DWP draws up plans to ditch ridiculed jobs website
Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category
Furtive Looking Damian Green Under Pressure.
Chancellor Philip Hammond facing calls from own party to review four-year benefit freeze
reports the Independent.
This excellently researched report (which readers of the ‘I’ will have noted yesterday) is very welcome:
Exclusive: It comes after The Independent revealed earlier this month the Government had underestimated the severity of its four-year freeze on working-age benefits, with the cap now set to hit claimants by almost 50 per cent more than official estimates.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is facing calls from within his own party to review the four-year freeze on working-age benefits to alleviate the pressures on those with the lowest incomes in Britain.
It comes after The Independent revealed earlier this month the Government had grossly underestimated the severity of its four-year freeze on working-age benefits, with the cap now set to hit claimants by almost 50 per cent more than official estimates.
An analysis by the House of Commons Library showed that, due to rising inflation, the measure introduced last year is now expected to reduce support for those on low incomes by £13bn over the next four years, compared with the Government’s own forecast of £9bn.
Heidi Allen, a Conservative MP on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, told The Independent the Chancellor needed to look again at the policy.
“I see it principally because of Brexit that economically things were going to get turbulent, and that’s why we pushed so hard to get some money pumped back into universal credit, which as you’ll know we got a modest improvement on the taper rate – a couple of per cent,” she said.
“I remember saying it at the time: ‘We’re not through this yet’. If inflation picks up, people are going to be in trouble and that’s where we are.”
Asked whether she thought Mr Hammond should review the policy, Ms Allen replied: “I do.”
Ms Allen said the Chancellor has to look seriously at injecting money back either into the work allowances or the taper rates in universal credit in line with where inflation is heading. One possible solution would be redirecting the finances put into the raising of the tax threshold, she added.
“Otherwise while the raising of the tax threshold was great, it’s a bit of a headline because it affects absolutely everybody,” she said.
“It’s a pretty crude and blunt instrument in terms of having a positive impact on incomes because it doesn’t focus in on those who really need it.
We observe that inflation in the prices of basics is pretty visible, visit the supermarket for a start…
This is worth noting,
Debbie Abrahams, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the four-year freeze in social security payments, coupled with the increase in inflation, will “feel like a cut to families who are already struggling”.
“Millions of people who rely on tax credits, universal credit, employment and support allowance and other forms of social security will see their living standards fall even further. Many more children and disabled people will face poverty,” she added.
Ms Abrahams also said Jeremy Corbyn’s party would reverse the cuts to in-work support that “will see 2.5 million families worse off by an average of £2,100 a year”.
A Government spokesperson said: “By cutting taxes for millions of people, giving the lowest earners a pay rise with the National Living Wage, doubling free childcare for nearly 400,000 parents and freezing fuel duty, we are helping people who need it most.”
As people are already commenting Universal Jobmatch is not working, has not worked since yesterday, and is not matching the Job.
Feel free to comment further.
I can think of a few things to start with, hard to log in, hard to use, sanctions not to mention, weren’t there some kind of fraudulent jobs…
The government has drawn up plans to scrap its official jobs website, Universal Jobmatch, after recognising it is too expensive and that its purpose is undermined by fake and repeat job entries, according to leaked internal communications from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Guardian March 2014.
A cache of documents seen by the Guardian details how the government’s main website for job hunters – which tens of thousands of unemployed people have been required by the DWP to sign up to – is likely to be jettisoned when the contract for the service comes up for renewal in two years.
A year and a half after its launch, Universal Jobmatch has been ridiculed for hosting numerous fake jobs, including one for an MI6 “target elimination specialist” and “international couriers” for CosaNostra Holdings, as well as listings for pornographic websites.
(NOT THAT THEY TOLD US LOT..).
Government is making changes to its Universal Jobmatch service to stop commercial job boards uploading vacancies in bulk.
In a statement sent to Recruiter, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed it will be limiting the bulk upload of job vacancies and will only allow employers to use Universal Jobmatch directly.
Commercial job boards will also be no longer able to daily refresh adverts to prioritise vacancies, while there will also be a drive to remove the duplication of job ads.
Recruiter understands the changes have been brought about due to frustration from jobseekers being redirected to other sites, as well as dealing with duplicate adverts. Three quarters of the 1.3m ads placed on the service come from commercial job boards, while SMEs and micro employers have found their adverts lost among the sheer volume of job board ads.
It is understood job boards have been given six weeks’ notice, with the changes set to come into effect on 22 May.
