I have blogged before about IDS's failures, as have a great many people. There's an excellent piece on the Labour Left website which lists "Iain Duncan Smith's 100 biggest failures". It's a heroic effort, well worth study. But let's distil it into the most obvious areas where his ambition has far exceeded his competence.
- The Work Programme. This was the first of IDS's grand schemes to be put in place. It was going to solve unemployment; and the most revolutionary aspect of it was "payment by results". But it was never that. The providers were guaranteed an "attachment fee" which would keep them going if they did nothing; and they were able to look forward to an "incentive" payment even if they failed badly. And fail badly they did. After 4 years it's clear that job outcomes (below even the minimum performance demanded and way below the providers' promises) depend on the economy and not on anything the companies do. Helping to drag down the WP is:-
- ESA. The companies were never going to be able to help those on ESA into work. Indeed, most have been parked. And overall, the companies have spent less than half the amount per client which they promised. Remember, they get contracts because of the promises made in the bid documents. And now they've got contracts to scoop up the people they've failed into:-
- Community Work Placements. Okay, these appear not to have actually started yet. But that's because a huge chunk of the voluntary sector want nothing to do with them, and a growing number of councils have also refused to take part.
There were a number of other, almost incidental, schemes along the way which have also been disasters, notably
- The bedroom tax. (Let's face it, no one was ever going to call it "the removal of the spare room subsidy".) It has cost councils a fortune, saved no one any money and inflicted huge distress and misery on thousands.
- Universal Jobmatch. This was, it seems, entirely IDS's baby. A grand one-stop-shop for employers and jobseekers alike which would have the added advantage of monitoring the activities of claimants. The contract was given to a company with a poor record but which claims that much of what went wrong with UJM could have been prevented - but they were told not to put the necessary refinements into the software. The system has been used to control and punish claimants without ever being the wondrous solution IDS envisaged. But its costs are enormous.
- The sanctions regime. A ludicrously impractical "claimant commitment" has been coupled with a vicious imposition of punishments which breach people's human rights. Yet time and again IDS and his ministers have simply lied about sanctions; McVey repeated again this week in Parliament that they are "a last resort". The human cost is appalling.
The biggest failure of all, however, is:-
- Universal Credit. This was to be the lasting legacy of Iain Duncan Smith, transforming "welfare". At the outset opposition parties said yes, great idea, but it's never been done because it's too difficult. Not for IDS, though. Millions have been spent on IT that didn't work, more millions on trying a different IT system, and on patching up the problems thrown up by the very limited trials of UC. We needn't rehearse all the problems. But through them all IDS has insisted that it will all be fine.
We're told that it's Osborne who is keen to get IDS out because the Chancellor wants to slash the welfare budget and IDS resists that. We're also told (in the Mail today) that Smith will again refuse to go. This man's failures have cost us dear. Surely he must go.