Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Digital Welfare Nightmares.

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“Claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal…”

Following the post on Surveillance Welfare and sending out our newshawks to investigate the main thing they found was that for many people it is becoming bloody hard to to get to grips with a “online” benefits system.

The local facthounds confirm that this story, from the start of the year, is well the case in Ipswich and elsewhere.

As a librarian I spend most of my time helping benefits claimants work out the Universal Credit system

Georgia Grainger is happy to help but wishes library services were not cut so frequently because they do such important work

  • Librarian says some claimants have no idea how computers work
  • Says libraries forced to prop up services not provided by Jobcentres
  • Says benefits claimants feel ’embarrassed’ to ask for help with forms.

The reality of being a librarian at Charleston Community Library in Dundee, Scotland, couldn’t be more different. The 23-year-old, whose job title is library and information assistant, says she spends most of her time helping benefits claimants attempt to navigate the Universal Credit system from the library computers.

Hard pressed library staff across the country help people deal with a system designed to help the DWP and their private providers, not claimants.

Our contributors have unearthed many a merry tale as well but this latest news opens up a worse prospect.

What they could call the “digital divide” exists across the world.

It’s not just access to services online, which are not always available. Not everybody wants to, or can, use computers and the internet.

In French they even have an expression for those unable to use computers, L’illectronisme – illiteracy in electronic devices. 

There may not yet be any systematic studies to translate into figures the rate of “digital illiteracy” (or DI — we will use this term, pending an English equivalent to the French illectronisme) but we already have a feeling of how bad it may be. Again, the social consequences of DI and plain illiteracy are similar.

Digital illiteracy – a real handicap Jean-Claude Elias 

Now we have this report:

Universal Credit: UN report warns of ‘digital welfare dystopia’ around DWP benefits system

Ruchira Sharma The ‘I’.

The report said that many claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal, stopping them from even understanding their own case.

The report, which will be presented to the to the General Assembly on Friday, cited the DWP’s Universal Credit system and how its use of online portals stops many claimants who lack digital skills from understanding their own case and having the ability to appeal.

..

The report highlighted that despite being a wealthy country, in 2019 in the UK there are 11.9 million people (22 per cent of the population) who do not have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life.

An additional 19 per cent cannot perform fundamental tasks such as turning on a device or opening an app, while 4.1 million adults (8 per cent) are offline because of fears that the internet is an insecure environment – proportionately almost half of those are from a low income household and more than half are over 60.

Welfare Weekly has the story.

World stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia’, warns UN report

A UN human rights expert has expressed concerns about the emergence of the “digital welfare state”, saying that all too often the real motives behind such programmes are to slash welfare spending, set up intrusive government surveillance systems and generate profits for private corporate interests.

“As humankind moves, perhaps inexorably, towards the digital welfare future it needs to alter course significantly and rapidly to avoid stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia,” the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, says in a report to be presented to the General Assembly on Friday.

The digital welfare state is commonly presented as an altruistic and noble enterprise designed to ensure that citizens benefit from new technologies, experience more efficient government, and enjoy higher levels of well-being.

But, Alston said, the digitization of welfare systems has very often been used to promote deep reductions in the overall welfare budget, a narrowing of the beneficiary pool, the elimination of some services, the introduction of demanding and intrusive forms of conditionality, the pursuit of behavioural modification goals, the imposition of stronger sanctions regimes, and a complete reversal of the traditional notion that the state should be accountable to the individual.

“Digital welfare states thereby risk becoming Trojan Horses for neoliberal hostility towards social protection and regulation,” said the UN Special Rapporteur.

“Moreover, empowering governments in countries with significant rule of law deficits by endowing them with the level of control and the potential for abuse provided by these biometric ID systems should send shudders down the spine of anyone even vaguely concerned to ensure that the digital age will be a human rights friendly one”.

It continues,

“Most Governments have stopped short of requiring Big Tech companies to abide by human rights standards, and because the companies themselves have steadfastly resisted any such efforts, the companies often operate in a virtually human rights free-zone,” said Alston.

