Tag Archives: decide

Automated benefit decisions: Councils are already using machines to persecute benefit claimants

Days after we discovered the DWP is developing Artificial Intelligence to decide whether vulnerable claimants receive benefits – possibly whether they get to live or die – it turns out local councils have been buying similar systems from commercial businesses.

And there’s a serious problem: they don’t work.

According to The Guardian, companies including the US credit-rating businesses Experian and TransUnion, as well as the outsourcing specialist Capita and Palantir, a data-mining firm co-founded by the Trump-supporting billionaire Peter Thiel, are selling machine-learning packages to local authorities that are under pressure to save money.

It seems 140 of 408 councils – more than one-third – have invested in these systems, at great cost. One must presume they expect the savings to come over time.

They provide automated guidance on benefit claims, prevent child abuse and allocate school places.

But concerns have been raised about privacy and data security, the ability of council officials to understand how some of the systems work, and the difficulty for citizens in challenging automated decisions.

North Tyneside council has dropped TransUnion, after payments were wrongly delayed by the computer’s “predictive analytics”.

It automatically processed data about claimants for housing and council tax benefit to determine the likelihood it was fraudulent – “risk based verification”. But benefit claims were wrongly delayed.

Hackney council in east London has dropped Xantura, another company, from a project to predict child abuse and intervene before it happens, saying it did not deliver the expected benefits.

And Sunderland city council has not renewed a £4.5m data analytics contract for an “intelligence hub” provided by Palantir.

These experiences are leading to increasing concern that the use of algorithms – computerised instructions intended to solve problems (or in this case make decisions) is leaving vulnerable people at the whim of automated decisions they do not understand and therefore cannot challenge.

Local authority bosses do not understand how these systems work either, it seems.

And so the injustices creep into the system.

The DWP has 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 is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

So, as public participation charity Involve claims, there is a risk to citizens’ privacy and data security, and the potential for seriously harmful wrong decisions.

Suppose someone falls foul of a wrong decision on their Housing Benefit claim, made by a computer at their local authority.

Wouldn’t the computer at the DWP pick it up and use it against the same claimant in order to invalidate a claim for – say – Employment and Support Allowance?

If so, these machines could put innocent people deeply out-of-pocket – with no explanation and no accountability.

It is a program that can have only one result – disaster. Somebody will die – if they haven’t already.

Source: One in three councils using algorithms to make welfare decisions | Society | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

It seems the DWP is automating persecution of benefit claimants – to limit responsibility for deaths?

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.

Source: Benefits system automation could plunge claimants deeper into poverty | Technology | The Guardian

EXTRA (October 15): I’ve received this on Twitter – and it is chilling:

I would appreciate your comments on this development.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Demand for Johnson to resign after Supreme Court’s prorogation ruling. But will he?

Boris Johnson: One may imagine that his face had a similar expression after he was woken up to be told the Supreme Court’s decision.

This morning, Boris Johnson was being urged to resign for giving public money and a place on trade junkets to a personal friend. Now he’s facing a much more serious charge.

Here’s Jeremy Corbyn:

It’s not an idle demand.

Boris Johnson has tried to overrule Parliamentary democracy, and he has manipulated the Queen in order to do so.

The only proper course of action for him now is to come back from the UN with his tail between his legs and offer the Queen his resignation.

But you can bet he won’t do that willingly.

In less than two months, he has made himself the worst prime minister the UK has ever had. The government falls further into disgrace with every day he remains in position.

But it is what he has always wanted so, like a spoiled child, he’ll stay right where he is until someone forces him out.

Let us hope that happens sooner, rather than later.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

DWP adds a new power to its anti-disability arsenal: Prophecy

The Department for Work and Pensions office in London.

That’s right – the Department for Work and Pensions can now foretell the future, and is using this power to dismiss appeals before sickness or disability benefit claimants can even make them.

Alternatively, the DWP is corruptly deciding appeals for mandatory reconsideration of claims before they are made, in order to achieve the targets for removing claims that they always say don’t exist.

The Department’s press office has claimed this was a clerical error, of course. They can always claim it was a mistake when they are discovered.

What do YOU believe?

Fresh concerns have been raised about the integrity of the disability benefits system, after a disabled woman’s appeal against having her benefits removed was rejected before she was even told her claim had been turned down.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sent Mandy Moseley a mandatory reconsideration notice, confirming that her appeal against the decision to reject her claim for the new personal independence payment (PIP) had been unsuccessful.

But she was astonished to receive the letter because she had not yet been told the result of her claim.

Until a claimant receives a decision notice that informs them of the result of their claim, they cannot ask for a mandatory reconsideration (MR) of that decision, and she had not done so.

Disabled activists have been questioning for months why success rates for MRs are so low, when so many appeals that are taken to tribunal – the next stage of the appeal process after the MR – are successful.

Source: DWP rejects PIP claimant’s appeal… before she receives decision notice


Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Labour ‘fiscal charter’ rebels are ignoring the evidence

Mr McDonnell in Redcar with shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and constituency MP Anna Turley [Image: Ian Forsyth for the Mirror].

Mr McDonnell in Redcar with shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and constituency MP Anna Turley [Image: Ian Forsyth for the Mirror].

The shock and anger professed by some Labour MPs at shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s decision to oppose George Osborne’s Charter for Budget Responsibility – in line with Labour’s anti-austerity policy direction – defies belief.

Mr McDonnell has claimed his decision was triggered by a meeting with steel workers in Redcar, where the factory is to be closed down after the Conservative Government wouldn’t lift a finger to save it.

