Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Iain Duncan Smith’ Category

Universal Credit: The Epic Failure Continues.

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Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

I have heard from people who have done temporary jobs over Christmas and into the New Year that it is all too easy to get in difficulties with Universal Credit when you sign back on – the money you have earned in one part of a month means that you lose out in reduced  benefits for the rest of the month.

So, the government  advice seems to be, don’t do the right thing and sign off for a short while to work.

Oh, and don’t, really don’t get involved in trying to sort things out, that only bothers the people running the system who have far more important things to do.

As we can see, as the epic disaster that is Universal Credit continues to chunder along,

Universal Credit: from benefits panacea to government blunder, Dan Finn

Problems piling up

Critics, however, quickly pointed to design flaws and the erroneous assumptions made about the circumstances, employment capacity and budgeting skills of vulnerable individuals, poor families and low-paid workers. Incremental reforms have been made to administrative processes but mounting evidence, gathered by MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, illustrates the problems experienced in the transition to the new system.

Local authorities, welfare agencies and landlords highlight slow and inaccurate payments, administrative complexity and poor communications, increased rent arrears and risks of eviction. Claimants have been subject to inappropriate job search requirements and sanctions. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) acknowledges some problems but anticipates that most will be resolved through ameliorative measures, such as the provision of “money advice” and “alternative payment arrangements”. The select committee is unconvinced and, in February, submitted 20 detailed concerns and questions to the minister. And these problems have occurred before the DWP even starts to migrate millions of existing benefit households into the new system.

A series of reports from the Public Accounts Committee have catalogued problems that have beset the implementation of Universal Credit. These include over-optimistic and untested assumptions, weak management, ineffective project control and poor governance. In his valedictory evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee in February, Lord Freud, who for five years was responsible for implementation of Universal Credit, acknowledged it had been “harder than anticipated”, blaming the high turnover of senior civil servants and the loss of in-house expertise to design the IT system.

The practical result was a major “reset” of the project in 2013 with the DWP utilising a “twin track” approach. This presently comprises the national expansion of a more limited live service, where Universal Credit claims are made online, with other transactions managed by phone and post. Over time, there will be a gradual roll out of the more complex, full digital service, which has now been developed in-house. Freud asserted that this will allow for a more considered implementation. He also claimed that reported problems currently experienced by Universal Credit claimants are exaggerated, not directly caused by the new system (as with some rent arrears), and will be offset as minor adjustments are made, people settle in the system and increase their earned income.

More people will lose out

Whatever the merits of the original Universal Credit design, its capacity to deliver the outcomes promised has been further compromised by a plethora of other welfare reforms eroding the living standards of claimants. Universal Credit payment rates have been frozen for four years, and the full roll out will now be associated with benefit cuts and delayed tax credit related reductions. New claimants on Universal Credit have already been hit by some of these reductions, which have been incorporated into the design of the new system. Existing benefit claimants – not yet on Universal Credit – enjoy some transitional protection but will lose this if their circumstances change.

Note: see above….

The cumulative impact is that Universal Credit has become a tool for delivering welfare cuts rather than improving living standards. The new benefit now creates more losers than gainers and, when combined with the reduced value of work allowances, there are now fewer incentives for lone parents and second earners to work. Equally concerning, much of the increased employment secured by those who do gain will be in “mini-jobs” where families will combine work and welfare rather than move from welfare to work.

Early findings show that although, within nine months, the first wave of largely childless, single Universal Credit recipients worked 12 days more than comparable claimants, the primary change had simply been to make “it more worthwhile and easier for them to do small amounts of work”.

Note:  See above.

Always attentive to our needs this has been announced.

Universal credit recipients to get money advice James Richards 15 Feb 17

Universal credit claimants can now receive free support for their personal finances through an online money management tool.

The money manager has been launched by the Money Advice Service in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions.

It is an interactive tool that offers personalised advice for Universal Credit claimants on a range of money topics, such as opening a bank account, paying bills and dealing with debt.

The service has been designed to help people make the transition from Universal Credit to the world of work.

Damian Hinds, employment minister at DWP, said: “Universal Credit gives people back control of their own lives and finances, and makes the transition into work much smoother.

