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Matt Hancock: this is the brain-dead nincompoop who thought it would be a good idea to let private companies try to make a profit from a deadly pandemic virus. Nothing works properly and we all remain in deadly danger six months after Covid-19 arrived in the UK.
Once again private profiteers have failed the people of the UK.
An “IT systems failure” at a ‘Lighthouse’ mega-laboratory in Cheshire “resulted in a delay to the processing of results,” the government said.
“In addition, the increase of tests across all routes has resulted in backlogs in some laboratories.”
The labs were built in April, in a partnership between the Department of Health and Social Care, Medicines Discovery Catapult, UK Biocentre and the University of Glasgow, supported by pharma companies GSK and AstraZeneca.
It means just seven per cent of people who took a test at a “satellite centre” got their results within 48 hours in the week to August 12 – down from 75 per cent two weeks earlier.
And only 28 per cent of people who were posted home testing kits got the result within 48 hours – down from 72 per cent.
This is what happens when you commit the health of the nation to the hands of people who want to make a profit from it: nothing works.
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.
Your Tory government considers anybody on Universal Credit to be available to companies to work for nothing –
That’s slave labour, by the way!
– simply because they have to claim a so-called benefit that pushes them into poverty as a condition of claiming (that’s the intention of the five-week wait before payments begin), that punishes them if they are paid at irregular times of the month for the work they do, and that punishes them if they are unable to secure better-paid work.
Strangely, Labour has managed to actually ask the government what’s going on…
… although it is doubtful anything will come of this.
The story in the New Statesman article refers to a person who was already claiming UC, so is familiar with its injustices already.
But millions of people have signed on as a consequence of Covid-19.
I hope they get job offers like this.
It will show many of them what they’ve been supporting all these years.
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.
Here’s evidence of more corruption among members of the Conservative Government and the people they appoint.
While Greg Wallace (not the Masterchef host who has three “g’s” in his name) has reluctantly vacated his post on the maths working group run by the Department for Education and the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Maths, former Tory MP Esther McVey remains chair of the British Transport Police.
Transport secretary Patrick McLaughlin gave her the role after the voters of the Wirral made it clear they did not want her to draw a paycheque from public funds by ejecting her from her seat in the 2015 general election. She has no qualification for the role.
Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, faced huge embarrassment last night as one of her advisors was forced to quit following revelations to the Department for Education that he was facing a disciplinary hearing over IT contracts awarded to his partner.
Greg Wallace – who was once described by Michael Gove, the former education secretary, as one of his “magnificent seven” academy superheads – agreed to stand down from a government advisory board when approached by education officials after this news-paper alerted them to his track record on Friday.
The former head was dismissed as leader of five schools in Hackney, east London, last year following an investigation into financial irregularities involving contracts given by his academy group to his partner. Wallace is due to appear soon before a disciplinary hearing ordered by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.
Despite his track record, both the Harris Federation of academies, founded by the Conservative party donor Lord Harris, and the government had subsequently appointed Wallace as an adviser. More than 24 hours after the Department for Education was approached with the revelations, a spokesman confirmed that he had vacated his post in response.
It seems there has been an argument between Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP and Francis Maude’s Cabinet Office, and now the much-troubled Universal Credit project has no IT experts working on it.
Good. It’s a terrible idea, designed to remove money from the people who need it most.
The project aims to update benefit claimants’ entitlements in ‘real time’, ensuring that they only ever receive what government regulations say they should. Sadly, there is no commitment to update the entitlement amounts in ‘real time’, so people will always be getting less than they need, as inflation boosts prices beyond their range.
Minutes of a Universal Credit ‘board meeting’, leaked to The Guardian, show that IT experts from the Cabinet Office are pulling out of the project and the DWP must now search for somebody else with the skills needed to take on the work.
This means more delays and an even greater cost. This is unlikely to bother Iain Duncan Smith, who sees the project as his legacy to the nation and will pay any amount to see it through – in sharp contrast to his attitude towards the benefit claimants for whose livelihoods his department is responsible.
