        So introducing a new system that effectively prevents anyone claiming benefits is a particularly effective method.

        NHS is free at the point of care, today the point of care is on Rockall

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Why bring in a political party?

        not a single one would be able to do it without someone, somewhere being negatively impacted. To say otherwise is fantasy.

        Quite true, but it doesn't mean that they have to be actively driving people into misery and hardship. When UC was announced in 2010 Parliament were told that no-one would lose out. Since its introduction in 2013 there have been nine changes made to payments, most of them cuts, in an attempt by the DWP to balance their books given the cost overruns on the rollout. Vulnerable people are being made to pay for the incompetence of government.

      3. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Why bring in a political party?

        "without someone, somewhere being negatively impacted."

        Its not someone ,somewhere. Its a shed load everywhere.

        The system is in disarray, has a lack of staff, and has an IT system that is mostly TITSUP* every day.

        1. Vickinospleen

          Re: Why bring in a political party?

          There computers are out the arc and sadly people are genuinely struggling with what they have done to them. Not everyone is crooked and in this situation through want . I can't work and would loose my right hand if things could alter rather than be on benefit and feel this way !!

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Meh

      More dead vulnerable people

      More dead vulnerable people. I guess Tory voters just love to see that. They keep voting for it....

      I doubt it is that so much as the Government don't see getting the system to work as a priority, compared to, say, not pissing off pensioners or people they might lose to UKIP, too much. It is not as if most people on benefits are ever likely to vote Conservative however good or bad a job the Government do. I expect that when Labour get into office, people on benefits will gain mightily at the expense of those other groups for the exactly same reason.

      1. BigSLitleP

        Re: More dead vulnerable people

        " It is not as if most people on benefits are ever likely to vote Conservative"

        The two groups of people that vote conservative are the well off and the poorly educated, which means your statement is generally incorrect. The rest of it is just anti-labour nonsense.

  2. sandman

    Correction

    Let me correct the headline for you: Watchdog sceptical UK.gov's Universal Credit can handle 8 benefits claimants.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Correction

      I'm with you having concern on the numbers. But my concern is that if it has to handle 8.5m claimants, then we have a quarter of the prospective UK workforce on some form of benefit handouts.

      It would seem to me that there's a more fundamental problem than the IT and processes.

      1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

        Re: Correction

        I think UC includes what was Child Tax Credits. If so, that's a benefit that a huge chunk of the working population receive.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correction

        >then we have a quarter of the prospective UK workforce on some form of benefit handouts.

        Follow the money - it's landlords and low-paying businesses that are getting the handouts. Enforcing employment rights and minimum wage would address the latter, but I don't see anyone with a solution to the disconnect between realistic minimum wages and property value.

  3. Crisp Silver badge

    No wonder crime is increasing

    When people have no income, they will find some way to keep themselves fed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No wonder crime is increasing

      When people have no income, they will find some way to keep themselves fed.

      You really believe that people turn to crime to eat? Looking at the pages of my local rag, all the crims are "battling a drug habit, and desperate to reform, your honour".

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: No wonder crime is increasing

        When people have no income, they will find some way to keep themselves fed.

        >You really believe that people turn to crime to eat?

        I believe that global IT solution suppliers turn to crime to land government contracts that they have no intention/ability to deliver, just to keep the shareholders fed.

  4. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    Of course a government project having difficulty... never! UC is a good idea, it reduces the work and creates a standardised system. Except it is to deal with the whims of governments which means the real world of tax and welfare are so badly complicated (probably so people dont know how much is stolen nor how to claim) the UC should come after simplifying that system.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      "it...creates a standardised system."

      Unfortunately it has to deal with a non-standardised population.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Raise your hand

    If , given the money already spent on the system, that you and a few of your mates could have knocked something up and had it mostly rolled out and bug fixed by now.

    I think most of the readers here know about a dozen people they could bring on for that kind of dosh, and ended up with something above spec and functional.

  6. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Outsourcing

    When people cannot get any legitimate income, they will automatically turn to less conventional methods. Therefore the government policy is effectively outsourcing the benefits system to organized crime which will be only too happy to step in and fill the gap. Instead of the tax-payer funding the lifestyle of single parents, their kids will now be able to do their bit via various self-funding initiatives that will also help their community by filling vital gaps in the sex and recreational drug supply areas. Also helping to narrow the gap between rich and poor via various wealth redistribution schemes aka "Faganism". Which is also excellent vocational training which will help the teacher shortage by cutting down on the number of pupils attending classes. A win-win all round.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing

      There are "alternative methods" which don't involve crime. Well, not the type of crime you are mentioning.

      The skills I learned breaking into military nuclear plants translate well into domestic burglary but the motives don't.

      I do get your point, I can't recall the lauded thinker who condemned any man who would no steal to feed his family.

      Your laws are wrong. It is a crime to take food from a waste skip behind a shop destined for landfill. Why? It makes you wonder what crime means when you can't legally eat a discarded scone.