Commenting on the development, Minister for Employment, Damian Hinds said the changes have been brought about after user feedback, and will mean jobseekers can navigate the site more quickly and easily.
“With around 750,000 vacancies available across the UK at any one time, Universal Jobmatch remains a useful option for jobseekers and businesses alike,” he added.
IT Failure After Failure.
It has long been the view of this Blog that, aside from the mean-spirited government approach to claimants, its unleashing of lawless ‘sanctions’, miserable benefit cuts, the pandering to a growing group of “outsourced” parasitical companies running ‘programmes’ for the out-of-work and testing the disabled, who make a pretty penny out of people’s suffering, there is something wrong with Universal Credit’s computer boffin side.
The Civil Service News (which is a serious and respected journal, despite its Alternative Fact sounding name) agrees.
Or rather it reports his Lordship Freud saying “it’s not my fault gov, it’s them there Government’s way of dealing with them IT projects.”
The minister tasked with overseeing the creation of the Universal Credit programme has admitted Whitehall’s outsourcing of IT was a “fundamental mistake” and that government needs to work to attract more digital talent.
Giving evidence to MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Conservative peer Lord Freud – who resigned from his position as minister for welfare reform in December last year – said that government “has to bring IT back in”.
The introduction of Universal Credit, the brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith, has been beset with problems and has repeatedly seen target implementation dates pushed back.
The programme’s aim was to combine six in-work and out-of-work benefits into a single, simpler system, but poor planning, repeated changes of senior civil servant leadership and a lack of understanding of the underlying IT requirements led to it running years behind its initial schedule.
Freud has previously said that both his team and the Government Digital Service team that was later helicoptered in to assist were “naïve” about the complexities of building the service.
In his evidence to MPs, however, Freud indicated that the main issue was the government’s attitude to managing IT projects.
“What I didn’t know, and I don’t think anyone knew, was how bad a mistake it had been for all of government to have sent out its IT,” Freud said.
“It happened in the 1990s and early 2000s. You went to these big firms to build your IT. And I think that was a most fundamental mistake, right across government and probably across governments in the western world.”
He said it had resulted in the Department for Work and Pensions having not an IT department, but an “IT commissioning department” that didn’t know how to do the work required for the project.
“The civil service thought it had the capacity because it could commission the big firms to do it. They didn’t see it as a problem – government as a whole didn’t see it as a problem,” Freud said. “It’s only when you get into it that you realise what a big problem it was.”
Freud added that the DWP had worked to bring that knowledge back in-house, and urged other departments to do the same.
However, he said it was hard to do this because the “image of government with the IT industry is not great”, particularly with uncompetitive pay scales. This, he said, was something that IT has in common with the specialisms of running contracts and project management.
“We need, in government, to be able to pay for those specialisms if we are to pay for those projects.”
After the 2013 reset of the Universal Credit programme, the department took a “twin-track” approach.
This involved rolling out the “live service” – a programme that allowed people to register online but with all further transactions being done over the phone or by post – while continuing to develop the ‘digital’ service that would allow all interaction online.
In his evidence, Freud said that he would have built something smaller, earlier so the team had something to test and learn from.
“It’s impossible to envisage how it will work, something as big as that,” he said, adding that it was very difficult to manage something that was “just conceptual”.
Instead, Freud said, organisations need something to coalesce around and start progressing – even if it isn’t perfect at the start.
Another issue Freud identified in his evidence was a lack of continuity on the civil service side, with six senior responsible officers and six project managers in his first five years on Universal Credit.
His Lordship Appears Today Before the Work and Pension Committee.
Last night Channel Four News reported that Lord Freud will appear today before Parliament’s Work and Pension Committee for their Inquiry into Universal Credit.
8 February 2017 9:30 am
Oral Evidence SessionWitness(es)
Lord Freud, former Minister of State for Welfare Reform, Department for Work and Pensions
The Wilson Room, Portcullis House.
Channel Four News covered many of the flaws of Universal Credit highlighted in the Guardian article below (thanks to people posting this in the comments).
Freud, “the architect of the controversial universal credit system”, who stepped down as Minister last December, will be asked about these ‘difficulties’.
According to well-establish rumour Freud once got out of hand in Trafalgar Square, with his pal Bertie Wooster, on Boat Race Night.
His credible claim was that it was Bertie who nicked the Copper’s helmet and spent the night in the cells, appearing before the Beak under the name of Leon Trotski.
Bertie’s defence of “stout denial” is, nevertheless, thought to be the strategy his Lordship intends to follow.
Guardian 7th of February.
