Is the madness currently exhibited by the Department of Work and Pensions a symptom of the Secretary-in-a-State’s personal condition, or an indication of a much wider malaise?
This is a question we should be asking, publicly, with increasing frequency as each new revelation about the Department’s irrational behaviour is revealed.
This article, for example, suggests that wayward perversion is now normal behaviour there. How else is one to interpret the actions of government officers who refuse to carry out a function for which they have all the tools and information necessary, while practically foaming at the mouth in their eagerness to convince us that they can manage assessment tasks – even if they must be done by hand and at enormous cost?
Today we learned that Samuel Miller, the disability specialist accusing the British government of employing draconian austerity measures to expose its sick and disabled citizens to fatal stress, has received new information from the DWP on the deaths of disability benefit claimants.
The department published an ‘ad hoc’ report in July last year, on deaths that occurred during 2011, but – perhaps discouraged by the overwhelmingly negative backlash caused by the admission that an average of 73 people were dying every week after being marked ‘fit for work’ or able to make themselves ready for work – its ministers have refused to publish a follow-up.
Freedom of Information requests from both Mr Miller and myself have been refused – mine on the grounds that it was “vexatious” (although the DWP definition of this word clearly differs from that defined in the relevant Act of Parliament).
Now it has confirmed that “the Department does hold information which could be used to analyse the mortality of benefit claimants after November 2011 but this has not been compiled”.
The information is all there, waiting to be provided. People have requested it, under an Act of Parliament that states it must be handed over, if it is in the public interest for that to happen. But ministers have vetoed this, stating reasons that can only be described as perverse.
This happened on the same day that the Daily Mirror revealed “Ministers are blowing £1.3 million on staff to carry out checks for its flagship benefits cap – because the computer system needed to do the job has yet to be built”.
The cap, locking benefits to a £500-per-week limit for all families, was introduced in a few pilot areas in April, in order to cut the amount of money being spent on social security by £270 million. But a Parliamentary answer by employment minister Mark Hoban revealed that the department had been forced to employ 112 workers to check what each household receives and determine whether any are exempt from the cap.
He said it would remain in place “until an automated solution is developed and introduced”.
It is clear that ministers at the DWP had no intention of admitting that this work was being carried out manually at huge cost – just as they have done everything they could to deny the failure of the Universal Credit computer system that has meant the roll-out of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship scheme was at first limited to the easiest claims in just one Job Centre, where they could be worked out on paper.
What sort of person believes that £1.3 million is better spent on a face-saving exercise than a life-saving one? This, too, is perverse. The money could be spent supporting some of the many thousands whose lives are being wrecked by current DWP policies.
Sadly, we all know exactly who would behave this way: Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Lying.
One of the few facts about LieDS’ life that we know to be true is that he spent time in the military, where he served as a bag-carrier for a superior officer. Put this career under scrutiny, though, and there are parts of it that don’t stand up. for example: the claim that he left the Army as a captain is not true, according to the London Gazette.
A commenter on politicalscrapbook.net has discovered that he only made it up the greasy pole to Lieutenant before leaving.
Another commenter pointed out that he attended Sandhurst, and that “five years out of Sandhurst you either make Capt. or leave”. This suggests another possibility.
‘Returned To Unit’ or ‘RTU’ refers to a military member being returned to their home base or home unit, and may be applied to a soldier who has failed officer training – but in these cases it is more likely that the person in question will be quietly returned to civilian life. The Army is not proud of its failures.
This is what Iain Duncan Smith is – a failure. His DWP policies show that in painful (and in some cases, terminal) clarity. It seems likely that his Army career, if examined with proper rigour, was similarly disastrous.
So here’s an idea. Let’s not call him ‘IDS’ any more. That’s far too respectful for this piece of… work.
From now on, he can be RTU.