The human rights community has thus far done a very poor job of persuading industry, government, or seemingly society at large, of the fact that a technologically-driven future will be disastrous if it is not guided by respect for human rights and grounded in hard law.

There is no shortage of analyses warning of the dangers for human rights of various manifestations of digital technology and especially artificial intelligence.

“But none has adequately captured the full array of threats represented by the emergence of the digital welfare state,” the UN expert said.

Here is the summary of the report,

Report of the Special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The digital welfare state is either already a reality or is emerging in many countries across the globe. In these states, systems of social protection and assistance are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies that are used to automate, predict, identify, surveil, detect, target and punish. This report acknowledges the irresistible attractions for governments to move in this direction, but warns that there is a grave risk of stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia. It argues that Big Tech operates in an almost human rights free-zone, and that this is especially problematic when the private sector is taking a leading role in designing, constructing, and even operating significant parts of the digital welfare state. The report recommends that instead of obsessing about fraud, cost savings, sanctions, and market-driven definitions of efficiency, the starting point should be on how welfare budgets could be transformed through technology to ensure a higher standard of living for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2019 at 10:46 am

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. Review.

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Abbey and Nathan are forced to rely on their dog to help them catch food (Mirror).

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.

Not that long ago Channel Four put on one of the worst series about people on benefits, the wittily named Benefits Street. White Dee and the rest of the Brummie crew were a barrel of not-unlovable rouges playing the system. Some said it was a modern freak show. That may be insulting to the people shown, but not far off about way they were shown.

How we laughed!

Channel Five’s the Great British Benefits Handout and others followed – like rats excited at easy prey. It looked like the telly had become screen version of the Sun, the Express and the Mail. It was open-season on scrounging idlers.

How things have changed. Last night Channel Four put on Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. In the first of 3 episodes there not many chortles. We saw people struggling with the rollout of Universal Credit in Hartlepool. Emphasis on struggling.

We got the message about the new angle right from the start. A couple of gammon talked about people having to work to eat. Switch to the “35 hours a week job search” and the Universal Credit Journal. The youngster who couldn’t read or write, having to cope with that. The fact that, in Hartlepool there weren’t jobs there for the taking.

Then there was woman juggling with paying either gas or electricity. We saw what it means for the under-25s who get less than those who’ve reached the magic age. Somebody made homeless because he couldn’t get the rent together. More juggling, ducking and weaving. Tracey, who managed to survive cancer, is the carer for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis. Single mum Terri, out desperately trying to get proper work.

David “fucking” on-Hold Music.

“Some of the most affecting moments in the programme were about David who had severe problems with his eyesight – a major, and rare, illness, keratoconus. He had got his PIP removed and is found fit for work. Now he is left with a fiver for a whole month to feed himself. He had to phone up the Dole for an appointment. On a pay-phone, outside the Food Bank. As he said, the waiting music alone was designed to fucking drive you up the wall. He gets told he has to do 5 days Job search…..

The poor sod, driven from pillar to post, was left in a world like Jo the Crossing Sweeper living in Dickens’ Tom-all-Alone.

The programme did not fail to mention that crisis loans no longer existed, and the ‘local’ (‘devolved’) Council fund, Local Welfare Assistance, couldn’t help those who asked.

Or to put in clips of Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May praising Universal Credit.

The “safety net” of the old welfare state is so full of holes it is starting to disappear.

Nathan and Abbey, waiting – how you wait! –  for the first payment on Universal Credit,  had one way of getting food when they were broke. Nathan got his dog Twister out tracking down rabbits on the local heath. There are few scenes on telly sadder than seeing the new hunter-gatherers preparing the cony and chucking the faithful hound a choice morsel. At least they had a bit of good cheer.

The world of Universal Credit is not just Dickens sprung to life. The homeless, who we only just glimpsed in this episode, have become like the street urchins of Les Misérables. Some would hope that like Gavroche they would rise on the barricades….

