Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Porter

Universal Credit Shambles, Channel Four and Radio Four.

Iain Duncan Smith Owns Up to Failure (not).

Last night (Monday October the 27th) two important programmes were shown on Welfare ‘reform’.

Both  left a deep impression.

The second was perhaps the most revealing – it was by Jonathan Porter, former DWP chief Economist, former chief Economist at the Cabinet Office (Note word ‘former’).

Inside Welfare Reform. (Radio Four) basically laid bare the crumbling wreck that is Universal Credit.

Writing in the Guardian on the same say day Porter says,

This decade’s flagship programme – the integration of the six major working-age benefits intouniversal credit – is far behind schedule, with tens of millions of pounds of IT investment already written off and much more to come. The NAO’s verdict has been damning, describing weak management, ineffective control, and poor governance, with both ministers and civil servants coming in for severe criticism. External experts – most of whom supported the principles behind universal credit – are unsure of whether the system can ever be made to work, even several years late.

But this is far from the worst of the failures. The collapse of the department’s contract with Atos to reassess incapacity benefit claimants means perhaps half a million remain in limbo. The suffering of individual claimants misclassified by Atos and DWP – in some cases left literally starving – has been well-publicised. Less so has been the cost to taxpayers. But the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Welfare Trends report, published last week, shows an upward revision of £3bn a year in spending on incapacity benefits – entirely attributable to delays and mismanagement.

What went wrong? There is lots of blame to go round. But the evidence points to a combination of hubris on the part of Iain Duncan Smith, a reluctance by civil servants to push back against unrealistically ambitious timetables, and arbitrary, Treasury-driven spending cuts.

Porter is obviously somebody with a certain dry wit.

He allowed some Tory golden boy to say exactly the opposite, that Iain Duncan Smith was the biggest success story of the government.  That he stood out as a shining example of Conservative radical purpose. The he had driven down unemployment. That his legacy would stand for ….(I gave up listening).

There is a word for people like that, “contrarian” – saying the opposite of what everyone expects, in order to stand out.

King Canute – pioneer of fight against rising sea levels.

Attila the Hun  – vegan and early Green.

Margaret Thatcher – Poll Tax her biggest achievement.

But this is digression.

Porter talks of the misery created by eform to the disability benefit system, ” angry claimants, disgruntled staff, a contractor who wants to escape as quickly as possible, and mounting costs for taxpayers.”

This would be applied to the effects of Universal Credit’s Pilot schemes.

We know that there is now “no deadline” for the  over 7 million people who were planned to go on the scheme.

Channel Four investigated the experience of some of the few thousand being experimented on now.


A leaked staff memo at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appears to show the government is still struggling to roll out its flagship welfare programme, universal credit (UC), across the UK.

The memo, seen by the Guardian and titled: “Ideas please: Sinking”, appears to be a plea from a jobcentre manager to her staff for solutions to tackle an ever-growing workload brought about by the new system for delivering social security to more than 7 million people.

The internal email, sent in late September and uncovered by Channel 4’s Dispatches as part of an investigation into UC to air on Monday evening, appears to show that one of the 60 centres where the scheme has been rolled out is generating such a substantial backlog of claims, centre staff will have to work three times more than their limit to clear it.

Benefits Britain indeed showed these, harrowing cases.

Liz MacKean reports from Warrington, where claimants have been trying out the new benefit for a year. It’s meant to simplify claims and offer seamless support to people moving in and out of short-term and low-paid work.

Dispatches meets some claimants who say the new system, far from simplifying things for them, has been making basic errors and leaving them at risk of losing their homes or having to choose between paying the rent or feeding their children.

It took three months for Universal Credit staff to process one couple’s claim, and they ended up with over £2000 of debt. Nicky, who is pregnant, tells Dispatches that some days she goes without so that she can make sure her four-year-old is properly fed.

Three things particularly stuck out (for me).

  • Paying people’s rent to them and not the landlord. They say it’s to make people responsible for themselves, dealing with money like somebody in paid work. But welare payments are nothing like paid work. You constantly striuggle. The potential for cock ups, and, frankly, using the money to pay of another debt, is obvious.
  • Council Tax – which we have to pay an increasingly hefty chunk of, without any extra money to do so. Universal credit will make thsi worse by obliging you to make a separate claim for the shrinking level of Council Tax benefit. Benefits Britain found claimants who hadn;t got to grips with this. What a surprise….
  • Work Coaches – apparently the DWP  are actually using the coachy-coachy word. Really!

Both programmes were excellent.


I was going to watch a repeat of Star Trek the Next Generation.

Now in that series they’ve got rid of money and unemployment completely.

A lot more than Iain Duncan Smith will ever do.