back to article Universal Credit dole 'liable to be paralysed by IT cockups'

Benefit claimants could end up with nothing if the IT system for the new Universal Credit falls over or if they're just not that web-savvy, a report claims. The Universal Credit (UC) system is due to start replacing a whole bunch of government benefits for Brits from this time next year, but there's concerns that the superfast …


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  1. Gordon Pryra

    People not on the internet or unable to use it?

    They will just ask the IT guy at the company they are working for to do it for them, they can do it for them during their bi-weekly "sign on" break

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. wowfood

    Main concern

    For me at least, is their logic doesn't make sense. Well, in one respect anyway.

    When I was on JSA, I wanted a job, and I was looking but not finding. One of the things that drove me to look even harder though was how much I hated going in and talking to the condescending pricks who worked there as 'advisors' not to mention the paperwork.

    Now multiply that for child tax credits paperwork, housing benefits paperwork etc etc. There were bound to be some people out there too stupid, or lazy to fill out all the paperwork for all the benefits they would have gotten. Or they may have avoided some just because they like me hated how condescending people were.

    Take out the person to prick interaction, and you remove one of the things people hate most. Load it all under one benefit and you reduce the paperwork needed. Meaning more people are likely to sign on and stay signed on because it's less work to do so than ever before.

    I know on the other hand the people who need it more will have better access to the benefits they deserve. And where it's all in one place it could potentially eliminate a lot of government overhead. But on the other, the people abusing the system will have a far simpler time of doing so.

    I still wish people on JSA were forced to do some kind of work to earn the JSA. Haven't found a paying job in the last month? There are plenty of charities looking for helpers to work for free. So if you're stuck on JSA for a prolonged period of time, the amount should be lowered / cut completely unless they start doing some charity / volunteer work.

    Suddenly the people who do nothing but take (I know it isn't all, but it's the ones people get most annoyed with) are giving back to the community. It'd improve the local area, hopefully improve the attitudes of some of these people, give employers more reason to employ them (since charity work counts as work experience for some jobs) help the self esteem of some of the job seekers.

    And it'd help prevent fraud. Hear me out here. There are a portion of people who work cash in hand so they can still claim JSA, this may be as a home to home hairdresser, car cleaner, anything. If they have to do charity work say 3 days a week it drastically cuts down on the number of jobs they can deny having. How can you work 5 days a week if you're spending 3 of those days in an oxfam shop?

    But of course it'll never happen.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Main concern

      I tend to agree with most of what you said.

      There were a few points to clarify, for example the 'claimants' who would not turn up for interviews because they were given appointments in the morning and the claimant "did not do mornings."

      I felt it would be nice to say, " we only do payouts in the morning so tough sh*t."

      There is one really clear point, anyone of JSA who is asked to do charity work is NOT doing unpaid work, they are getting JSA (and that might also attract some expenses money), so rather than being paid to do nothing they would be paid to do something.

      Since I was in my late fifties and with a specialist background the adviser admitted they did not have a hope in hell of finding anything so agreed not to waste time for either of us and just agreed that I was there. I was not getting anything paid, just a stamp and as soon as I confirmed that I had a full card, I stopped going there.

    2. Why Not?

      Re: Main concern

      I think there are multiple issues here

      1. Making sure benefits are paid in the most cost effective and efficient way possible.

      2. Making sure they get the right benefits.

      3. Identifying Fraud.

      4. reporting on benefit payments.

      5. Encouraging people back to work.

      Now to me it appears the Prick's at the benefit office had control over the whole process making some peoples life a misery and doing a bad job overall.

      separating them makes sense, the people at the job centre encourage people back to work but have no involvement in individual benefit setting just report current status. This allows them to use a carrot with the big brother system and a defined process being the stick.

      Fraud identification and reporting goes to a specialist team that can use defined techniques to identify.

      A central help-desk team has access to all.

      Just as a bank would have a team for current accounts, one for credit cards and one for mortgages. Plus a fraud department. Yet you can still phone up and get your balance on each or issue instructions to all.

      Customers get a rating as to their benefit requirements so high benefit recipients with a good chance of returning to work are targeted for jobs.

      Yes I agree all long term claimants should be asked to take part in workfare schemes, whilst this may allow some companies to abuse the workforce that is detail not concept, detail can always be resolved if there is the will.

      There are plenty of jobs that need doing that we can't afford as a country to do, also there is no reason why the slide into workfare cannot be gradual starting with training, then work experience until finally you get to Graffiti cleaning or recycling copper cabling (instead of sending it to 3rd world countries to be burnt).

      As suggested there are plenty of cash in hand working so stopping that would either cut the benefit bill or increase available jobs. Only way I know to do that is to make sure they have no time to do it.

