Universal Credit: Hardly universal, and no credit to anybody

Getting a bit rough, is it? Iain Duncan Smith knows his flagship Universal Credit scheme won't work - he just doesn't care.

Getting a bit rough, is it? Iain Duncan Smith knows his flagship Universal Credit scheme won’t work – he just doesn’t care.

Earlier this week, a Job Centre somewhere in Mid Wales was graced by the presence of Yr Obdt Srvt, the author of this column. It’s true; I’m a real human being and I receive certain state benefits.

Having said that, it transpired during the conversation with my advisor that I was on one less benefit than expected; the DWP had, in its wisdom, cut me off from Income Support, with “No contact”. That was the on-screen comment. They stopped it but couldn’t be bothered to tell me.

Classy.

But that’s by-the-way. The discussion ranged through the paid work that I do, my plans to expand my earnings, and my aim to get off-benefit as soon as possible -certainly “before Universal Credit comes into effect, in October”.

I said it, looked my advisor – who is, I should point out, a very nice person indeed, and therefore breaks all the rules of the DWP just by being there – in the eye, and we both had a little giggle about that one.

“That’s still right, isn’t it? In October?”

“They’re hoping.”

The conversation moved on.

Imagine my delight on Thursday evening, when I refreshed the BBC website and saw: “UNIVERSAL CREDIT PILOTS SCALED BACK”!

“The government is to scale back some of its plans to test a radical new reform to the welfare system,” the story stated. It was by James Landale, about whom I have previously complained to the BBC with regard to Tory bias, so it should be no surprise that the reason for the scaleback was buried 11 paragraphs down: “But Labour said this showed the scheme was in crisis and that the information technology needed for it was not ready.”

I turned to the newspapers for corroboration, and found it in the Independent, which put the issues right at the front of the story: “Ministers tonight significantly scaled back plans to begin piloting their controversial universal credit programme next month amid fears that the scheme is behind schedule and facing major problems.”

UC – I pronounce it “Uck” – was due to be tried out in four areas from late next month, but will now run only from a single Job Centre in Ashton-under-Lyme at that time. The three other pilot areas, in Wigan, Warrington and Oldham, won’t get started until “at least July” (it says here).

The plan is to merge around 30 benefits and tax credits into a single payment, on a tapering scale depending on a claimant’s earnings. It requires communication between computer systems belonging to the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, and employers who have to provide PAYE details (if I’ve got this right).

The scaleback is already being seen as an admission that the communications software – required for UC to succeed – doesn’t work.

There are also fears that the government doesn’t have anyone with the training or experience necessary to manage the scheme without messing it up completely and making the government look like a bunch of irresponsible fools. Again.

Needless to say, the government has denied that there is any problem. Apparently it is “sensible” to start in one area before rolling the system out elsewhere. Oh really? No attempt was made to explain why the original plan had been changed. Because the answer is too embarrassing?

This plan is a total disaster.

There can be only two reasons the government is pushing forward with it. Firstly, Iain Duncan Smith has said it will happen so it will happen, no matter how badly past-deadline and over-budget it turns out to be.

Secondly, if it doesn’t work, the only people who’ll be inconvenienced are poor people who are on benefits – and they won’t be able to take legal action over it because Legal Aid will have been cut for civil cases.

That’s why I want to be out of the blast zone when this one hits.

I fear for my future – and that of everyone else who will be caught up in this debacle – if I’m not.

21 thoughts on “Universal Credit: Hardly universal, and no credit to anybody

  1. Thomas M

    They might riot all over the country though,which is why even this goverment has the sense to scale back.

  2. Jonathan PhillipsI

    Other’s {ie. Charities & Agencies} can & will undoubtedly take the scheme to court.It will be caught in the legal mire, until the Govt is defeated at the next election, when the next govt will have the delightful task of reforming/implementing/abandoning the scheme, as it deems fit.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Reforming/implementing – that’s a depressing thought, but one to which Labour, certainly, have left themselves wide open. It would certainly be a welcome move if the charities and other agencies did as you suggest, though.