      I heard one government minister just recommended the poor eat out of skips, I suspect he is missing the point.

      I dunno if any one here has skipped recently, but there is far less there, far more people relying on it, far more people having to use 'food banks'.

      5th richest country in the world? My hairy behind.

    2. John 110

      Re: Outsourcing

      @Cynic_999

      You forgot the Joke icon .. oh wait you're right....

  7. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Jury 'duty' moral quandary

    I am avoiding claiming Universal Credit by a variety of methods, such as selling possessions, doing other contractors work, customising Raspberry PIs for non techie folk who need them, fixing laptops, skipping food out of bins, growing my own food, stuff like that. Scraping by, or 'The Good Life' with soldering iron.

    For the third time in three years I've just been 'randomly' called up for jury duty, and yet for the previous thirty years I hadn't been, and none of my peers have been called up more than once.

    First time I was disqualified because I was on trial. Second time I ignored it without consequences because it was just after my trial and I couldn't pay the £1000 fine anyway, there was no way I stepping back in court even if they had paid me more than my lunch money and bus ticket.

    This time though they have given me a reasonable amount of notice, I could sign on the day before and pocket £70 a week plus lunch and buses. It's a high court, not a sheriff court so it would be a serious crime. And I am far smarter and moral than yer average Scot, plus I know that the police lie and the judiciary is biased and incompetent.

    I'm considering doing it this time, instead of ignoring it. I will try to talk myself out of it by being fully honest. I damaged my hearing as a teenager at anarchist punk gigs so I can't hear anything in court. I am an atheist but I have seen a benign ghost, and a benign UFO for that matter.

    My brother is a QC who will soon be a judge in England. He cheats at chess with my nephew(not his son), can't beat me at Trivial Pursuits, and believe his praying to Saint Andrew found my sisters lost necklace. For all my faults, I know I am saner and more rational than him.

    I am utterly unsure whether to become a juror though and and throwing that out here for upvotes or downvotes. Don't vote on the quality of my comment, vote according to whether you would want me on a jury if you were on trial.

    I kind of need your advice. I got slated here previously for saying I ignored jury duty last time, but I had good reasons. If you were on trial then would you prefer me or a random stranger?

    I feel I'd prefer someone like me on the jury, but I am not convinced it is worth it for me.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Jury 'duty' moral quandary

      Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. But apparently some fruit flies have genetics that mean they should be eating passion fruit instead. Some thrive on the protein of a passion fruit, some thrive on the carbohydrates of a banana. A banana will go straight to the hips of some fruit flies which is awful if you have six hips.

      https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/uons-ffs102418.php

      I returned to my flat after an infestation of fruit flies once due to an old banana, effing thousands of them, a swarming cloud of them. They don't bite but they are annoying in your face and divebombing into your drink, so I left my fly riddled drink and flat for the night. Not a single living fruit fly when I returned, they'd all drowned themselves in my abandoned glass of Islay malt. Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies would die for a good whisky.

      Most people share 75% of their genes with fruit flies, Scots like me seem to share more and are the evolutionary missing link. Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky.

      Some people here will be employers, interviewers. I was only once made to hire an underling and I refused to, but many of you will have done that often. I ask you to give extra credit for any candidate that has survived being 'helped' by the DWP, and instead sift out anyone who has worked for the DWP. The doleys will be grateful for work, and conscientious. The DWP workers will assume they've been hired to be malicious. It's in their DNA.

      The Fast and the Furious 8 is being filmed in Glasgow just now, streets are closed down for filming. Of course there the franchise is called The Fat and the Furious.

      I got two upvotes on my juror poll comment. I am going to court in Decemeber, for the first time not as the defendant. 11 angry men, and one deaf, contrarian anarchist. To the two people who voted, if my family get killed, or I help send an innocent person to prison, or I help free an awful person, this is on you.

      "Oh judge! Your damn laws! The good people don't need them, and the bad people don't obey them."

      ~ Ammon Hennacy

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Jury 'duty' moral quandary

        I've never had a jury trial before, never even seen one and I've seen and faced serious prison time in various wee courts.

        I love living in the centre of Edinburgh because my local library is the National Library of Scotland, and my local art class is the Scottish National Gallery. Bragging rights, my flat is appalling but I get to bump shoulders with our elite. I never realised the downside is my local court is The High Court.

        I am crossing my fingers for some sort of financial malfeasance, or better yet a techie crime. I just know it will be some sort of baby mass murder.