He said: “Originally what I said to people was, ‘This charter is a political stunt; it is a political trap by George Osborne; it is virtually meaningless; he ignores it himself time and time again.

“‘He never meets his targets, so this is just a stunt. Let’s ridicule it in the debate and vote for it because it’s a meaningless vote’.”

But then he went to Redcar. “I met the steelworkers and I had families in tears about what’s happened to them as a result of the Government failing to act, failing to intervene.

“I came back and I realised, as the consequence of the Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure, in skills, the cuts that are going to start coming now, I realised that people actually are going to suffer badly.

“It brought it home to me and I don’t want the Labour Party associated with this policy.”

This Blog has already reported that the change of heart was also prompted by the worldwide economic outlook. The Charter commits the government to balancing the books within three years, provided there is not another global crisis. Mr McDonnell announced in a letter to fellow Labour MPs: “In the last fortnight there have been a series of reports highlighting the economic challenges facing the global economy as a result of the slowdown in emerging markets.

“These have included warnings from the International Monetary Fund’s latest financial stability report, the Bank of England chief economist, Andy Haldane, and the former Director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers.”

According to the BBC, former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie criticised the U-turn and said Labour should set out its own motion: “To go from one extreme to the other is wrong in economic terms but also it sends the wrong message to the general public as well.

“I think to be fair to John McDonnell this is a very difficult balancing act, it’s a very difficult topic, but it’s incredibly important that he is clear and consistent and explains fully not just what Labour’s position is but also why he backed George Osborne’s surplus a couple of weeks ago and is now against it apparently.”

But Mr McDonnell had already explained his reasoning in the letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party and, according to Paul Mason of Channel 4 News, he had indeed planned to move its own alternative to the charter, and to table amendments – but “both these possibilities have been ruled out by the clerks of the Commons.”

The Guardian reported the responses of Labour MPs John Mann and Mike Gapes: “In a comment piece written for the website Politics Home, Mann said “There has been no debate, nor any consultation within the Labour Party.”

But the new developments Mr McDonnell cites all happened within a very tight period. When was there time for a consultation or debate, prior to last night’s meeting?

Mann continues: “The reality is that to have voted with Osborne would have led to political meltdown in Scotland… New Corbyn supporters would have been bemused and demoralised. It would have been a political disaster with huge consequences.”

On one aspect of this, it seems likely he is correct. SNP supporters, ignoring the vacillation of their own party’s leader on this subject (she opposed it – and Labour – during the election campaign, then supported it after the Tories won. Now it seems she and her party are opposing it again) have leapt to the attack in any case, claiming – improbably – that it is Labour that has wavered, in denial of the fact that a new leadership has brought new policies with it.

New Corbyn supporters are anti-austerity, though. They will be delighted by Mr McDonnell’s decision.

The Graun continued: “Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South since 1992, took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to condemn his party’s state. ‘There is now no collective Shadow cabinet responsibility in our Party, no clarity on economic policy and no credible leadership,’ he wrote. Challenged by another user of the social media site to show loyalty to Corbyn, Gapes responded: ‘I will show loyalty in the same way as he was loyal to Kinnock, Smith, Blair, Brown, Beckett, Miliband and Harman. Ok?'”

No. How about showing loyalty to the majority of the party who support Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell and the policies they are promoting?

All in all, it seems the Labour leadership won’t be able to do right by these ‘rebels’ (if they can be called that) no matter what they choose to do. McDonnell was criticised on the pretext that supporting the CBR was against his anti-austerity beliefs (and never mind the fact that he explained his reasons for it) and now he’s being criticised for opposing it, in line with his anti-austerity beliefs.

Do these people – Messrs Leslie, Mann and Gapes – realise that they aren’t making sense?

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Government should face corporate manslaughter charge after suicide verdict on Stephanie Bottrill

Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.

Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.

It’s official – stress and pressure caused by the Bedroom Tax pushed grandmother Stephanie Bottrill into taking her own life.

Zafar Siddique, coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said he was “satisfied she intended to take her own life” after hearing evidence that Mrs Bottrill had blamed the government’s Bedroom Tax policy for pushing her to suicide in a note she left at her Meriden Drive, Kingshurst, home before walking across the M6 motorway into a collision with a lorry early on May 4, 2013.

The coroner also heard evidence from Dr Bindu Nair, who saw the former postal worker the day before her death after Mrs Bottrill’s daughter-in-law, concerned for her safety, made an appointment.

Dr Nair said Mrs Bottrill had “expressed unhappiness at being pushed by the housing department to make a decision, in half an hour, in reference to being made to move into a smaller property”.

He added that Ms Bottrill was “happy to move but it was the way in which she was forced to make a decision” which had caused her “considerable anxiety and stress”.

Unmentioned in the report is the fact that Mrs Bottrill was found to be exempt from the Bedroom Tax (also called the State Under-Occupation Charge) under the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006, because she had been living at her address since before January 1996.

The implications for the government are enormous.

A British court has accepted that a government policy pushed a UK citizen into ending her life.

Organisations including government departments are guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which their activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

The pressure placed on Mrs Bottrill, according to the evidence of her own doctor, caused “considerable anxiety and stress” that contributed to her decision to commit suicide.

It seems clear that the Department for Work and Pensions – as the organisation responsible for both the Bedroom Tax and the pressure placed on Mrs Bottrill by housing officers – must now face criminal charges under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

As far as this blog is concerned, responsibility for this woman’s death lies firmly with Iain Duncan Smith.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Buy Vox Political books and support our
fight for justice – for everyone harmed by government policy!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
Y
ou can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards