back to article New dole system is 'digital by default', like it or not

Universal credit – the government's "new and improved" benefits system – will be the first major government service to be digital by default. This is according to Steve Dover, director of major programmes at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Dover says: "There will be a back office to deal with the more vulnerable in …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "just think of a contact centre, but it has got no people in it and think of an operating model that has got no back office"

    Ah, like HMRC then.

  2. ACx

    So, claimants will need internet access. Does this "universal credit" pay for that? What happens is a kiddie in the house hold gets busted under these new anti piracy laws and the connection gets cut off?

    The gov need to be careful here. If their services can only be reasonably accessed by the web, then sooner or later there will be called to hand out free connection that cant be cut off.

    1. stu 4
      WTF?

      tough shit then

      why should I be paying for some crims' broadband ?

      and why the feck is aforementioned crim getting cash from the government anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "and why the feck is aforementioned crim getting cash from the government anyway."

        Because is we don't give 'crims' any benefits they will be forced to burgle your house just to feed themselves and their family.

        But I guess you're fine with that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        bigotted twit

        Article's example was, some "kiddie" in the household, i.e. one of the other inhabitants. So, if your son or daughter or house sharer or simply visitor does something without your knowledge or consent, you are a "crim" are you?

        These people are on the edge all ready. Presumably you will not be happy until bare-foot beggars are a normal part of British street scenes and, as in the USA, a simple stroke of fate such as serious illness or accident or unemployment for more than a fortnight can see you selling your house and falling into poverty, with your children. Oh, and I take it you will pay for the internet access and computer, with a support contract is its guaranteed availability is no longer a luxury.

        No doubt you grew up with the benefit of free education, health, child benefit and the safety net in case you or your parents fell ill, lost their jobs. But, being the good soul you are, let's remove all that as only criminals and scroungers get benefits.. No doubt we should bring back the Victorian Poor Law. The Beadle in Oliver Twist is your hero.

        Ugh.

      3. Alfred

        register

        Crikey, have they finally done it and made unemployment a crime? Anyway, if the alternative is paying for his travel costs to the dole centre, an internet connection might be the cheaper alternative.

      4. Cameron Colley

        Which "crim" would this be?

        Perhaps stu 4 can enlighten us as to which criminal offence has supposedly been comitted by the OPs hypothetical family?

        1. ScottAS2

          Re: Which "crim" would this be?

          Isn't it obvious: being poor. Soon to be outlawed so there's one less thing in Cameron's Britain to offend the Chipping Norton Set.

    2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      They've already done this with the Home Access Scheme.

      1. Alhazared
        FAIL

        Which they closed in Nov 2010

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08/10/home_access_scheme_dropped/

  3. david 63

    What could possibly go wrong...

    ...see title.

  4. david 63

    I might have been harsh...

    ...congratulations whoever got them away from waterfall.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Stop

      Congratulate them after something is delivered that works. It doesnt matter what the dev methodology if the end result is crap.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WooHoo and thank you

    The improvement in the services from the DWP is to be commended.

    The first great innovation was paying benefit into a bank account, especially child benefit where the status checks are so low. No need to ever present yourself at a post office.

    They also got rid of most of their Fraud Officers a few years ago.

    Now claiming by the Internet, this is just the icing on the cake.

    Praise Be

    John Smith

    Lagos.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a cheaper solution...

    I'll take off in my blimp and periodically throw handfuls of loose change down at the peasantry! If we herd them into an enclosed area we can turn it into a spectators' sport! Sell TV rights, tickets to the events...

    Finally they might earn the money they are given.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They had to bring in outside help????????

    They have an army of people in the Corporate IT directorate, not one of them had the skills for this?

    There's more people managing the the outsourcers now in CIT than when they did it in-house under ITSA.

    "Agile? Wasssat?" There's too many dead-wood paper-pushers in CIT that are bloody useless and shouldn't be allowed near a filing cabinet and certainly not an IT project!

    I see Joe Harley's really has done so well in his tenure, getting CIT where it needs to be to deliver a world class service. Crock of shite!

    And now his remit is bigger than before

    we're dooooooooomed

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nonsense

      4000 people under ITSA down to 228 after the latest round of redundancies?

      Check yer maths out matey

  8. Jemma

    Sigh

    I am wondering if the chinless wonders who've come up with this have the remotest clue?

    Many people on benefits can barely manage to pay food and heating, im sure they're bouncing for joy about this.

    Not to mention those who dont have a computer will be down the libraries to 'use' it there. You know, the places that think patches are something you wear at the elbow... And that netscape is the latest in technology

    The really fun part? Taxpayers will be paying twice - once to set it up, and once to pay for the damage.