      I suggest

      0- 3 months claiming - with no recent unemployment work benefits paid and option for training. So maybe a security guard that needs training to move into Bouncing after losing his job after the Olympics can retrain.

      3 -12 months select from full time training options or work experience.

      6 -18 months mandatory work experience.

      18 months plus mandatory low level work.and tapering of benefits.

      if you refuse at any point benefits get cut and you move to the next step.

      Paperwork works both ways, many people on long term unemployed may well have literacy or mental issues part of the social contract is we should support the weak.

      1. Dr. Mouse

        Re: Main concern

        "Only way I know to do that is to make sure they have no time to do it."

        There is one problem with that: For genuine job seekers, they need that time to look for work, prepare for interviews etc.

        The problem for some is that they can't get the type of work they want in a reasonable time frame. Maybe they work in a specialised field in which the work has dried up. These types can be the least willing to branch out into new fields and the slowest to realise their job no longer exists. The push into full time, menial work would be enough to kick them into gear just at the time when they can't spend time looking for a job because they are forced to do full time menial work.

        I have been there. Accepting that you cannot get a job in the field you want is heart wrenching. Even when you know it deep down, it is extremely difficult to take the plunge and apply (especially lower paid) other jobs, let alone take one (because when you first start applying for others, you still maintain the belief you will get what you want first).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People not on the internet or unable to use it?

    At what point will this cease to be a consideration ?

    I grew up in the 70s, when being "on the phone" was considered optional. In fact it wasn't unusual for companies to not publish their phone numbers, and government departments had to be dealt with in person, or by post.

    But nowadays, it's expected that everyone has at least one phone number.

    1. Dances With Sheep

      unable to use it

      Unable to use it more like.

      I spent a year as a dole monkey {1} and met plenty of people desperate to find work, but unfortunately not very bright. Not bright enough to use the intertubes at any rate.

      The other biggie?

      People obviously unemployable due to serious alcohol / drug problems were being sent on training courses to learn "new skills"....... Because when you are "in training" you don't count as unemployed on government statistics. A waste of the instructors time & government money.

      {1} With a physics PhD. Go figure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The DWP the Internet and the phone ..

      > But nowadays, it's expected that everyone has at least one phone number.

      To "access" DWP services they give out a free phone number, which replies with a recorded msg that gives out a web address, which gives out the same phone number ...

  4. James 51

    "I still wish people on JSA were forced to do some kind of work to earn the JSA."

    "I still wish people on JSA were forced to do some kind of work to earn the JSA. Haven't found a paying job in the last month? There are plenty of charities looking for helpers to work for free. So if you're stuck on JSA for a prolonged period of time, the amount should be lowered / cut completely unless they start doing some charity / volunteer work."

    My problem with this is that you are asking people to work for pratically nothing and if a job is worth doing, why is someone else not already being paid to do it? You could end up subsidising businesses by giving them free/cheap labour with greatly reduced rights.

    There is also the extra expense in travel (particularly if public transport isn't that handy for where you live and need to go to). Then you run into the problems of for instance asking deeply religous people to work in sex shops etc etc.

    If they are too busy working, when are they suppose to look for a job?

    BTW I completely agree with you about the standard of employee in the JSA offices.

    1. DJ Smiley

      Re: "I still wish people on JSA were forced to do some kind of work to earn the JSA."


      Community service is unpaid right? So have them doing that - All it ever does is improve areas (Ok there maybe some costs for materials / equipment) but these people have already been assessed to see if they *can* work, so let/make them.

      Charity shops are unpaid, and I'm sure there is many many more jobs that could be done with just sheer man power which can't be looked at otherwise. I'm sorry but if your getting money because you can't find a job, you can work for it and have money for then working instead.

      1. durandal

        Re: "I still wish people on JSA were forced to do some kind of work to earn the JSA."

        <quote>I'm sorry but if your getting money because you can't find a job, you can work for it and have money for then working instead.</quote>

        If you're going to force people to work, then it should be for minimum wage.

    2. Scott 2

      Re: "I still wish people on JSA were forced to do some kind of work to earn the JSA."

      Spoken like a true Tory, always assuming that those on JSA are lazy.

  5. Drummer Boy
    Thumb Down

    I love the agile bit

    Have any of us ever come across any public body that can work in an agile way? Their bureaucracy is so deep and so ingrained that agile just can't/won't work for them.

    Agile requires a highly developed, and knowledgeable requirements management person, who can have firm needs, and knows the end result, and can stop their stakeholders from gold plating.

    Scope creep is so endemic in most government projects, that they often times founder under the scales of creep employed.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: I love the agile bit

      Totally agree, perhaps they had a 'know nothing' type on board who only knows what the project should do and is ready to object to every, I mean every scope change.

