Sunday, 24 February 2013

A difficult time for IDS

It can't be easy for Iain Duncan Smith at the moment.
His party spent 13 years in opposition, planning what they would do when they finally got their hands on power again.  Several of them decided to become experts (in their own eyes, at least) on particular subjects, and developed grandiose ideas about how to "reform" that area; Lansley with the NHS (he didn't last long); Gove with education (still there but making a colossal mess); and of course IDS with work and pensions.  It was particularly important for IDS.  Having failed as party leader, he was determined that his political legacy was going to be the "reform" of the entire welfare system.  But it's not going well.  One after another, his plans have hit the rocks.
  • The Work Programme - intended to be the panacea for unemployment, it's been a dismal failure.  £400 million was spent by taxpayers in the first 14 months to achieve nothing. Unless there's been an amazing improvement in recent months, it will have to be changed, but the pressure will increase to scrap it altogether.  All the warning signs were there from the outset, but IDS refused to listen.
  • Work Capability Assessments - causing huge misery.  And now we learn that the number of successful appeals is rising, to 42% in the last quarter.  Yet Atos got part of the contract to do the same job with people on disability benefits.
  • Universal Credit - still on track, apparently, but a new man has been brought in to manage the project.  When the risks were pointed out - that a very large number of people wouldn't be able to cope with it, and there would be a dangerous shambles - IDS refused to listen, claiming that those people would just have to learn.  Now he has had to produce a "framework" to handle the problems, pushing the onus onto local councils.
  • Universal Jobmatch - the super-duper website was going to kill two birds with one stone.  It would collect all the job vacancies into one site, and it would enable JCP and WP advisers to snoop on their clients' activities.  But the website itself is far from perfect, and despite announcing a few months ago that registration and conceding access was going to be compulsory, IDS has had to accept that it isn't possible without a struggle to change the law.
  • Work for your benefit schemes - judged by the appeal court to have been put in place illegally, necessitating a hasty drafting of new regulations whilst IDS insists that no compensation will be paid to people who were punished for not attending these schemes while they were unlawful.  Wrong advice.
  • The Bedroom Tax, or whatever its official name is - warned that it would be Cameron's poll tax, IDS insists that it's fair.  But faced with growing evidence of its unacceptable impact on the disabled, he has directed his people to look at ways of changing the rules.
We were told that Cameron tried to reshuffle IDS away from Work and Pensions, but he refused to go.  He hates to be thwarted or disagreed with over his policies.  His department has made more than 20 formal complaints to the BBC in the last year over "bias" and "inaccuracies".  According to the Telegraph, "Aides say coverage of welfare reforms often feature only the plight of people who will suffer most from the changes, while measures to soften the blow often go unreported."  It goes on, "Over the past few months, Mr Duncan Smith has been particularly angered by the reporting of the housing benefit reforms referred to as 'the bedroom tax' by Labour and the BBC."  Then, "A source said, 'You could look at the BBC’s TV news coverage [of this policy] and think this was a change that would apply only to disabled people.  We have allocated £155 million for local authorities to help soften the blow of the measure, but this never features in the BBC’s news coverage. How is it possible not to think that is biased?'"
Long may the BBC and the rest of the media continue to highlight the failing policies of this man.


  1. I think that Ian Duncan-Smiths cabinet career is hinging on the introduction of the Universal Credit. If there are major problems when it is implemented then I think the decision will be made that IDS has to go.

    The main reason why Ian Duncan-Smith is in the Cabinet is to keep the right wing of the Conservative party happy. This is the reason why David Cameron wasn't able to move him to another department in the last reshuffle.

    But if you were a Conservative Prime Minister and your political enemies were on the right of your own party, wouldn't you put Duncan-Smith in a prominent position? You put a person that you know is incompetent into a department dealing with section of the electorate that will never vote for you, and you despise anyway. Then you stand back and watch as Ian Duncan-Smith makes an utter mess of things. This then discredits the whole of the right-wing and and makes them look bad.

    When it all goes disastrously wrong Cameron can hold up his hands and claim that he had no choice other than to give IDS a free hand, and that he had tried to get rid of him but that the right wing wouldn't let him.

  2. The amount of money that has been squandered on the Work Programme alone is hard to swallow. I have recently started attending this farce with A4e- one of our first sessions is going to be on 'managing benefits money', which we have to attend regardless of personal circumstances. Whilst I recognise that some people may find it useful, the session will be of next to no use to me because I only claim JSA! The letter mandating me to attend tells me to bring along information about my rent, as well as housing and council tax benefit, which of course I don't have. So, from the outset there has been no attempt to provide 'training' appropriate to individual needs.