    ...For everything else, theres COMMON SENSE.

    1. Colin Millar
      Big Brother

      Libraries?

      A lot fewer of those around these days.

      Big Brother says - if you are poor, disposessed, unrepresented and marginalised - well done for practicing for the future - have a banana.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What libraries?

        The ones being closed to save money, while moaning about decreasing literacy?

        So sad to see a once civilised, tolerant country descending into the Americanised abyss and Gradgrind penny-pinching.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What libraries?

          The demise of libraries is a symptom and not the cause.

          The real culprit is the like of facebook and twitter where kids get their culture via 'memes' and in 140 character slices.

          If it were up to me I would insist that all posts to social media were treated the same as they would in a spell checker and posted with all miss-spellings underlined in red.

          You could even add a dunce cap icon if you were feeling particularly mischievous.

  9. JimC
    WTF?

    > professional facilitation of agile elaboration workshops

    Surely the phrase of the week. I don't thjink I'd be able to say "professional facilitation of agile elaboration workshops" and keep a straight face...

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      We could probably save a small, but welcome, fraction of our taxes by getting rid of anyone paid to come up with contorted language like that.

  10. Alastair Dodd 1
    Thumb Up

    Agile? Thanks god

    at least it may actually be some good and deliver what is needed unlike all Waterfall/Prince2 crap they have been screwing up merrily for the past two decades.

    In response to those who obviously haven't been in a dole office in the past 5 years, they all have several internet kiosks and under this will have more for those without their own access. Those with won't have to waste their time trekking into the office to have a piece of paper signed. In short I think this is a GREAT idea.

  11. Ian Chard
    Stop

    'professional facilitation of agile elaboration workshops'

    I'm willing to bet that no-one, not even the author of that document, knows what that phrase means.

    Presumably they just hire people who say 'yeah baby, I'll facilitate the crap out of those agile elaboration workshops, and professionally too'.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Evil Auditor

      Presumably, they mean daily scrum*, but that would require some explanations as well and doesn't sound like it's been agilely elaborated in a professional facilitation workshop.

      *or whichever the agile project management flavour of the day is.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        To judge from my experience "elaboration" is a boring phase that comes between specification and development (I expect these two had special polysyllabic names, too, but I couldn't stay awake long enough to find out).

        The idea was to turn a statement of requirements into something that could be built and, more important, tested. Quite a few requirements would be thrown out because they were non-testable and therefore vaporous.

        "Facilitation" of course is the same as making something easier, except that it costs a lot more.

    3. Detective Emil
      Headmaster

      Pah, eurmbeurg

      I often find myself telling francophone colleagues that they are "developing" stuff, not "elaborating" it. How can I convince them if people like Mr. Dover (think of those white cliffs, man!) come out with logorrhoea like this?

      1. Steve the Cynic

        That'll be...

        ... because both you and your colleagues are unaware that the correct English translation for French "elaborer" is not "to elaborate". The technical term in linguistics is "false friend" and they abound between closely related languages like French and English. Here's a selection of other apparently similar French words that do not have the same meaning in English:

        "demander" == "to ask" (e.g. a question) and not the stronger "to demand"

        "actuel" == "current" and not "actual"

        "deception" == "disappointment" and not ""deception"

        "terminer" == "to finish" and not the full sense of English "to terminate"

        "commander" == "to order" (as in a restaurant) and not "to command" in its sense of "give orders" (pun, yes, deliberate, yes)

        "dégradé" can have a sense that has nothing whatever to do with "degraded".

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would this new online service also include google analytics, tracking scripts and other nastiness as most government websites seem to do these days?

    With the met office now showing adverts on their website it's not impossible to imagine the DWP doing the same sort of thing here. Imagine adverts for Ocean finance or Wonga.com appearing next to the form to claim benefits.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      See the ads now....

      "Not getting your due worth from the Government? Then call this free number today! Let us fight to get you more money from the tax payer!"

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One other thing: the HMRC portal for e-filing has shown itself to be quite flaky on occasion. On a number of occasions now it has returned HTML despite the standard that HMRC themselves had come up with saying that it should return XML.

    What reason does anybody have to think that this won't be just as flaky and won't have problems withstanding the demand placed upon it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do you mean "should" return XML or "must" return XML. If it's "should", it's not even a bug.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Must. Not should.

        Anything else would not make sense in this context.

        From the looks of things the HTML concerned is the sort generated by IIS to show a generic .net error page.

      2. Andus McCoatover
        Windows

        Shall.

        That'll sort it. It's absolutely going to happen.