“Our work coaches offer budgeting support to all new claimants and this tool will help more people get all the skills they need to manage their money.”

Claimants will be able to find personalised information about bank accounts, help with setting up direct payments to landlords, budgeting, and saving money on regular bills.

 While we’re living to dream in this world of alternative facts….on which Benefit rates are frozen.

UK inflation hits two-year high of 1.6%

Air fares, imported raw materials, food and petrol price rises plus Brexit-fuelled fall in pound will squeeze family finances in 2017

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

Life on Benefits and Television Poverty Porn.

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Like many people here I watch serious documentaries (such as last night’s Channel Four documentary, Undercover: Britain’s Homeless Scandal: Channel 4 Dispatches).

I do not watch the endless series of entertainment programmes about people on the Dole.

Such as this one, The Great British Benefits Handout, described by the Mirror, “Channel 5 is still baiting the unemployed with yet another show about benefits. The show’s ‘experiment’, which gives three jobless families £26,000 to change their lives, is a smokescreen for inviting ridicule and vitriol”.

That is, from “the channel that brought us The Big Benefits Row Live , The Great Big Benefits Wedding Live, My Big Benefits Family, Celebs on Benefits: Fame to Claim, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, Benefits: The Millionaire Shoplifter and Benefits: Can’t Work, Won’t Work.”

So whatever goes on during their latest,  BENEFITS BRITAIN: LIFE ON THE DOLE, has passed me by.

Not that it’s only Channel Five.

The British television programme The Hardest Grafter illustrates this as it portrays 25 of Britain’s “poorest workers”, all having the shared ultimate objective of winning £15,000 through the completion of various tasks. In this case, the contestants’ poverty attracts a television audience, which was, before the show even started, contested as various petitions were made in order to stop what was believed to be a “perverted audience and profit making operation”. It is considered to not only be perverted, but also discriminatory as the contestants can only be poor.

BBC Two replied to these accusations by affirming that it would be a “serious social experiment to show just how hard those part of the low-wage economy work” as well as “tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time: why is British productivity low?”.

A spokesman from the show’s production company, Twenty Twenty stated that: “the show will challenge and shatter all sorts of myths surrounding the low-paid and unemployed sector”.

Broome, a reality TV show creator, states that it exposes the hardship of some families and their ability to keep on going through values, love and communication. He assures that he would much prefer create these shows rather than those like Jersey Shore which depicts “a group of strangers from New Jersey as they party throughout six seasons”.

Wikipedia. Poverty Porn. 

I sometimes wonder not just about the effect these gruesome shows have on people with well paid jobs, to bait and hate the poor, but on those on benefits.

In letter to the Guardian Ruth Patrick covers that angle.

Zoe Williams asks – somewhat rhetorically – what might be the impact of the endless growth of “poverty porn” on those who rely on benefits for all or most of their income (TV’s fixation with people on benefits breeds suspicion, 9 February). What my research with out-of-work benefit claimants shows – see policypress.co.uk/for-whose-benefit – is the ways in which the stereotypical, demeaning and one-dimensional characterisations that such shows so often feature contribute to a climate in which claimants feel that their behaviours and actions are being endlessly critiqued and found wanting.

The individuals I spoke to had often internalised negative descriptors – self-describing as a “scrounger” or “a bum” – even where they were hard at work caring for children, looking for employment or adapting to independent life after a childhood in care.

Living with poverty and benefits stigma had detrimental consequences for individuals’ self-esteem, mental health and citizenship status. “Poverty porn” and shows like The Moorside may be successfully recasting poverty as light entertainment, but their impact on those struggling to get by on benefits is anything but.
Dr Ruth Patrick
Postdoctoral researcher, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

Guardian

This is what Ruth Patrick wrote in 2015.

The realities of living on welfare are significantly different from government and media characterisations

What is often missing from these characterisations is the lived experiences of those who rely on benefits for all or most of their income. Admittedly, the explosion of ‘Poverty Porn’ does purport to provide such firsthand accounts. However, these are mediated by editing processes aimed at generating watchable, controversial content; processes which perhaps do not lend themselves to detailed pictures of the lived realities of ‘getting by’ on benefits during times of welfare reform.