Recipients falling into rent arrears because of payment delays, forcing them to turn to food banks, Guardian investigation reveals.
Thousands of benefit claimants are facing debt, rent arrears and eviction as a result of policy design flaws in universal credit, according to landlords and politicians, who are demanding an overhaul of the system.
They have warned that UC rules that require claimants to wait at least six weeks for a first benefit payment mean many are going without basic living essentials, forcing them to turn to food banks and loan sharks.
Ministers are being urged to slow down the national rollout and to increase support for vulnerable claimants who are struggling to cope with the demands of monthly payments and an increasingly online-only system.
The findings have emerged during an investigation by the Guardian, which has also revealed that:
- Eight out of 10 social housing tenants moved on to UC are falling into rent arrears or increasing the level of pre-existing arrears.
- Families unable to manage the regulation 42-day wait for a first payment are regularly referred to food banks by housing associations or local MPs.
- Some claimants are waiting as long as 60 days for an initial payment because of processing delays on top of the formal wait.
- Uncertainty about the system has contributed to a dramatic decline in the number of private landlords willing to take on benefit recipients, even if they are in work.
Organisations representing more than 1m council households said that UC claim processing problems had notably worsened over the past few months. The National Federation of Almos, which represents arm’s length organisations running council housing, and the Association of Retained Council Housing called for payment waits to be reduced.
As Teresa May speaks on Brexit today we will hear a lot about how the free movement of labour in Europe will be ended. That it is has helped create unemployment.
We will hear about ” building a “stronger” and a “fairer” country and creating a “truly Global Britain”.
This is the reality of what is what is happening and what they plan for the unemployed.
The Mirror reported this a couple of days ago.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK could change its economic model towards a US-style low tax, low welfare one as a result of Brexit .
His comments came after Theresa May angered Remainers by pushing for a hard Brexit that will take us out of the single market and customs union.
This is already happening.
Shocking research reveals Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit has left almost 9 in 10 claimants living in council housing in rent arrears.
Joint research from the NFA and ARCH reveals almost nine in ten Universal Credit (UC) claimants living in council housing are in rent arrears, two and a half years after Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship new benefit was introduced.
The research charted the impact of UC on the rent arrears of claimants living in council owned homes and found 86% are in arrears, up from 79% in March 2016, with 59% of these more than a month behind on their rent.
Although 63% of UC tenants in arrears had pre-existing arrears before their UC claim only 44% of them are on APAs (alternative payment arrangements with direct payment from DWP).
The average value of rent arrears owed by UC claimants living in council housing has almost doubled since 31 March 2016, from £321 to £615.
- With the Benefit Freeze we will see people increasingly unable to cope with rising prices.
- With Universal Credit we will see more and more people falling into arrears and debt: Food Banks will become a normal part of the ‘welfare’ state.
- With the Work and Health Programme we will see more bogus courses, more dodgy people from the welfare-to-work industry making a pile, and more sanctions.
Some fairer society!
As James Bloodworth says:
Questions about Tackling Fraud , Error in the Benefits System as Universal Credit System still ‘Undeveloped”.
There is more to this than meets the initial headline.
Spending watchdog urges clearer plans for cutting benefit system fraud and error.
Reports Welfare Weekly.
Efforts to tackle fraud and error in the benefits system must be stepped up following the “meltdown” over Concentrix’s role in the tax credit system, the Commons spending watchdog has said.
The cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said fraud and error remained a “significant problem” for the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Outside contractor Concentrix was tasked with reducing fraud and error in the tax credits system but HMRC announced last month that its contract would not be renewed following complaints that claimants’ payments were wrongly cut.
The PAC welcomed some of the action taken by DWP and HMRC to tackle the problems in the benefits and tax credits systems, but demanded more action.
The report said: “While it is encouraging to see the departments targeting the causes of losses, such as misreported income, they also need clearer plans to reduce fraud and error in other challenging areas such as cohabitation and claimants pretending to live in the UK who live abroad.
“Recent issues relating to HMRC’s contract with Concentrix to investigate suspected fraud and error by tax credit claimants highlights the need to get these plans right.
“We remain disappointed by the absence of stretching targets for tackling fraud and error.”
So far so sadly predictable.
But Lo! there is this:
The committee also raised fresh concerns about the troubled Universal Credit programme, the Government’s flagship welfare reform aimed at simplifying a series of separate benefits into one payment.
The MPs warned that “systems underpinning Universal Credit are still underdeveloped and there are signs of pressure on staff”.