        (Judge)

        "The prisomer should go to jail"

        "The prisoner must go to jail"

        "The prisoner shall go to jail"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Again with the downvoting.

      And for those of you that think the government is capable of learning it's lessons just look at this article from 2005 and their reaction to EDS's apparent failure to provide adequate systems. The subsequent course of action? The DWP hires EDS for more work of course...

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/12/05/hmrc_credit_portal/

      IT experience within government is sorely lacking. The goverment often seem to rely on the private sector and they seem to like nothing more than being given the opportunity to screw the tax payer.

      Incidentally going back to the HMRC it seems that portal had been subcontracted out to a thrid party, and it would be likely for the same to happen with the DWP systems too. HMRC are very hesitant it seems to get problems fixed, and I'm guessing that this is because the subcontractor that built the service charges more for such fixes (yet more incentive to provide a bad service - http://dilbert.comhttp://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1995-12-06/).

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Got to keep the queues down to manageable levels

    Otherwise it looks bad, you see.

  15. Paul_Murphy

    Heaven help...

    The disabled, those with learning difficulties, people that just can't use a computer - or find the process of using one fearful.

    I wonder if there will be people left to actually offer advice, or will the system rely on the claimants knowing what they are entitled to.

    ttfn

    1. riparian zone
      Facepalm

      there are those that won't, those that can't and those that can't and won't

      After training in the community for UK*nline for nearly 7 years, I think I've seen how the demographic lies. A lot of people are going to be screwed.

      No one talks about being able to read, never mind using a freaking computer...?!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the people that need this thing most...

    ... are shunted off to the slow path?

    Because, you know, the people that don't need it much are so much easier to cater for, and can be made to jump through all the hoops requiring fancy machinery, saving pennies on entry and exit costs in the full process execution.

    Sounds like the newest government approach to this "digital" thing is not to horribly fail in execution but to get that right (enough for government work), only to find that the resulting machinery of highly integrated systems and properly trained civil servants might be delivering something, but not at all what they're supposed to deliver.

    Because really, if the process inside the service is well-regulated, then it can deal with electronic, paper, or in-person submission with little difference and will respect citizens' wishes about how to be contacted. Not understanding this is a failure of understanding how to build your own processes.

  17. mitch 2

    I have facilitated your workshop. Pray I don't facilitate it any further!

    1. JudeKay (Written by Reg staff)

      Re:

      As mum would say: I'll facilitate YOU in a minute!

  18. TechnicianJack
    FAIL

    So does that mean that Devvo and Dazza can start receiving benefits without even having to go to the job centre? They may aswell have a web page with a big button that says CLICK HERE FOR FREE MONEY! As per usual, making it easier to milk the benefits cow, while nobody wants to feed it.

    1. Yesnomaybe

      See...

      .....http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/03/thick_kids_racist/

    2. Mark 65

      They'll be able to update their Facebook status to "just claiming benefits"

  19. Irongut Silver badge
    Mushroom

    professional facilitation of agile elaboration workshops

    Aaaaarrrgh! Cthulu has risen!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smirk

    I like the idea of the "unmployment office" doing just that...

    "The starting point, I said to our telephony collaboration teams based in Newcastle, was just think of a contact centre, but it has got no people in it and think of an operating model that has got no back office, and start from there," said Dover.

    So yeah...at least they'll have "customers" waiting to test the new system :/

    Though, if history is anything to go by, they'll forgo the testing and maybe even the rollout :)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "web-enabled internet channel"

    At a time when so many are unemployed, why do people who spout crap like this still have a job?

  22. Andrew Jones 2
    Thumb Down

    Oh dear...

    I know most of the people who work in the Jobcentres have absolutely no interest in your welfare or their job - but I assume the end result of this scheme is to make a good 80-90% of them unemployed too?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How will this affect the homeless?

  24. Triggerfish

    Flawed idea

    I'd like to see all of the geniuses who come up with this idea, made to work on the front end for a change. Get them answering calls dealing with people at the front line who are relying on these benefits, then see if a automated IT system is such a good idea, or wether it makes more sense to actually have people who have some understanding on the benefits sytems and who are trained to help people. (Yes before you say it I know some dont care, but some do actually make an effot I say this as someone who worked in a bens office for a period of time).

    Having an automated systems fails in a few ways for me.

    1. You need access to the equipment, daily mail aside a lot of people on benefits may not actually have the equipment to access the online site, or may not be able to afford the cost to do so.

    Libraries all very well, if they are local (if not you may have to pay to get to them), often not set up right, limits on time you can use it, what you can run etc.