Since 2010, I’ve been conducting small-scale research which has sought to explore these lived realities, with an explicit aim of considering the extent of (mis)match between Government and media rhetoric and lived experiences for those directly affected by welfare reform. By speaking to single parents and young jobseekers affected by the extended welfare conditionality and sanctions regime, as well as disabled people being moved off Incapacity Benefit and onto Employment and Support Allowance, I have been able to explore experiences of both welfare reform and the day-to-day realities of reliance on benefits in Britain today. Over a two year period, I interviewed participants three times, enabling me to explore both the absence and presence of change in people’s accounts as the welfare reforms took effect and individuals negotiated complex relationships with benefits and paid employment.

What this research has demonstrated is the very hard ‘work’ which ‘getting by’ on benefits entails, ‘work’ which is not represented in government and media characterisations of claimants as passive and inactive. This ‘work’ includes very tight budgeting practices, frequently having to make tough choices (such as to heat or eat), as well as creative ways of trying to eke out a little extra income, for example by scavenging for scrap in nearby streets. People repeatedly spoke of shopping daily so as to take advantage of the reduced shelves, and going to several shops in order to get the best deals. Parents often went without in order to ensure their children were well looked after. As single parent Chloe explained:

“I go without my meals sometimes.  I have to save meals for me kids. So I’ll have a slice of toast and they’ll have a full meal.”

There was also substantial evidence of participants engaging in other forms of socially valuable contribution such as volunteering and caring.  Adrian, a young Jobseeker, described why he valued the voluntary work he did at the homeless hostel where he used to live:

“I proper love it. You feel satisfaction as well if someone’s coming in really hungry. Give them some food, at least they’ve eaten for the night.”

With the Government’s endless emphasis on paid work as the primary responsibility of the dutiful citizen, these important forms of contribution often go unrecognised and under-valued. Importantly, too, the whole thrust of the Government’s welfare reform approach, like New Labour’s before it, places policy emphasis on moving people from ‘welfare dependency’ into paid employment, which can cause significant problems for those who want to prioritise these other forms of contribution.

The welfare reform policy agenda, with its sustained emphasis on welfare conditions and sanctions also suggests that people need the threat of sanctions to encourage – even compel them – to make the transition from benefits reliance to paid employment. The emphasis is placed firmly on the supply-side of the labour market, on the steps individual claimants need to be compelled to take to become employable, and to move into paid work. Repeatedly, a contrast is drawn between ‘hard working families’ and ‘welfare dependents’, with the latter needing these tough interventions to be ‘responsibilized’ into hard working citizens.

But, this research, like so much of the literature in this field (see, for example, recent articles on this blog) questioned the salience of such static groupings, instead finding participants with strong aspirations to work, where this was a realistic goal. It also found individuals who typically had worked in the past, with several moving in and out of work, during the time of the research, characteristic of the low-pay, no-pay cycle. Those who were not currently in paid employment had often internalised negative characterisations of claimants, with inevitable consequences for their self-confidence, self-esteem, and ironically future job prospects. Sam, a young jobseeker and recent care leaver explained why she wanted a job:

“I need a job; because I’m sick of scrounging. That’s how I think of it anyway, I’m sick of scrounging.”

When asked about the idea of benefits as a lifestyle choice, participants in this study were angry, even disbelieving, of the notion that they would ‘choose’ to rely on out-of-work benefits, instead emphasising the various factors, often linked to impairments, caring responsibilities and demand-side barriers to paid employment, which had led to their current situation. As single parent, Sophie put it:

“People don’t choose to live on benefits – it’s not our choice. It’s just the way that things have happened. We don’t choose to live on benefits, we don’t want to live on benefits.”

Young jobseeker James described why, for him, being on benefits would never be a choice

“[benefits] is enough for you to live off o’, but you haven’t got one bit of luxury left in your life. You’re not living, you’re existing. And that’s how it feels.”