        Being rational, they will likely dismiss me when they question me. This sort of responsible function is what I expect of you other posters, not me. I'm here to mock and joke, not moderate or judge.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Jury 'duty' moral quandary

          A High Court in England is for civil trials, not criminal trials, but I'm not sure if it's the same in Scotland. So maybe he will be judging the merits of a copyright lawsuit, or deciding whether a particular tree is depriving a neighbour of too much light, or perhaps whether the travel agent should be held responsible for Gary becoming sick after only 4 litres of foreign lager and a dozen olives.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Jury 'duty' moral quandary

            HIya Cynic_999,

            I got the low down on the Scottish courts / English courts differences today from my Scottish sis who is an English lawyer. You are correct. In Scotland we have Sheriff Courts for criminals like me, and High Courts for criminals that criminals like me would not want to ever meet. I've never even attended a jury trial before, and I've attended trials where military fighter jets had admittedly been smashed (not by me).

            I'm facing a rape or a murder trial, but you ken, it's Scotland so it could be both or worse. I would kill for a copyright lawsuit case, if I knew who to kill.

            They do not sift any more. I did not know that. They might not take me if they have enough jurors, but they literally take anyone - even lawyers and judges can be called for jury duty now in England at least. I mentioned I was too deaf to follow a court case closely and my sister said that wasn't important, someone on her jury was Turkish and didn't even speak any English, yet he'd already sat on one trial before they let him go, without mentioning that oversight to the defence.

            My friend was called as a juror for three days in a row, but never actually sat as a juror. They call more jurors than they need in case someone fails to turn up or gets sick or whatever.

            I will not get paid for my time even if it lasts for twenty months. I will get my bus fare and lunch money, and my very rich sister said, "Well, that's something, isn't it?"

            I am going to have to argue with utter idiots that are being paid vastly more than me for doing the same role just because they are employed. That is unjust.

            I am a frigging anarchist. Yet if I go to jury selection wearing an anarchist T shirt I will be in contempt of court and liable to arrest.

            It's a trap!

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  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to plan to fail

    Working somewhat on the inside of the debate, I can provide a couple of pieces of insight.

    1. From the outset, the Coalition (i.e. Conservatives with LibDems nodding approvingly) sidelined experienced DWP IT staff and private sector partners and installed a new breed of spreadsheet-waving hipster lead by the misanthropes at GDS (see https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/10/30/weerakkody_gds_interview/ ).

    The result was poor planning, relentless good news propaganda and a failure to deliver. Instead of going to the people who had been running Benefits for years, and who have subsequently got very efficient at doing it due to a plethora of budget cuts, hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money was thrown at US companies like IBM, Microsoft and Accenture. They walked away from the project with their pockets stuffed full of our money whilst delivering nothing of any value.

    The attempted reset in 2013 was beset by all the predictable problems of migrating legacy systems, huge datasets that required data cleansing and the inappropriate use of Agile methodology on a massive project.

    Add to that George Osborne's cuts and a toxic mix of failed delivery, understaffing, low morale and propaganda, it is no surprise that few of the critical automated systems ever saw the light of day and had to be plugged with resource-intensive manual processing.

    One key mistake was including Housing Benefit in the mix of centrally-administered benefits. It is by its nature the most complex transaction between state and citizen and is surrounded by a legal minefield. Delivering housing support is necessarily dependent on local knowledge. You can't just make a person homeless because "the computer says no" from some lofty central sausage machine based in London without there being some impact on wider society or in Law. Hence the rise of food banks, homelessness and expensive legal appeals against bad DWP decisions. The complexity within the support of housing costs was underestimated by Iain Duncan Smith and has resulted in a series of temporary patches that have been applied to cover up the gap between centralised one-size-fits-all decision making and local expert support. The Government-As-A-Service concept simply does not extend to the fundamental human right to shelter and its complex legislative framework when applied so hamfistedly.

    2. The further rollout of Universal Credit drags the gainfully employed into the Kafka-esque regime of the DWP. Whereas Tax Credits were administered by HMRC and viewed as a justifiable tax refund for hard workers who struggle with low-ish incomes, Universal Credit pulls working people into a series of commitments and sanctions that have so far filled the newspapers with stories about unemployed and disabled people going hungry or, worse still, dying. It is little understood by the general public that terms like "in-work conditionality" and "claimant commitment" are jargon for a set of requirements on employees to demand pay rises and more work hours in order to continue to qualify for their Universal Credit payment. Imagine how well that will go down with a lot of employers. It is no longer the unwashed unemployed poor who will be treated with a keen eye by an uncaring, bureaucratic system that is designed to make you fail. Now, all employees who previously claimed Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit will be subject to the systematic abuse that comes with Universal Credit. It is likely that, as this plays out in public view, UC will become as tarnished in the public's mind as the Poll Tax. It only takes a few Christmas hardship stories to turn the tide of public opinion.

    So, the solution to this mess should have been to a) engage existing expertise in the design and rollout at the outset, b) keep Housing Benefit at the local authority level, c) remove conditionality rules for employed people, d) undo George Osborne's wicked cuts, e) plan for c. 50% of claimants to go through non-digital channels to prevent exclusion of people with no access to computers or the requisite skills.

    Is it fixable? Probably not.

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