They also raised concerns that the “rigid” monthly assessment period could cause problems for claimants whose pay or rent were based on four-weekly cycles.
The report Universal Credit and fraud and error: progress review section on Universal Credit says,
The Department started to roll out its “full service” version of Universal Credit to jobcentres in May 2016. It is rolling out at a rate of five centres a month and the Department had planned to scale up to 50 centres a month from February 2017. But on 20 July 2016, just hours before we took oral evidence on this inquiry, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions released a written ministerial statement, outlining a further delay to the roll out of the programme. The statement outlined a slower roll-out of the Department’s full service systems, which would continue to roll-out to only five centres a month until June 2017, before increasing the speed of the roll-out. The Department now envisages that the full service will be available in every jobcentre by September 2018 rather than June 2018, and that the roll-out of Universal Credit will now be complete by March 2022, 12 months later than previously announced and four and a half years after October 2017, the planned completion date at the start of the programme.
3.The Department attributed the delay in roll-out to scope changes following policies announced in the Summer Budget 2015. These include removing eligibility for housing elements from 18 to 21 year olds, reducing the “limited capability for work” element to zero and restricting the number of children that Universal Credit will pay for to a maximum of two. These policy changes were announced in July 2015; well before our last evidence session in December 2015, and before the Department submitted its Outline Business Case to HM Treasury for approval in September 2015. The Department has therefore had a long time already to consider how to apply the policy changes to its systems, and actually had 21 months in total to implement the changes before they come into force in April 2017.
4.The Department for Work & Pensions denied that it was attributing wider operational problems to changes in policy, and told us that a recent internal review of the Universal Credit programme concluded that it would have been on track to deliver 50 jobcentres in February 2017, if the Department did not have its issue of new scope to deal with. The Department told us that this new timetable should be feasible if no further policy changes are announced. Universal Credit has often been described as simplifying the benefit system. But these new delays suggest that the systems underpinning Universal Credit’s design are not adaptable to changes in policy or entitlement, raising questions about the promised flexibility of the new systems.
14.The Department expects people who are in work that earn less than the equivalent of 35 hours per week at the minimum wage to look to work or earn more. This “in-work conditionality” regime is still at a very early stage of development and the Department is undertaking a national trial to see what the best ways are of intervening. Approximately 40% of the current Universal Credit caseload are in work (approximately 112,000 claimants) and are moving into the trial. But longer term, the majority of households likely to fall within these requirements will be the 4.4 million families currently in receipt of tax credits, who are not used to such conditions being attached to their entitlement.These requirements may lead to families being ‘sanctioned’, or facing a financial penalty, if they cannot demonstrate that they have been looking to increase earnings during their assessment month. The Department stressed to us that the idea of this is to encourage people to work more hours and increase their earnings, not to be a system of punishment, but the Department must be sensitive to individual families’ circumstances (for example varying shift patterns and overtime requests) if the system is to prove effective. The Work and Pensions Select Committee has looked into this area in depth and we will also continue to take an interest in this area as plans develop and in work claimant numbers increase.
If you have a strong stomach this is worth reading: from the Conclusions,
The Department has not updated its assessment of the expected benefits of Universal Credit in the light of policy and operational changes. The Department has now spent £1.16 billion on implementing Universal Credit, which has a caseload of around 280,000, compared to the over 6 million claimants expected in the long term. Despite having previously estimated that a six month delay to the programme could reduce net benefits to the taxpayer by £2.3 billion, the Department now maintains that the net benefits of the programme have not changed significantly from the £20 billion quoted in its 2015 outline business case. The Department rejected the recommendation we made in February 2016 that it should explain how the business case has changed following changes in policy to Universal Credit and other working age benefits, on the grounds that revising a business case takes four months. However the Department told us that it does have ready-reckoners and is able to model the effect of changes quickly, suggesting that it should have been able to accept our recommendation without causing disproportionate extra work.
Recommendation: We reiterate our previous recommendation that the Department should set out clearly the changes to the business case for Universal Credit since its outline business case in 2015. It should include a brief summary of the policy changes and, using its ready-reckoners, a clear explanation of the impact on the programme’s costs and benefits.
3.Systems underpinning Universal Credit are still underdeveloped and there are signs of pressure on staff. We welcome the fact that the Department has changed its mind and has now accepted our recommendations and those made by the previous Committee concerning the need for better contingency planning. But the Department still has a long way to go before systems will be ready to scale up Universal Credit significantly; we heard, for example, that only 25% of claims in the new full service are paid automatically. We also received written evidence that staff are concerned about the lack of training and the pressures of work preventing adequate testing and learning within the new service.