Attending to the lived experiences of welfare reform is critical in helping us to understand the day-to-day realities of ‘getting by’ in contemporary Britain. These realities are significantly different from the government and media characterisations, with inevitable consequences for the likely success of the ongoing programme of welfare reforms. In particular, these realities undermine the logic for a pervasive emphasis on welfare conditionality, while also hinting at the very real financial hardship, and emotional and relational damage caused by welfare reform. If we want to understand more about benefits, and how processes of welfare reform are impacting on people, it is essential that we place far more emphasis on listening to what those directly affected have to say.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2017 at 11:15 am

Universal Credit, “Shambolic”.

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The saga of the love child of Ian Duncan Smith (now an enthusiastic Brexiter) continues.

Background: a brief history of cock-ups with Universal Credit.

First, it was a whole set of problems about their computer systems.”Universal Credit has been dogged by IT problems. A DWP whistleblower told Channel 4’s Dispatches in 2014 that the computer system was “completely unworkable”, “badly designed” and “out of date”.[48] A survey of Universal Credit staff found that 90% considered the IT system inadequate.” (Wikipedia)

…..experts say that the project was never truly agile in the first place. This was due to the way contracts with fixed features were set up with major IT suppliers such as  IBM, Accenture, Atos and Hewlett-Packard, and the requirements for a “big bang” launch in October 2013 (a deadline which, of course, it missed).

Senior civil servants pitch the current total losses between £161m to almost the entire amount spent so far (which ranges from £312m to almost £700m depending on who you ask, and Labour says equates to just over £190,000 per claimant). During a Public Accounts Committee session in September, DWP finance director Mike Driver said £161m was his “best assessment” of likely total losses, while the Major Projects Authority director Dr Norma Wood said that much of the £303m invested in IT by that point was “not fit for purpose”.New Statesman)

Then there was the merry tale of on-line applications which led to  MP Ronnie Campbell, tabling this motion, “That this House notes that since only fifteen per cent of people in deprived areas have used a Government website in the last year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may find that more Universal Credit customers than expected will turn to face-to-face and telephone help from their local authority, DWP helplines, Government-funded welfare organisations, councillors and their Hon. Member as they find that the automated system is not able to deal with their individual questions, particular concerns and unique set of circumstances”.

Next it was the five-week delay between making a claim and receiving money.

Then it was direct payment of housing benefit to tenants when it used to go (for example for social tenants) directly to the landlords. This has already led to people getting into arrears, as they, not unexp[ecrtably., spend the money on luxuries like gas and electricity bills, not to mention food, before paying the rent.

Next was the complicated system’s impact on work. “A House of Commons Library briefing note raises the concern that Universal Credit might make people reluctant to take more hours at work:

There is concern that families transferring to Universal Credit as part of the managed migration whose entitlement to UC is substantially lower than their existing benefits and tax credits might be reluctant to move into work or increase their hours if this would trigger a loss of transitional protection, thereby undermining the UC incentives structure.

Finally we learnt (Guardian. July 2016)

The government’s universal credit scheme has once again slipped behind schedule and will now not be completed until 2022, five years behind its original projected finish date, officials have admitted.

Critics said the latest rescheduling – which adds 12 months to the last published planned completion date and is the seventh reset since 2013 – raised the question of whether the much-criticised welfare programme was fit for purpose.

Ironically, the delay will have the effect of providing temporary respite for millions of claimants who stood to lose thousands of pounds a year when they were removed across to universal credit from the tax credits system after July 2018.

Now there is this…..

DWP slammed for “shambolic” Universal Credit roll-out. TFN News.

An MP has blamed the DWP for creating homelessness over its “incompetent” processing of Universal Credit claims.

It emerged last week in a Glasgow City Council report into the impact the scheme was having on its services that homeless people in the city has been placed on the new scheme in error by the DWP.

Now Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, is demanding answers from the DWP as to how many more homeless people across the UK have been placed on the controversial scheme in error.

The report, published by the Glasgow City Joint Integration Board, found that 73 homeless people have been put on Universal Credit, despite DWP guidance instructing homeless people being exempt from the new scheme.

Thewliss said: “The experience of the 73 homeless claimants in Glasgow, who have been added to Universal Credit in error, show that homelessness services across the UK are likely to take a serious financial hit once Universal Credit is fully rolled out.