  3. stevethesecretman

    I am dreading the start of UC because I am not currently well enough to work. This means I have no choice but to accept UC as and when it comes in. I hope you are as far away from this as possible when it starts mate.

  4. gra howard

    There are many out there who don’t even know its happening. I am not a conspiracy theorist but something smells within the system.They are doing the same in Australia and America..

  5. Nathanael

    I remain completely confident that it will all fall to pieces. Why? Well, going by past, smaller government websites there have been big cock-ups.

    This scheme is massive, and everyone has to apply online (although my welfare advisor tells me you will be able to request paper applications). Can you imagine a government system that can cope with millions of people applying for benefits through it?!! No? Nor can I! I’m actually starting to think that a chocolate teapot has more use than a government website. At least you can eat a chocolate teapot, if you’re hungry!

    Again, for the same reasons as you, I fear for my future. Even more so being disabled and with chronic health problems.

    1. Jix

      You’re on the money. UC will tumble down under its own weight. It always was a stupid idea anyway.

      1. tanith

        yur all bang on correct guys /THEIR KARMA IT ACOMETH /AND BIG TIME theyve caused enough misery and suffering of innocent people do they really think they can get away unscathed WRONG judgement day is nigh

  6. Voodoo Shack Lady

    You really hit the nail on the head – “the only people who’ll be inconvenienced are poor people who are on benefits – and they won’t be able to take legal action over it because Legal Aid will have been cut for civil cases”

    Sadly we”ll be more than just inconvenienced… this reign of terror needs to end :'(

  7. Jix

    The four UC pilots weren’t really going to use HRMC’s real-time system or ATLAS. Most of the work was set to be done MANUALLY(!) by clerical staff using spreadsheets! The “digital by default” form of UC will NEVER happen. The real question is whether or not a mostly paper-based version of the benefit can be managed and administered by a massive bureaucracy. If the answer is “no” then UC is dead in the water.

    1. Nathanael

      That’s a good point Jix, and I believe, the reason my welfare advisor suggested applying by post. As you suggest, if everything is managed manually it’s going to be time consuming and risks imploding in on itself. Just look at the farce of ESA and the Work Capability assessment and the shambles that has become. They are backlogged with paperwork, and the appeals process can take upto and over a year because there are so many cases. This will be pretty much the same with the fall-out causing a lot of stress for all those claiming.

  8. Frances Leader

    RA! Love the style of your writing. Love the content too. More power to your typing fingers mate! xx

  9. Mike Crees

    I am not so sure your voice is only from the heart of Wales you know – these issues effect the whole country

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’m in the heart of Wales, therefore all my comments and opinions are from this place. I partly wanted to make the point that national issues affect everybody in the country, even those in remote places.

  10. Joan

    This will end up like the dreaded NHS Connecting for Health fiasco. It will cost billions of taxpayer’s money, at a time when we are told cuts are vital, simply to be scrapped as unworkable. The difference is, though, that nobody died from the NHS fiasco, that I know of.

  11. NMac

    Duncan-Smith, one of the nastiest of the Nasty party. He failed to make the grade as a leader of his Nasty Party and he’s failing yet again.

  12. Jacqui

    If UC does happen we as self employed will have to sell our home and buy a small flat because our business is only a small business and we rely on tax credits to help us out, I run the business while hubby works a part time job but once UC replaces tax credits we won’t get any help as we have to say the business is paying us £6.19 an hour for 35 hours and that’s just not possible, also hubby’s part time job is only 20 hours a week so we won’t qualify for UC . The only way to survive is to give up the business and find full time jobs but even that won’t let us keep our home as we would have nothing left after paying all the bills , what kind of a life is that ? so if UC does succeed we will sell our home and buy a small flat which is very sad considering we work very hard to survive as it 🙁 My prayer is that this useless evil government lose the next election and Labour will throw UC out and let us live once again.

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