    2. You need to be able to use the net, yes this is a geek site so there may be a lot of scoffing. But I would bet for everyone that has a it was easy to teach my gran/ mum etc to use the net theres a dozen people who have silently mentally planned murder of loved ones.

    3. The people most likely to be effected by this are the people who probably need the most help.

    4. Theres also a lot of bloody annoying people who probably could use it, but will tie up the now limited phone lines because why should they.

    5. Its being run by the goverment so its likely to be a model of incompetences from the start.

  25. Paul Hayward
    FAIL

    Online by default?

    What about the masses of 'evidence' the benefit offices always ask for?

    Wage slips from partners, ID and so on. Will these be read by machines as well?

    That's what backoffice staff spend their time doing, hunting through mounds of crap to find the one detail the person was actually asked for.

  26. Triggerfish

    RE online by default

    Usually a benefits assesment goes something like this.

    Staff at frontline gather information (this is the bit that will be web based).

    Claims once assembled go to benefits assesors who score them by points, so I guess that there will still have to be someone who actaully reads the applications and scores them otherwise it will become to easy to game the system.

    Problem is the benefits assesors never really deal with the frontline, to them its often just a points game and since they don't have to deal with actual joe public then it does not matter to them that someone gets turned down for something minor as they dont have to deal with it.

    This means people end up without any dole / rent for well I have seen months just because of someone being the equivalent of computer says no.

    Saw things like this often enough working for bens to be a bit cycnical about this system. Also the council who does housing and council tax benefits sometimes has the advisors on piecework eg you do this many pieces you get to finish, I've seen that put the benefits behind by several months for hundreds of people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Honesty isn't the best policy

      My own experience (thankfully a distant memory) with long-term unemployment is that the more honest you are the more likely you are to hit snags in the systems. 'Professional' dole-bludgers (a minority despise their appeal in the popular mind as the norm) know how to game the systems, but poor shmucks genuinely trying to take whatever crappy work they can find day-by-day invariably find themselves loosing out.

  27. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I think they've just managed a first... crossing a flying pig with a committee designed horse (camel)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh here we go again

    I used to work in the benefits office. We had shit tons of paperwork (case files) in metal cabinet draws overspilling everywhere. Much of the case files were out of alphabetical order or not there at all and hiding on/in/under someones desk. We had to wander around endlessly all day looking for them when they were more often than not not in the drawers. Heck I got into so much shit if I 'missed' it during one of my searches. The CEO's etc really treated you like shit and if you so much as farted you were pulled in for an interview and had a black mark put on your report.

    We once ran a barcaose system on them which was eventually scrapped (another complete waste of time and tax payers money). They were still using a modem coupler for sending data when everybody else had switched to email and other coms technology. The pleb in the IT department knew less than me. But if I tried to make a push for a post in the IT department I got stomped down every fucking time. It was not a case of what you know but who's arse you were licking.

    Anyhow one day we were asked to attend a meeting up North somewhere to discuss the installation of newfangles filing systems in the basement (The type you used a rotating level to move them with). We was all treated to a bang up meal with the managers after showing around their fancy factory where they built them. We went ahead and ordered a load of them to be installed at some considerable costs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oopsie!

      That should of course read 'HEO's (Higher Executive Officer)'. It's been a while.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh here we go again cont...

    Roll on a few months later once they were all installed. We are all carted in by the higher ups asking why we had wasted a large sum of the tax payers money on what was effectively a white elephant as it was far too much storage space for one office. We all bowed with our heads between our legs saying we were sweet talked into buying it buy this company and would not have done so if we had not been wined and dined.

    The office ended up as storage for several offices from then on. I don't know how that worked out because I left soon after that and all I can say is good riddance to it.

    Anyone working for the government in the lower echelons are treated like shit. I am of the strong belief that if you treat people like shit they will respond in kind and try every trick in the book not to do a good job.

    tl;dr government work is shit at the bottom so spare a thought for the poor frontliners.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hello, your webside dosent work on my computer

    Are you tech support?

    Cool, Im using my commadore 64 :) Its running linux you know

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't this require some kind of Digital Identity Assurance

    which I believe they just cancelled:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/22/dwp_pulls_back_identity_services_tender/

    I smell a nother massive Gov IT cockup about to happen

  32. Starkadder
    Meh

    Interesting Facts

    More than half the people living in social housing do not have internet access. Half the people living in social housing are disabled. Five million households are in social housing. Two thirds of households in social housing claim Housing Benefit, and most of these also claim Council Tax Benefit. Most, but I don't have a figure, social housing tenants are also claiming other benefits (disability, unemployment etc.). Do you see where this is going?

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