“The suggestion from the Minister that Discretionary Housing Payment is used to top this up completely misses the point. With local authorities forced to cover the arrears of their tenants, which means less money to provide vital services which people rely on in times of need.

“The UK government needs to wake up to the reality that DWP actions are cutting the safety net of Council homelessness services, deeply undermining their stated aim of helping people into work.

“They can take the first step to head off this problem by halting the deeply flawed implementation of Universal Credit.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Welfare reform has already had a significant impact on our budget for homelessness services.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Brexit: Welfare Under Attack.

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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.

And this:

Universal Credit has pushed 86% of claimants in council housing into rent arrears Welfare Weekly.

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:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

Work Capability Changes Announcement on Monday.

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Work Capability Assessment Campaigners. 

Earlier this year this happened,

Criticism as £30-a-week disability benefit cuts go ahead March.

Peers have backed down in their battle with MPs over cuts to disabled people’s benefits after ministers invoked special powers to push them through.

The government was twice defeated in the House of Lords over a £30 a week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for certain claimants.

But it is set to go ahead after peers deferred to the elected Commons.

Ministers claimed “financial privilege” to assert the Commons’ right to have the final say on budgetary measures.

Ministers argue the changes will encourage people to get into work, but this is strongly disputed by opponents.

Then at the start of October this happened (BBC),

Tens of thousands of people claiming the main benefit for long-term sickness will no longer face repeated medical assessments to keep their payments.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said it was pointless to re-test recipients of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with severe conditions and no prospect of getting better.

More than two million people receive ESA, which is worth up to £109 a week.

The move has been welcomed by charities supporting those with severe illness.

Now this there is this:

Work capability assessment overhaul for disabled BBC.

The scheme that assesses claimants of disability benefits faces a major overhaul, following claims by a charity that it is “fundamentally flawed”.

A consultation on reforming the Work Capability Assessment will be announced on Monday.

Ministers want claimants to be assessed in a more “targeted and personalised” way to help more people find jobs.

The charity Scope, which had criticised the current assessment scheme, said it welcomed the planned changes.

It said disabled people needed “expert, tailored employment support”.

Both Employment Support Allowance, which is paid to more than two million people, and the assessment, were originally introduced by Labour and then expanded by the coalition government.

The consultation – to be launched by Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green on Monday – follows the announcement that people with severe conditions will no longer face reassessments for their benefits.

It will examine how people receiving ESA can be helped back into employment without having their benefits put at risk while they search for a job.

Note this is already problematic since nobody has yet been able to show exactly what this ‘help’ is. and how it….helps.

Mr Green said: “A disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life.

“No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.

“The proposed changes… will focus on improving opportunities and raising aspirations while making sure those people who most need support from the government receive it.”

Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who spearheaded the government’s welfare reforms for six years before resigning in March, said: “ESA is a part of the benefits system left over from the last Labour government and is in real need of reform.

“These proposals are directly taken from a full plan for reform that we at the DWP were close to completing before I resigned.

“The purpose was to get rid of the binary choice that you were fit for work or not fit for work. My plan covered all the areas announced today and went further in proposing some other positive changes.”

Note:  more bald faced lies from the man responsible for this:

 In September 2013 leaked documents showed that Duncan Smith was looking at “how to make it harder for sick and disabled people to claim benefits”. Duncan Smith was advised that it would be illegal to introduce secondary legislation, which does not require parliament’s approval, in order to give job centre staff more powers to make those who were claiming Employment and Support Allowance undertake more tests to prove that they were making a serious effort to come off benefits and find a job. The powers being discussed also included “forcing sick and disabled people to take up offers of work.” DWP staff would also have the power to strip claimants with serious, but time-limited health conditions, of benefits if they refuse the offer of work

Is this true?

BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier said the move signalled a clear change of approach from that of David Cameron’s government, which tightened and reduced welfare spending.

This certainly is.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams called for the assessments to be scrapped, saying they caused “needless misery and stress” for thousands of sick and disabled people.

She said the government’s approach was “ideologically driven with the sole purpose of targeting the most vulnerable in our society to pay for their austerity plans, painting disabled people as scroungers and shirkers, whilst making no impact on the disability employment gap”.