The series is a must-see.

Esther McVey: After Swan Song at Reform Think Tank is She about to Flee the Sinking Ship?

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“Swans sing before they Resign – ’twere no bad thing should certain persons die before they sing.” 

Our Newshawks have been keeping a beady eye on Esther McVey.

It looks as if she may be about to jump ship.

The far-right Express gloats,

ANOTHER blow to Theresa May Brexit plan as Esther McVey REFUSES to publicly support it

ESTHER McVey refused to publicly support Theresa May’s Brexit plan in another blow to the Prime Minister’s attempts to restore unity in her warring party.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said she was confident the Prime Minister will deliver the “Brexit that Britain voted for”.

Ms McVey was asked by the Reform think tank whether she had full confidence in the Chequers plan, to which she replied: “I will say that I have full confidence in the Prime Minister to deliver the Brexit that Britain voted for.”

But she would not give her backing to proposals agreed at Chequers, which Brexiteers have lambasted as being too soft.

Ms McVey and Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary, have been put on “resignation watch” by Downing Street after privately raising concerns about the Chequers plan.

The Work and Pensions Secretary’s partner, Conservative MP for Shipley Philip Davies, revealed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister after losing trust in the Chequers deal.

This follows efforts to cover her  tracks (Guardian Thursday) in this remarkable Whooper Swan Speech.

In a speech to the Reform thinktank on Thursday, McVey said universal credit was adapting the welfare system to changing patterns of work and using the latest technology to create an agile service offering “tailor-made support”.

But in an almost unprecedented official admission that not all is going well with the benefit, which is six years behind schedule, she said changes were needed.

McVey added: “And where we need to put our hands up, admit things might not be be going right, we will do.”

The DWP needed to reach out to, and learn from, all organisations that could help officials design and implement a system that fully supported claimants, she said, such as the National Audit Office. . A highly critical report by the public spending watchdog into universal credit triggered a controversy that ended with McVey being accused of misleading parliament and facing calls to resign.

McVey said she was working on changes to universal credit including debt repayment, support for the self-employed and benefit payment cycles for working claimants, but gave no further details.

As is often the way it is interesting to read her Highness’ peroration beyond the newspaper’s report (extracts):

On 19 July 2018, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, gave a speech to Reform on ‘Universal Credit: Delivering the welfare revolution’.

..it really is great to be here today to talk about my vision for the welfare revolution and the changing world of work.

And it’s terrific to be on a Reform platform.

Because Reform is a fierce advocate for public services in this new age of technology.

(Pardon Ma’m what the hell do you mean here?)

This a good bit,

Interestingly, I’m the only Minister I believe who has spent their whole Ministerial career in one department- Work and Pensions – moving from Parliamentary Private Secretary into a Junior Minister role to a Minister of State to now Secretary of State – even with a spell of unemployment in the middle!

One moment Minister of State for Employment the next moment unemployed!

(Indeed …)

She continued, pontificating on the new ‘Immaterial world’ (thanks to her speech-writer for citing Paul Mason…)

there was nothing personal about a complex, indiscriminate ‘one-size fits all’ system – which, I think it is fair to say, embedded low expectations on both sides of the claim desk.

So change has to come – and change that also reflects the rapidly changing world of work in which we live.

Lots of work is changing – it is now online, tasks are being automated, and new industries are being created.

This is a great time to be alive and to be in charge of the DWP!

The gig economy matches people and tasks more dynamically than ever before – creating new opportunity.

Flexible working is no longer an exception, and we are seeing an increasingly inclusive workforce, where work fits around personal circumstances and caring responsibilities.

Gone is the job for life.

And our welfare system should reflect that. It should be nimble and adaptive – reflecting changing working patterns in this fast-paced moving world.

Our vision is one of a personalised benefit system, a digitised system.

Audience dozes off..

This digital system personalises Universal Credit. And we are constantly updating it.

This is not just IT: it is using next-generation technology, design thinking and data to support work coaches.