Recommendation: Before the speed at which Universal Credit is rolled out is increased, the Department should ensure that there are sufficient opportunities for staff to engage in testing and learning processes, and set out for the Committee what it has done to address staff concerns. The Department should write to the Committee to inform it of action taken by May 2017.
4.Universal Credit’s rigid monthly assessment period causes difficulties for claimants whose pay or rent are based on four-weekly periods. Claimants whose pay or rent cycle does not match the monthly assessment period used for Universal Credit may experience difficulties, such as a drop in payment without warning. Similar issues arise when people are paid early for Christmas. The Department’s only solution appears to be to try and persuade employers and landlords to change their pay and rent practices, rather than seeking to make its own systems more flexible. With the number of employees and landlords the former is unlikely to be feasible.
Recommendation:The Department should ensure that claimants whose pay or rent cycles do not align with Universal Credit assessment periods are made aware of this issue and the potential consequences, and are informed of what support is available should this be needed. The Department should also examine what it can do to adapt its systems to cater for these circumstances or provide more information about what it is doing to secure change with employers and landlords.
6.The Department for Work & Pensions’ understanding of the level and causes of fraud and error in Universal Credit and some other benefits is incomplete, potentially undermining efforts to reduce losses. While the Department expects Universal Credit to reduce fraud and error overpayments by £1 billion a year when it is fully rolled out, initial estimates indicate that the level is currently higher than the Jobseeker’s Allowance that it is replacing. The Department attribute this to the difficulty of developing a suitable methodology to measure fraud and error in Universal Credit, as the new benefit is designed to support both those in work as well as those out of work, and to cases where the Department was unable to contact claimants to verify the payment made. The Department does not regularly measure fraud and error across all its other benefits; for example, fraud and error in the payment of Carer’s Allowance has not been measured for 20 years.
Recommendation: The Department for Work & Pensions should: establish and agree with the National Audit Office a robust method for estimating Universal Credit fraud and error; and undertake regular risk assessments to improve its understanding of the causes of fraud and error in those benefits where it has not been measured for some time or at all.
Our conclusion: there are problems about
- “In-work conditionality” is “at a very early stage of development”: that is they have no clear idea of what the hell it means and what the rules are.
- There are new opportunities for – sanctions and “financial penalties”.
- The system is not yet ready to cope with all claims.
- Both potential Fraud and Error are a greater problem now for those on Universal Credit (” initial estimates indicate that the level is currently higher than the Jobseeker’s Allowance..”)
- Rent and Pay cycles are not aligned with Universal Credit so that, claimants may “experience difficulties, such as a drop in payment without warning.”
Ho, ho ho!
Concentrix accused of ‘reign of terror’ against tax credits claimants as scandal grows amid job loses.
Apparently “Tax farming is not synonymous with modern privatized tax collection, where private individuals or companies collect taxes and pass them to the state in return for a commission or fee, without bearing any risk consequent of default by the taxpayer. Tax farming is speculative, meaning that the tenant of the farm bears the full risk of defaulted debts. In addition, a tenant is often required as a term of the lease to make an early rent payment, which must be financed from his own resources until the revenue stream subject to the farm has started to be collected.”
Still less the same as Concentrix.
But what on earth is the same as the mess this lot have created?
Concentrix accused of ‘reign of terror’ against tax credits claimants reports Welfare Weekly.
A US outsourcing company has been accused of exercising a “reign of terror” over people who claim tax credits.
More on this story here.
Concentrix workers take to street as fears grow over job security reports the Belfast Telegraph today.
The employment security of up to 350 employees of Concentrix have been cast into doubt after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) terminated its contract with the US-owned company.
Concentrix, which employs more than 1,800 people across a number of sites in Belfast, had been tasked with reducing claimant fraud in the benefit and tax credit system – but HMRC announced earlier this year the contract will not be renewed.
The move came after the Concentrix was accused of incorrectly withdrawing tax credits from hundreds of claimants, while it has also been claimed it answered only 10% of calls on some days.
Since losing the contract, Concentrix has already let go 150 temporary workers.
The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) staged a rally outside a Concentrix building in Belfast city centre yesterday afternoon to show support to the employees whose future with the company is unclear.
Speaking at the protest, which was attended by up to 50 people, Gayle Matthews, regional secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, said: “We’re here in solidarity with the workers of Concentrix.
“There are really two victims here – the claimants who have been badly affected and the workers who were simply following orders from HMRC.