If you thought the Department for Work and Pensions was a slaughterhouse with people running it, when they let machines administer benefit claims we’ll see some real maladministration!
That’s my opinion, anyway.
We live in a society in which more than seven-tenths of appeals against benefit denial are successful – indicating a serious procedural failing that the Conservative government has ignored entirely.
Worse than ignored, in fact.
It seems the Tories are diverting millions of pounds away from benefit payment, to develop artificial intelligences capable of cocking up claims in worse ways than even the human beings currently assigned to that task.
In fact, I’m wondering whether one of these automated systems has been deployed to screw up Mrs Mike’s claim for ESA.
We received a letter last week, retroactively refusing her claim for income-related ESA from August 2012, on the basis that I had been working more than 24 hours per week.
I’m on Carers’ Allowance; Vox Political is a sideline that I carry out in my spare time which – so far – has provided me with earnings within the limit placed on people in receipt of that benefit.
And on the date mentioned, it was just a hobby; I wasn’t trying to earn money with it and I wasn’t carrying out any other work either.
It is an entirely false claim.
Sure, it may be possible for a human being to make such a mistake – especially a human being working for the DWP. I think it is even more likely that a machine could do so.
And I’m not alone:
The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.
Claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide.
One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”.
Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.
There is evidence of rising error rates in parts of the welfare system that have already been automated.
A system of realtime data-sharing between the HMRC tax office and the DWP about universal credit claimants’ earnings is triggering more and more disputes, with the rate rising fourfold between May 2017 and October 2018, according to the government’s own figures, with up to 5,700 people a month affected.
Serious questions are being asked about the validity of the sources being used by the automated systems:
The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens.
The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies.
But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.
It seems more likely that it would reveal the uselessness of that data, and the DWP is trying to hide the use of false information to wrongly push people off-benefit.
I’ll keep you all updated about my own case.
Hopefully we’ll know something conclusive before anybody else dies.
EXTRA (October 15): I’ve received this on Twitter – and it is chilling:
— Peter Pyke (@PeterPyke) October 15, 2019
I would appreciate your comments on this development.
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