Sound of loud snoring.

But hark!

But we are not complacent that that all is working like clockwork.

And where we need to put our hands up, admit things might not be be going right, we will do so. We will be a culture of mea culpa, hands up and then we need to change. For just as we are adopting agile technology in this fast paced world, Ministers have to be agile too.

Nimble is Esther’s Middle name.

The speech drones on…

Personal advancement is key to social mobility and ensuring people reach their potential.

And it is by empowering people, giving them choice and flexibility to carve their own path, that everyone is able to reach this potential.

We are working hard to make Universal Credit work for all. And we want to work with you all to achieve that.

We are both a pragmatic and a visionary government, listening to business, listening to charities, listening to people on the frontline and putting in place the right support to help people taking back control of their lives. (Grammar note, that should have been ‘take’ unless she meant helping a group of people who are already taking ‘back control’ and nobody else). And most importantly, always listening to the claimant. Thank you.

Off to the bar….

And now there is this:

Universal Credit rollout bungle blamed as over 1million people are fined for mistakenly claiming free prescriptions

Mirror. 20th of June.

The bungled Universal Credit rollout has been blamed for more than a million people being fined for mistakenly claiming free prescriptions.

Labour accused Government of “penalising ill people” by failing to inform them of entitlement after moving to the all-in-one benefit.

Helen Goodman blasted the Department for Work and Pens­ions and called on Employment Minister Alok Sharma for refunds.

Fines can be as high as £100 per prescription. The MP said: “This is the minister’s fault.

“They should not penalise ill people because of their shambolic rollout of Universal Credit.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2018 at 10:00 am

Gov.uk Verify System Creating Chaos for Universal Credit Claimants.

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A Cause of Major Snarl Ups for Universal Credit Claimants.

Computer Weekly is one of our favourite reads, an essential source for information about a crucial part of the Benefits system, IT.

One of our contributors pointed to this story way back in the mists of time (2014):  The IT risks facing Universal Credit.

A few days ago the esteemed organ flagged up yet another  major problem for Universal Credit, Gov.uk Verify.

The origin of the latest mess is, as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau said last year

One of the big changes under Universal Credit was the switch to a ‘digital’ benefit. For the first time with the full digital service, claimants both apply for and manage their UC claim online. The intention behind this change is to encourage UC claimants to develop their digital skills,” the report said.

Citizens Advice believes that being online could make it easier for people to find and secure work, and access information.

“A digitally-delivered benefit system also has the potential to become more efficient, allowing claimants to better manage their payments and any changes of circumstances,” it said, but added that rolling out a fully digital Universal Credit requires “significant support”.

The Advice Service (facing cuts be it noted) stated the origin of the difficulty was this,

One in five adults in the UK lack basic digital skills and one in seven don’t have access to the internet at home.

“These people are disproportionately likely to be disabled or have a long-term health condition, and to be unemployed or on low incomes. These are also the groups most likely to be making a claim for UC,” the report said.

“A survey of our UC clients in full service areas found nearly half (45%) had difficulty accessing or using the internet – or both.”

This makes it difficult for citizens applying for benefits to do so online. In fact, 52% of the people surveyed by Citizens Advice said they found the online application difficult and felt that the support they needed was not available. Most people have also not been informed that there are other options than applying online.

Without accessible facilities and support, there is a risk that the significant minority of claimants who lack digital literacy or internet access will experience additional delays and errors in their initial claim,” the report said.

Plenty of posters on this site have said the same based on the well-known scientific research principle of common sense.

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants unable to use Gov.uk Verify to apply for benefits.

Bryan Glick

Government research shows that barely one-third of benefits claimants can successfully apply for new Universal Credit digital service using flagship online identity system.

Hundreds of thousands of benefits claimants could be unable to register for the new Universal Credit (UC) digital service because of problems using the government’s online identity system Gov.uk Verify, according to new figures that show barely a third of UC users successfully use Verify.