We await more comment from this quarter:

Citizens Advice said it dealt with 25,000 issues around Work Capability Assessments last year, saying the reforms should make the test “fair, consistent and right first time”.

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “We are keen to help create a system that makes more sense.

“However, it must be recognised that many people with long-term progressive conditions will simply be too unwell to work and no amount of extra employment support will change that.”

Phil Reynolds, from the charity Parkinson’s UK, told BBC Radio 5 live he “cautiously welcomed” the new move, but that his organisation had been trying to highlight the issue for a long time.

“We continue to hear examples of people with really serious conditions, like Parkinsons, who are put in that ‘back to work’ group because the assessment fails to recognise that a person’s condition will only get worse,” he said.

“It’s really important that anything that comes out of this leads to positive improvements and a more sensitive assessment.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Behavioural “Insights” Team on Sanctions and “Identity-building activities.”

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Somewhere we hope never to go…

Most of us are familiar with the way the DWP Job Centre, and all the rest of the schemes we are on, are run on the basis of some kind of managerial theory which tries to ‘nudge’ (force) us to behave in order to fit into their idea of what we should do to get employment.

On the Work Programme this could involve being told to “get out of your comfort zone”, listening to heroic tales of how the trainers obtained their magnificent positions through hard work, or (job centre) somebody going through your Job Seeker’s Agreement with a fine tooth comb to find if you have spent every waking hour asking “giv us a job”.

People have made money out of theorising this practice, and no doubt drawing up the guidelines for DWP and Trainers to follow.

Indeed their is a whole ‘unit’, the Behavioural Insights Team, that produces hefty reports on such affairs.

There is a book, “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein” (2008) which has replaced How to Win Friends and Influence People” on every huckster’s book shelf.

This American text’s core message was summed up by the New York Review of Books as follows,

Nudging is about the self-conscious design of choice architecture. Put a certain choice architecture together with a certain heuristic and you will get a certain outcome. That’s the basic equation. So, if you want a person to reach a desirable outcome and you can’t change the heuristic she’s following, then you have to meddle with the choice architecture, setting up one that when matched with the given heuristic delivers the desirable outcome. That’s what we do when we nudge.

It’s all for your own Good. Jeremy Waldron.

Naturally the book came to the UK where this was the reception (Richard Reeves, Observer. 2008)

Nudge has become the ‘it’ book for politicos. Thaler is in the middle of a fortnight in the UK and is being courted and feted by the chattering, thinking, wonking classes. Everyone who is anyone has been nudged by the amiable prof (I bought him dinner). The Conservatives moved quickly to stake their claim to his brand of ‘libertarian paternalism’, seeing in it a way for the state to act non-coercively for the greater good.

The (gibberish sounding) Behavioural Insights Team) was the result.

The quality of the thinking, research and proposals of this merry crew is praised in the book, Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference.  David Halpern. 2016.

You can judge for yourself (Review: Public Finance)

Human beings are amazingly complicated, so you do get surprises coming up on a regular basis even if you’re fairly expert,” Halpern says. He cites the example of a big discrepancy in the results of a judgment test sat by applicants to the police. “It’s an online test – there are no human beings involved – and yet there was a massive difference in the pass rate between white and ethnic minority candidates, 60% versus 40%,” he explains. “There were lots of hypotheses about why this might be – you can imagine some of the ideas.”

We can indeed.

People are really complicated.

Wow.

The Unit came up with wizard wheezes like “Giving a day’s salary to charity” “Using a lottery to increase electoral participation rates” and “Increasing fine payment rates through text messages.” (more see Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), also known unofficially as the “Nudge Unit“)

And….”.”Personal commitment devices in Jobcentres.”

Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP did not do “non-coercive”, so we had…sanctions to “nudge” us in the right direction.

As in, I, Daniel Blake.

Now we hear this from the Nudgers:

DWP must review welfare conditionality, policy unit set up by Downing Street says (Independent a few days ago)

The Government should review its practice of forcing benefit claimants to jump through hoops like attending Jobcentre meetings in order to claim benefits, a policy unit set up by Downing Street has recommended.

The Behavioral Insights Team, set up by David Cameron in 2010, said piling unemployed people with responsibilities on pain of sanction might actually be making it harder for them to get jobs.