      I saw the effects of that in action once, many years ago a £4 million project ended up costing just over £ 1.5 million.

      Some hope of that with the yes minister types, Not.

  6. Triggerfish

    So just some thoughts

    So a couple of points.

    At the moment DWP pays dole, (JSA, income support etc), the council pays housing benefit (HB) and council tax benefit (CT).

    1) So does this not also mean that the councils are going to have to get all of their systems compatible with the DWP's so they can share data properly, (and by data I mean even things like badly scanned in sheets of paper showing barely legible handwriting).

    2) Who pays out the UCS? using the current system the DWP would be paying benefits and that gets handled badly through regional dole offices and an even worse call centre.

    The council maintains its own call centres and enforcement officers for things like the HB and CT. If so does that mean the DWP also has to be able to feed data back to the councils.

    3) Who now will you actually call to sort out your housing benefits, are we sacking the council staff and putting it all across to the DWP, are we using the same system and hoping it all works together, are we using capita cos its cheaper?

    4) If the councils collect the revenue for CT, but then has to wait until the DWP pay it out or adjust the stream via things like single person discounts etc, thats going to have to be smooth as silk, I can see it falling over for so many of these transactions because they are so dependent, funnily enough people tend to be upset when things like this happen. I've worked for a council were due to a cock up (and then complete indifference from what I could tell) a massive amount of people went without housing benefit for about 3 months.

    5)How much is amalgamating all of these systems going to cost? Announcing it only cost the DWp x million seems terrible accounting to me, after all the tax payer is going to have to pay for the council system changes, which are all different per council, training, data protection fuck ups (c'mon you know it will happen)

    6) Some councils are in contracts with outsourced companies, is there going to be any gaurantee that our data does not go out of this country to India as an example (ok I know it is already in some cases but now its going to be all of it)

    These are just the top of my head from working for the council for a while and just seeing how things run.

    1. Al 18

      Re: So just some thoughts

      triggerfish you are looking at this the wrong way. Councils need loads of personal information (that the DWP already has) but the only extra info the DWP needs is the amount of council tax and or rent payable which councils can easily provide.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: So just some thoughts

        You know what I think you're right really info wise a lot of it is the same for both departments, upvote for pointing that out.

        Still think myself though there could be a big issue with the disparate systems.

  7. Dr. Mouse

    Understatement of the year!

    "The report also mentioned that successive governments haven't had the greatest reputation when it comes to IT implementations"

  8. pompurin

    Let's face it, IT projects, especially large ones, especially government backed ones, are incredibly difficult to deliver. The civil servants are naive and unable to protect themselves against the aggressive profit making of the IT cartel.

    In Game Theory it's often assumed that everyone is in it for themselves. There is no selflessness. If contract negotiations were started with that in mind, there might be a chance of success.

    Best of luck to the DWP though, I hope this does take off and begin a new era of e-government where I can manage everything online.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They're not naive

      They need to cover their backsides against the many many other departments. You have to throw money and process forks at every 'yeah but i want x' from every consulted department or you'll end up with them deliberately trainwrecking it, laying the blame on you in IT. That and a casual disregard for taxpayers' money - cost is never an issue even though nobody in management will admit to that.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT Projects are not difficult to deliver

    if you do them right. They are difficult to deliver when civil servants skew the bidding process, and add in loads of twiddles, and refuse to commit to a rigid design spec.

    NASA managed to put a fucking rover on Mars with 100% success, and I would humbly suggest the Curiousity project makes universal credits look like a spreadsheet.

  10. A J Stiles

    How simple does it need to be?

    Forget means-testing of benefits, as the cost of determining "who is entitled to how much" works out greater than the cost of paying everybody money to which they may not be entitled. Just pay everybody the same figure; say, £200 a week, irrespective of whether they are working or not. This is in place

    Then take an extra £200 a week off every taxpayer, through PAYE.

    It's a lot easier to know whether or not you have paid any money at all to someone, than whether or not you have paid the right amount. And if somebody is working (therefore not entitled to the Dole), they will be in the tax system; and so you can always reclaim that money straight back from them.

    (Where's the Meerkat icon for "Simples" when you need it?)

    1. Nick 6

      Re: How simple does it need to be?

      Assume you want the 'Joke' icon. For nothing if not the 'if you are working you are in the tax system' line, that was a killer...

  11. Anonymous C0ward

    Universal Credit dole 'liable to be paralysed by IT cockups'

    Bears 'liable to defecate in forest'

  12. Ian Entwistle

    And this is only a week after big blue announce the contractors delivering most of this are being forced to take a 10% pay cut.. Go figure the result of that bolt from big blue....

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