The Universal Credit (UC) digital system, which is due to be introduced at all Jobcentres by the end of 2018, works on the basis that people applying for benefits will set up an account online and prove their identity electronically using Gov.uk Verify – either on their own computer or with assistance from Jobcentre staff.

But the Government Digital Service (GDS), which develops Verify, has revealed research showing that while 35% of UC users can set up a Verify account online, 30% are not able to, and the remaining 35% could use Verify, but do not.

“Further research at a job centre showed that out of 91 users, 48 needed help with the process,” according to the latest minutes from GDS meetings with the Privacy & Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG), a panel of independent identity experts who advise on Gov.uk Verify issues.

The article  continues,

Benefits claimants tend to have less of a digital footprint than people in employment, who are more likely to have mortgages or credit cards, and as a result Verify finds it harder to gather enough data to prove their identity. The new GDS research is the first time Verify figures have been published that are specific to the UC digital service.

Most of the 1.2 million UC claimants so far have used the original “Pathfinder” system, which handles only a limited number of benefit types and does not rely so heavily on Verify. It is being replaced by the digital service – now known as UC Full Service – which is being rolled out across the country and will be used for all new UC claims by the end of the year.

In the month to 14 December 2017, 77,000 people applied for Universal Credit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). With the UC Full Service being introduced at, on average, 50 Jobcentres a month this year, hundreds of thousands of new claimants will soon be expected to use Verify as part of the application process. Based on the latest GDS figures, at least three in 10 people will not be able to do so and many more will struggle.

A telephone helpline is available to help apply for UC, and Jobcentre staff can also assist, but the expansion of UC Full Service assumes that the majority of claimants will prove their identity using Verify. If many thousands of people are unable to successfully use Verify to submit a claim, it is likely to cause significant extra work for Jobcentre staff.

The Gov.UK Verify system has faced other charges in the recent past (May 2016)

Gov.UK Verify finally launches but critics warn of security and privacy problems

Campaigners warn people will lose control of their identity

Gov.UK Verify, the Cabinet Office’s in-house identity scheme intended to govern access to public services, has finally been launched, years late and to intense criticism.

Verify’s purpose is for citizens to register to use government services quickly and easily by matching their identity to other systems.

“When you use Gov.UK Verify to access a government service you choose from a list of companies certified to verify your identity,” the government said.

“It’s safe because information is not stored centrally, and there’s no unnecessary sharing of information. The company you choose doesn’t know which service you’re trying to access, and the government department doesn’t know which company you choose.”

However, campaigners have argued that Verify is unnecessary and limited, potentially insecure and will encourage users effectively to cede control of valuable personal information to the eight private contractors picked to oversee the scheme: Barclays, CitizenSafe, Digidentity, Experian, Post Office, Royal Mail, SecureIdentity and Verizon.

LOGJAM signals that after the above article Computer Weekly has now written its own criticisms,

There’s a growing body of opinion that the government’s flagship digital identity system, Gov.uk Verify, has now become a major hindrance to the development of the UK’s digital identity infrastructure.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2018 at 10:48 am

John Major Joins in Chorus Against Universal Credit.

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Major to the Rescue!

Back in the old days we all used to laugh at John Major.

Rory Bremner did a great impersonation.

There was also his affair with Edwina Currie, (BBC)

Former Prime Minister John Major has admitted he had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

Mr Major described it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.

Mrs Currie made the disclosure in her diaries, which are being serialised in the Times newspaper.

The affair began in 1984 when Mrs Currie was a backbencher and Mr Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Mrs Currie – who later became a health minister – said the affair ended in early 1988 after his swift promotion to the Cabinet as chief secretary to the Treasury.

What the wags of the Internet could make of that today is …a happy thought.

Now Major is an elder statesman.

With Boris and Rees Mogg around – preceded stage right by Iain Duncan Smith, not to mention David Gauke – you could feel a big nostalgic for those days.

Major obviously has more than a grain of sense left.

John Major calls for Tory review of ‘unfair’ universal credit

reports the Guardian.