The so-called Nudge Unit, which was part-privatised in 2014, warned that some Government policies were reducing so-called “cognitive bandwidth” or “headspace” of the people they were designed to help.

Is that all?

Not quite.

‘Nudge Unit’ u-turn on benefit sanctions could herald even more state intervention  replies Sue Jones in Welfare Weekly.

It’s very interesting that the Behavioural Insights Team now claim that the state using the threat of benefit sanctions may be “counterproductive”. The idea of increasing welfare conditionality and enlarging the scope and increasing the frequency of benefit sanctions originated from the behavioural economics theories of the Nudge Unit in the first place.

The increased use and rising severity of benefit sanctions became an integrated part of welfare “conditionality” in the Conservative’s Welfare “reform” Act, 2012. The current sanction regime is based on a principle borrowed from behavioural economics theory – an alleged cognitive bias we have called “loss aversion.” It refers to the idea that people’s tendency is to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. The idea is embedded in the use of sanctions to “nudge” people towards compliance with welfare rules of conditionality, by using a threat of punitive financial loss, since the longstanding, underpinning Conservative assumption is that people are unemployed because of alleged behavioural deficits and poor decision-making. Hence the need for policies that “rectify ” behaviour.

This is important,

….anyone curious as to how such tyrannical behaviour modification techniques like benefit sanctions arose from the bland language, inane, managementspeak acronyms and pseudo-scientific framework of “paternal libertarianism” – nudge – here is an interesting read: Employing BELIEF: Applying behavioural economics to welfare to work, which is focused almost exclusively on New Right small state obsessions. Pay particular attention to the part about the alleged cognitive bias called loss aversion, on page 7.

It gets worse.

A lot worse, drivel wise that is.

This is what they propose:

Work

1 Use identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work in order to improve the quality and sustainability of jobs that people find.

2 Collect longer-term and more holistic outcome measures of labour market interventions to understand their full impact on poverty.

3 Develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs.

Sue Jones states,

Proposals such as providing access to parenting programmes, “identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work”, “rainy day “savings, and “develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs” all sound like a New Right blame-storming exercise. Again, the problem of poverty is regarded as being intrinsic to the individual, rather than one that arises in a wider political, economic, cultural and social context.

People have to read the Welfare Weekly article in full.

But the impression I get is that this latest  jolly prank looks like subjecting claimants to more, endlessly more, attempts by this lot to shape our lives and tell us what to do.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 25, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Damian Green lavishes praise on Iain Duncan Smith for ‘pouring his heart’ into job.

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Image result for iran duncan smith cartoons

Iain Duncan Smith: Very fond of hearts, preferably with a nice Chianti. 

Ipswich Unemployed Action posts this breaking news in the knowledge that us lot, here, do not exactly share this “appreciation”.

New Tory welfare chief Damian Green lavishes praise on Iain Duncan Smith for ‘pouring his heart’ into job

Says the Mirror,

The new Tory welfare chief has lavished praise on Bedroom Tax architect and sanctions defender Iain Duncan Smith.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said Mr Duncan Smith “poured his heart” into changing the welfare system and should be honoured.

Mr Green said: “We’ve already started this journey. We are building on the record of Iain Duncan Smith, who over six years poured his heart into welfare reform – as did his successor Stephen Crabb.”We should thank both of them for the work they did.

“Our approach of reforming welfare, making work pay and supporting those who need the most help has transformed this country.”

He said a million more people were in work than in 2010, adding: “We should be proud of that record.”

And despite studies showing it will leave many thousands of pounds worse off, he said: “Universal Credit which sits at the heart of our welfare reforms ensures you will always be better off in work.”

Mr Green used the example of people with genetic conditions including Down’s Syndrome who he met doing jobs.

“Work is better for their self esteem, their sense of worth and their physical or mental health,” he said.

 

Just a minor point, the grammatically challenged Mr Green should note that the correct preposition is “Our approach to reforming Welfare”, the use of ‘of’ (as in his malapropism, ‘Our approach of reforming welfare’) which appears  the result of a distant memory of lessons on the objective genitive, is incorrect. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2016 at 3:12 pm