On the day of the reshuffle the DWP put out its independent report into the way the bedroom tax is working. It's a process known as burying bad news. But it was noticed, particularly by the Liberal Democrats, who decided that it was just too bad to defend any longer. And it's that, unfortunately, which has been the news story, rather than the contents of the report itself. Let's skip the politics and look at the facts.
You can read it all here - "Evaluation of Removal of Spare Room Subsidy". There's a lot of it, so you might like to copy most of the media and just look at the Key Findings from page 15. Crucial is the fact that only 4.5% of affected claimants have moved "within the social sector" in the first 6 months of the reduction, with another 1.4% moving to the private rented sector. There's nowhere to move to. Most people said that they had done more to find work or better-paid work (well, they would, wouldn't they?) but hardly anybody had taken in a lodger. 41% of tenants have paid the full shortfall, 39% have paid some, and 20% have paid none. Where have people got the money to pay the extra? 57% say they have had to cut back on essentials (like food) and 26% had had to borrow money.
And on it goes. The RSRS (as the report calls it) is a massive failure, as everyone except IDS and Freud predicted, and all it has achieved is to plunge poor people into greater penury. The BBC got a quote from Iain Duncan Smith: "This department is delivering some of the biggest welfare reforms in over 60 years, designed to return fairness to the system and we are on track to make the £6bn savings we had previously set out. At the same time we are helping to make sure our housing benefit reforms have a transformative effect on the lives of those who in the past were faced with a system which trapped people into cycles of workless and welfare dependency. The scaremongering by those opposed to our welfare reforms - in particular our housing benefit reforms - has been proven to be without substance, and we are already seeing the effects of people moving into work." The risible DWP Press Office chaps tweeted desperately in similar vein. But the Lib Dems decided that they couldn't defend it.
There was some barely-noticed news on the outsourcing front. The contract for electronic tagging of offenders, previously held by G4S and Serco (both of which were found to have defrauded the taxpayer of millions) has gone to - wait for it - Capita! Some asked why Capita; why does it always have to be these three? But it's an inevitable part of the outsourcing business. If you create huge contracts only the big firms can bid, and it was these three which were prepared to bid for everything.
One lot of contracts of interest to many is Community Work Placements. But CWP doesn't seem to be going well. The Boycott Workfare team is doing a great job of publicising companies and organisations which agree to take part by taking free labour. One was recently claimed by the government as a success, providing a photo-op for Osborne. It quickly decided to withdraw when it discovered the trouble it was attracting. It looks like the CWP contractors are targeting councils and housing associations for placements, if Seetec is anything to go by. They say, "Examples of such projects include estate maintenance and local renovation, groundswork, horticulture, recycling as well as administration, customer service and sales, warehousing, distribution and cleaning services. The list of potential projects is almost endless." Sadly, it will be tempting for cash-strapped councils to go for this. Presumably they can adapt the hi-viz jackets they use for Community Payback offenders on similar projects.