Former PM says party needs to ‘show its heart again’ or it risks opening door to ’return of a nightmare’.

Sir John Major has called for an urgent change of tone from the Conservative government, including a review of universal credit, which he described as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The former prime minister said his party needed to “show its heart again, which is all too often concealed by its financial prudence”, if it hoped to fight off a Labour resurgence in the next general election.

“We are not living in normal times and must challenge innate Conservative caution,” he said.

However, he suggested the implementation of the policy, which has led some claimants to turn to foodbanks as they wait up to six weeks for payments, required a rethink.

To rub this in we learn the following today,

More than 25 Tory MPs  prepared to rebel over Universal Credit roll-out

More than 25 Tory MPs are now prepared to rebel over the Government’s flagship welfare reforms amid mounting calls for a “pause” in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last week tried to broker a truce with MPs by insisting that a system of advance payments was already in place to help those struggling when they change systems.

Despite the move, Sir John Major, the former Tory Prime Minister, described the system on Sunday as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The Guardian outlines the mammoth task before the government.

Universal credit: why is it a problem and can the system be fixed?

What are the design flaws?

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

What have ministers proposed to do about the six-week wait?

The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, recognised the widely held concerns about the long payment wait (including 12 of his own party’s backbenchers) in his speech to the Tory party conference on Monday. He said he was overhauling the system of advance payments available to claimants to enable them to access cash up front to see them through the six-week waiting period. Payments would be available within five days, and in extreme cases within hours.

Will this solve the problem?

The payments are loans that must be repaid. Claimants can only get an advance for a proportion of the amount they are owed as a first payment, and must repay it within six months. Normally, claimants must prove to officials that an advance is needed to pay bills, afford food or prevent illness. Official figures show about half of new universal credit claimants apply for an advance payment. Ministers say this is good news as it shows they are getting help. Critics say the high demand proves the wait is too onerous for too many people.

What other options do ministers have?

Charities and landlords could reduce the long wait marginally by cutting the seven-day “waiting period” introduced in 2013 (an arbitrary period during which new claimants are prevented from lodging a claim after being made redundant). They could introduce more flexible repayment terms for advance loans. And they could speed up the payment process (currently slower than the supposedly cumbersome “legacy” benefits they replace).

So it is all about ironing out a few technical glitches?

Not quite. Multibillion-pound cuts to work allowances imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne mean universal credit is far less generous than originally envisaged. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, about 2.5m low-income working households will be more than £1,000 a year worse off when they move on to universal credit. Reversing those cuts requires a political decision, not a technical fix.

What is the future for universal credit?

Gauke confirmed today that the current rollout will continue to the planned timetable (which will see, in theory, universal credit extended to about 7 million people by 2022). However, the problems of universal credit are unlikely to go away, and it has some powerful critics, including the Treasury, which has always opposed the project. It would be possible to cancel the project, or overhaul it substantially. However, some argue the billions pumped into universal credit – and the huge amount of political capital and credibility invested in it – mean it is too big to fail.

For those who’ve lost the will to live after this lot, Rory Bremner is still a laugh!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

Ipswich Unemployed Action: Debate and Real News, not Alternative Facts.

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Facts, Opinion, and Debate, Not ‘Alternative Facts’. 

Ipswich Unemployed Action’s policy on news is simple.

We are first and foremost the creation of our contributors, those who post in the Comments, and who provide us with the leads to follow up on the things that matter to the unemployed, and those on benefits.

So, for example, there is an important discussion on the use of personal data for Universal Credit, and the potential for Job Coaches (does anybody seriously use this term any more, it’s beginning to sound like a Butlin’s Redcoat…) to put pressure on claimants, to  misuse their power, and, at worst, bully people.

There is also debate about the “My Values” questionnaire, and other issues of private information.

When we come to hard facts we rely on our contributors to get to what we can be sure of. Our stories often begin with people writing things, and always end with people free to express what they think on them.

