Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A damp squib

A lot of people were looking forward to Iain Duncan Smith's appearance in front of the Work and Pensions Committee, believing that there would be an interrogation that would skewer him and expose his sins.  Those people were always going to be disappointed.  By all accounts he got more and more bad-tempered under questioning.  When Glenda Jackson MP had a go at him he accused her of "conflating so many issues here, it's almost becoming risible".  (Yes, I'm sure we were all amused.)  Debbie Abrahams MP was accused of "moaning".  What she raised has only been reported, as far as I can see, in her local paper, the Oldham Evening Chronicle.  She has a whistle-blower, a JCP employee with 18 years experience, who told her about quotas for sanctions and how "claimants are being set up to fail to meet benefits criteria - without regard for justice or welfare".  IDS's response?  He is unaware of the claims.  "I would like to see the evidence for it.  He's making allegations about people who work very hard.  I'd be prepared to meet him to discuss it but there is someone in charge of this they should meet first.  If he's got an issue to raise I would want to know".  Well done for trying, Ms Abrahams, but this is yet another lie from IDS.
As for those dodgy statistics - it wasn't his fault.  Surprise, surprise.  It was actually Grant Shapps' fault.  Well, one story was, let's not talk about the others.
The main focus was on the progress, or lack of it, on Universal Credit.  He admitted to a write-off of £40m on the IT so far, but, hey, what's £40m when you're IDS?
Among all the accounts in the press, the one in the Spectator is the most informative.
One suspects that Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, would have given him a worse time and wound him up more spectacularly.  The PAC might even have raised the matter of sanctions, and all the cruelty being perpetrated by the DWP.  But in the end it wouldn't have changed anything.


  1. I’m not convinced that yesterday’s oral hearing was necessarily a damp squib. I watched it and it was obvious that Glenda Jackson doesn’t trust and doesn’t believe IDS or his amigos from the DWP.

    It was equally obvious that the DWP amigos knew they were going to have to do IDS’ dirty work for him, as usual. After all, they’ve had a close-up view of the way IDS treated Robert Devereux recently

    IDS was the soul of mendacity, as always, but I thought it was pretty obvious that none of the Cttee members were taken in. They know that his UC scheme is a fiasco, like all of his earlier schemes.

    If people simply pay out the rope, sooner or later IDS will hang himself with it. I suspect that this may be why the media seem to be waiting patiently.

  2. Watch the interesting body language and constant interruptions by IDS when his officials were speaking.

    The committee was being told that the £42 millions were being written off because some of the computer code did not work.

    BIGGER question here would be where was the Systems Analysis and Design Methodology ? Analysis of a system of this complexity and doing proper data flow diagrams are number one key to success. The management of data between subsystems is also important. Best practice is working out the whole system on paper before you start writing a single line of code. From the system analysis one can write specifications for each element of the code. Inputs , Decisions,Functions and Outputs. All this is basic programming practice.

    Yesterday, IDS and his team bluffed their way through the sessions and it is still not clear where the use of open source software comes into it. The issues over security for the 'Digital' version is a piece of utter nonsense. Banks and other business have overcome theses problems even though they are never perfect. They can be done.

    They seem to be trying to deal with people with single problems and solving the issues on a piecemeal basis. The greatest danger in doing it this way is the fact you can end up with a propriety system which you need to code tweak each time the law changes rather than a big picture system where you can change it through a central configuration.

    The main issue is they should have done a complete 'Big Picture' analysis and design FIRST.

    £42 Millions is a lot of money to write off on useless code.

    Of course this brings me to the question on the roll out. If proper System Analysis and Design was done IDS would have known how many modules and subsystems need to be coded and he would have also know how long each was going to take to written and test. He would have know how many teams of advisors and admin assistants would be required to be trained and the timescales for that.He would also know how much computing facilities would be required and the plan for roll out. Instead IDS and is advisors bluff their way through so called pilot scheme 'pathfinders' for select groups of a few folks and was not at all convincing in the process.

    The Universal Credit systems are in a utter shambles and IDS should be fired. Yesterday you saw IDS and his team in utter disarray. I would put this whole project in to RED ALERT and unfit for purpose.

    1. Sick of the Work Programme10 December 2013 at 11:26

      Yes, I thought that IDS's body language was rather awkward. He cleared his throat a great deal, and also seemed rather irritated by what the people questioning him were saying. It appears that now even the National Audit Office doesn't believe his claims: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/10/auditors-challenge-cost-universal-credit-it-problems

  3. I have been having a "spirited" conversation with two dwp people, apparently there are no sanctions targets.. and anyway it happened 2 years ago under labour... one of these guys used to be ok but now he works for the dwp.. and he has become rabid

  4. I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but, how, if anything, would IDS and the DWP benefit from delaying UC? Obviously, it can't be a matter of money, as they've already flushed a ship load of that down the sewer.

    Also, a thought came to mind earlier. Why is the DWP called the Department for WORK and Pensions? They're not the Jobcentre, so they have nothing to do with people getting into work. As far as I'm aware, all they handle is: pensions (really?!), WTC (I think) and welfare payments. Am I missing something, or is the name of that department wrong somehow? Feel free to enlighten me, as I'd really like to know.

    1. They're not deliberately delaying it. The delays have various causes, but incompetence sums it up.
      The DWP has gone by various names over the years, and hasn't been a separate department at times, but JCP does come under its remit.

    2. Thanks for the clarification, Historian.

      I guess it doesn't matter what reasons UC is being delayed for, unintentionally, of course, we all just know it will fail to be rolled out. It's just a matter of time before IDS and his people realise that they've spent too much time and wasted too much money on this project for it to go anywhere.

      Did you choose your name for a reason, or was it just something you liled, Historian. I'm guessing, if the former, you will know of another time in history when our government has made such a mess of a project. ;)

      Thanks again.

    3. As Historian says, JCP is now part of DWP. Until recently (2011?) it was an executive agency of DWP, a slightly different thing. Also, tax credits are administered by HMRC, although they will (in time) become part of UC, and thus come under DWP, where they should arguably have been all along. As Historian says, DWP has had various forms and names over the years. The 'W' element was introduced in 2001, partly as a result of restructuring and also to make an explicit point that its remit was very much about providing employment support and getting people into work rather than merely processing social security payments.

  5. For info,
    Re "Digital by default:"
    My (post-WP) signing clerk told me on Monday that the Star Trek-esque JobPoint machines are to be beamed out i.e. removed from JCPs Real Soon Now...
    Izzy x

    1. They'll be replaced with 'internet access devices' (i.e. PCs) with more functionality in due course.

  6. Amyas Morse of the National Audit Office is a very, very capable and experienced chartered accountant. The NAO is very critical of the way the DWP is trying to bury bad news about the public money wasted on the Universal Credit fiasco:


    The PM can ignore media comment but he can’t ignore the NAO.

    Cameron Minor should have considered the NAO instead of demonstrating his own immature penchant for prep schoolboy trivia during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, it seems to me.

  7. God article (misleading headline)

    1. Haha! Too early for me.
      Anyway I thought God was supposed to be a woman.

  8. The whole Universal Credit situation will roll on until 2017 at least, regardless of whoever wins the election in 2015. When has any politician admitted they are wrong?


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