    There should be more of an outcry about the large amount of public money IDS has squandered on the Work Programme. As for the Bedroom Tax, well that is a disaster waiting to happen.

    1. Ask one question of the "adviser" leading this session: What qualifications do you have to give out advice on money matters ?

      If you have any concerns about privacy and personal data, refuse to share the requested information with A4e until such time as your concerns have been satisfactorily addressed....

      Whilst serving sentence under the auspices of A4e, I overheard a client discussing what I considered personal financial arrangements - I had no desire to hear such conversation, but as it was within a few feet, it was unavoidable. This incident was reported to the DWP as a breach of client confidentiality (along with notes arising from staff openly discussing another client's criminal record) - Sat back and watched the proverbial hitting the fan...

      Would you want your financial affairs to be common knowledge amongst those that attend this session ?

    2. It's not necessary for you to bring along that info. I was just told I had to attend a money advice session (my A4E office sends you along individually) and didn't take anything along with me. It wasn't needed anyway. All the guy does is type your info into the HMRC website. And I didn't need to go either, the man couldn't understand why I had been sent.

      Plus, as anonymous says, your financial affairs are your private data and shouldn't be discussed in a group. Tell A4E that you have no intention of handing it out and mention data protection

    3. I wonder if this new found obsession with individual finance has anything to do with A4e's providing staff and premises for the Money Advice Service?
      I was sounded out about joining the MAS by A4e (unlike most of their advisers I am well qualified to give financial advice)but I declined the invitation. I wonder if A4e get paid for each person referred?

    4. I think they must do as I said I had seen their money adviser previously (I don't know if he was with MAS or not, it was almost 2 years ago now) and so saw no need to see another as the first hadn't been able to give me any useful information. I was told the new one was much better.

      I have no idea whether he was much better because there was no need for me to see either of them as I have no problems managing my money and am quite capable of working out whether I will be better off in work or not by myself. Waste of my time, his time and their money because they refunded my travel.

  3. "We were told that Cameron tried to reshuffle IDS away from Work and Pensions, but he refused to go."

    Good for Cameron but what has Ian Duncan Smith got on Cameron to be allowed to continue I wonder?

  4. Incidentally Westminster recently has been criticised for having moved families out of their large homes, putting them into luxury four star hotels and not rehousing them after the mandatory six weeks .....

  5. The main bullet points on this page should be bookmarked and read out whenever anyone of us gets a chance to challenge a govt minister or their apologists on a phone-in at any point.

    That's if the likes of Smith or Hoban have the guts to actually take part!

  6. I’m a voter in the forthcoming Eastleigh by-election on Thursday 28 Feb 2013 (ie this week.),_2013

    The defending Lib-Dems and the wannabe Tories are in a two horse race for the Eastleigh seat. I think that the outcome in Eastleigh will probably be pivotal to what happens during the remaining life of the present Coalition, given that only one of the horses can win on Thursday.

    IDS’ various “pet projects” are doomed to disaster because the designs of all of them are useless and the Work Programme scheme (together with all of the sub-schemes flowing from the “umbrella” WP scheme are of doubtful legality, given the Court of Appeal’s uncompromising attitude towards them recently.)

    IDS is determined to try to bluster his way out of trouble about this but the Supreme Court has far more experience than he has of dealing with blustering pollies.

    FWIW, I’m hoping that the Lib-Dems will keep Eastleigh and that the Lib-Dems will then get the Tories under proper control at the Parliamentary level, in order to insist on preventing the Tories from wrecking the Welfare State.

  7. One wonders what IDS and Vince Cable has on this government.

  8. universal credit is a timebomb. does anybody know how much people will actually get? it's impossible to find any confirmed figures online. and if it's going live in a couple of months, the unemployed will need time to budget

    1. This is quite a comprehensive account of Universal Credit, including the amounts paid.

    2. I don't think time is the issue; lack of money to budget with has always been the problem. IDS is playing with fire.

  9. IDS argues the BBC never covers the measures he takes to soften the blow of draconian policies. I argue there wouldn't be such measures unless organisations like the BBC did what they do and held him to account.

  10. I was in Bristol central library today, using their rather lackluster computers.

    If people are going to need this service in order to sign on, Bristol, like most I imagine, will have to find the money to improve their service. It's over subscribed and the computers are sub par and very slow. I sincerely doubt their staff are trained in Universeal Credit/benfit issues. Disaster.


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