Behind this we use reliable sources, such as Welfare Weekly, The Mirror, the Independent, to cite only three, as well as a variety of campaigning groups, like the Trussell Trust, the CAB, and others, and, last but far from least  Parliamentary committees, like the PAC, and the Work and Pensions Committee for serious stories about the hard facts of what benefit rules are.

Oh, and sometimes the DWP – if more rarely Ministers – are forced to make clear statements as well.

What we do not do is repeat rumours, ‘alternative facts’ and the kind of self-serving stuff that has made SKWAWKBOX a hissing and a by-word for growing numbers on the radical left, and amongst campaigners more broadly.

Things are bad enough already; they do not need exaggerating.

This is the kind of  story that interests us:

People in Blackpool are “struggling” with Universal Credit a charity has warned, even though the full roll-out of the benefit has not hit the resort.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is asking the Government to look again at the benefit, designed to top up low paid workers’ income and help the unemployed after finding people waiting 10 to 12 weeks before their first payment.

It wants the roll-out paused until the problems can be ironed out.

By 2022, seven million families in the UK will get Universal Credit, which is replacing six existing means-tested benefits, and in October 50 new areas are set to be using the system.

Tracy Hopkins, chief executive of the Blackpool CAB said for many people the benefit works, but many others are in serious trouble.

he said: “We have not had the full roll-out here in Blackpool, just for young Aunemployed people, but we are seeing many people struggling and are very concerned indeed. “People are having to wait 10 weeks without money. It is too complex. “They have to claim on line, and many of the people claiming in Blackpool do not have access to computers at home.

“People are telling us they are having to make 10 calls to the helpline. We hear about people waiting 30 minutes for help on the phone. “Also there is a seven day waiting period before they can start a claim. We want the Government to remove this to stop these unfair delays. “We are talking about vulnerable people too, with health problems and working people on low wages who need extra help with such things as child care.” She said the delays were counterproductive since people were in danger of being forced out of their jobs by not being able to afford to carry on or by risking the sack by taking time off to get Universal Credit sorted out.

More here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM THE SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF DPAC.

The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together. You can read her blog here

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights ,who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm

As Damian Green Idles his Time Away Flawed Thinking Behind Universal Credit IT System Comes Out.

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A Genius was paid good money to design this picture….

As Damian Green whiles away his time in office, without deigning to tell users of Universal Jobmatch what’s happening with the site, some disturbing facts are coming out about the fundamental flaws in the IT management of Universal Credit.

Since these have already created massive problems for claimants, on top of the cuts and miserly scheme, not to mention a range of crackpot ideas that go with Universal Credit, this is highly significant.

Social Policy carries this story:

John Slater explains the thinking behind the project management of Universal Credit

Paul Spiker.

John Slater has been responsible for a series of Freedom of Information requests about the Universal Credit fiasco.  Yesterday he sent me a copy of the project management plan  introduced by Howard Shiplee, who was responsible for the development of Universal Credit from May 2013 until his departure, following illness, in September 2014.  Shiplee had previously been responsible for building construction for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I was puzzled by the plan, and wrote back to John:

I’m baffled – I can see no relationship between the steps to be taken and the design of a social security system. It looks more like a plan for building a McDonalds outlet, where all the groundwork’s laid and you know exactly what you want to do, so it’s all about delegating tasks. … I think you’re a project manager, John – – can you explain it to me?

I found John’s response so marvellously clear and helpful that I asked him if I could share it on the blog.  Here it is.

“Hi Paul,

You are right my background is programme and project management (my first degree was IT so I understand that aspect as well). You aren’t far off with your McDonalds analogy.

The plan is a classic case of an organisation focusing on the IT side of a major change programme. UC is one of the biggest change programme ever undertaken and nothing I’ve ever seen produced by the DWP reflects this.

The 100 day plan is a classic example of people that have been on a training course (e.g. Prince2 or Management Successful Programmes) but have never done the job for real. If you look down the left hand side of the ‘plan’ you’ll see the following headings:

  1. Key dates & decisions
  2. BT – Business (I suspect BT means business transformation)
  3. BT – Service Design & Build (I suspect BT means business transformation)
  4. BT Interfaces (I suspect BT means business transformation)
  5. Pathfinder Day 2
  6. Programme Approach
  7. HR
  8. Finance
  9. Assurance
  10. Security
  11. Comms (Communications)
  12. Stakeholder
  13. Supplier

With the exception of point 1 these are typically referred to a work streams. The idea is that each of the workstreams goes along their merry way cooperating with each other to deliver the programme. The reality of this approach with any complex programme is that it always goes horribly wrong.

If you look at points 2 to 5 then it is utterly focused on the IT. The plan looks like something to produce a software product of some sort. There is no mention of culture change, process engineering (this should be done before any software is produced) and the biggest issue of all people! This covers the claimants, DWP employees, Council Employees, Welfare Advisors and so on. They are just expected to magically learn and make it work. The trouble is human beings don’t work that way.

Part of the issue is that the DWP employees working on UC at the time hadn’t ever done anything like this before so didn’t have a clue. The put people in roles (e.g. programme manager, programme office manager etc) but they hadn’t done it before and had just been sent on a training course.

I’ve been doing this stuff for 30 years and I would have struggled to get UC up and running (and I’m very good at this aspect of complex programmes). Bringing in someone like Howard Shiplee was always going to fail. I’ve run programmes involving a lot of construction and it’s a different world and a totally different mindset. I suspect if you looked at the approach used for construction during the London Olympic build it wouldn’t look dissimilar to this plan. With construction the focus is generally on design and then build (known as D&B). The key factor is the supply chain and can the main contractor get the materials and people on site on time and in the right order. If you look at the plan again I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see the left hand side of the dark vertical as ‘design’ and the right hand side as ‘build’. This is what Howard Shiplee understood and it was so deeply ingrained I doubt he could have done anything else.

In respect of the pathfinder system released at Wigan it was a cobbled together lobotomised version of the IT that would ultimately be required for the complete UC. At this stage of the programme IDS knew the IT was fundamentally flawed, hence the talk of large sums being written off at the time. He also knew that they had to start over again but couldn’t admit that as it would be politically disastrous. Therefore, they rolled out the lobotomised version that only covered a small subset of people claiming JSA and claimed success. While this version was being rolled out painfully slowly the DWP was working desperately to produce a brain new IT system that ultimately will be the UC IT System.

Personally I think the new IT system will also fail. The methodology (Agile) as it’s been used by the DWP means that too much has been done in isolation. The system is going to be extremely complex and as bugs appear I’m not convinced the DWP will be able to find out the cause and then develop a solution that doesn’t result and another problem.

Kind Regards

John”

Universal credit full service for all types of claimants continues to roll out to plan. It is now being delivered in 50 jobcentres and is the Department’s first fully digital service.

We have been exploring how this technology can, for the first time, offer a simple system of explicit consent (to protect the large amounts of claimant personal information held under universal credit) but which is easy to use and takes advantage of the opportunities a digital service can offer. Such a system can be used by third parties and stakeholders representing claimants’ interests, enhancing the service that they can provide for the most vulnerable.

However, it is clear MPs engaging on their constituents’ behalf need constant access to such a system through which they can help their constituents. Today, I have agreed that the implicit consent approach which operates well for all other DWP benefits can be extended to MPs representing the interests of their constituents who are engaging with or directly claiming universal credit. We can offer this because of our pre-existing relationships between MPs’ offices, district managers and their teams. This is something which cannot pertain for inquiries from other sources.

This means any correspondence—letter, email, or telephone inquiries—from MPs on behalf of a constituent relating to universal credit will be answered directly, without a requirement to seek explicit consent from their constituent. This will ensure consistency and clarity for MP offices, no matter what benefit the inquiry is about.

Extending this support for MPs and their constituents will continue to help enable the successful delivery of this key welfare reform programme.

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2017 at 10:57 am