It seems the argument arose because of Mr… Smith’s vanity – he insisted on a “twin-track” approach to the project, keeping current work going in order to make it possible for claimants to use Universal Credit before the 2015 election while also funnelling money and time into a purely web-based system that will not require Job Centre staff to fill in claimants’ details. One may presume that he will happily sack the excess Job Centre staff after that system is complete.
Those on the current version will be tranferred onto the digital system when it is ready, we are told.
A separately-leaked document made it clear that the withdrawal of the Cabinet Office expertise is one of the most serious problems facing the project because the DWP will now have to try to find people with the necessary skills in the market, and may not be able to afford the cost.
It is interesting that this document is a risk assessment. Does anybody remember the furore over the NHS risk assessment, when the Health and Social Care Act was working its way through Parliament like an unhappy bowel movement? Even though these documents are almost always publicly available, that one was jealously guarded by Andrew Lansley and still has not seen the light of day.
Of course the different government departments are claiming that nothing is wrong and all is going according to plan, and this might be true – if we’re discussing the kind of plan that changes with the wind.
Meanwhile, Universal Credit is increasingly becoming a symbol of the government creating it – not only is it monstrously expensive but it also doesn’t work.
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Don’t blame Whitehall: Civil servants are highly-trained experts in their field; Conservative politicians are amateurs with opinions. Who do YOU think is responsible for the cock-up called Universal Credit? [Picture: Daily Telegraph]
Isn’t it a shame for the Tories that they hung their ‘welfare’ ‘reforms’ on an incompetent like Iain Duncan Smith?
Accused of wasting £140 million of taxpayers’ money on his white elephant Universal Credit scheme (or is it scam?) he can at least take comfort that the latest report followed his lead and fell back on what is now becoming a Conservative Party Standard Excuse: Blame the civil service.
We call him ‘RTU’ because we believe his incompetence as an Army officer led to him being ‘Returned To Unit’ and eventually shuffled out of the service and it is this history that seems to be repeating itself here.
Let’s have a look at the “alarmingly weak” management for which the Secretary-in-a-State was rightly criticised by the Commons Public Accounts Committee this week.
We know that the project is now well behind schedule, despite protestations to the contrary from RTU and the Department for Work and Pensions. A planned pilot roll-out in April was restricted to just one Job Centre, where they handled only the simplest cases, working them out on spreadsheets because the IT system is open to fraud.
“From the outset, the department has failed to grasp the nature and enormity of the task; failed to monitor and challenge progress regularly; and, when problems arose, failed to intervene promptly,” said Public Accounts Committee chair, Margaret Hodge. She described the system’s implementation as not only poor but “extraordinarily” poor.
And she said the pilot scheme was not a proper pilot, as “It does not deal with the key issues that universal credit must address: the volume of claims; their complexity; change in claimants’ circumstances; and the need for claimants to meet conditions for continuing entitlement to benefit”.
The report by the committee singled out the DWP’s permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, for particular criticism, saying he only became aware of problems in ‘ad hoc’ reviews, because reporting arrangements were inadequate and had not alerted him to problems. Even after he knew of major problems, he did not closely monitor the project, the report stated.
It seems Conservatives on the committee wanted more criticisms to be included, and The Guardian has stated that senior Tories have said they would accept Devereaux’s resignation, if offered.
Let’s face it: we’ve been here before.
Michael Gove’s Education Department is now in a terrible mess because he brought in a gang of “advisors” to operate “above” his officials – who have meanwhile faced huge cuts in their workforce and a disastrous fall in morale. Gove brought his ignorant mates in to force their foolishness on the professionals, as this blog reported in June.
Civil servants do what elected Members of Parliament tell them to do. They pay attention to the wishes of their political leaders and apply their considerable expertise to the problems set for them, in order to produce the required result, within budget, while complying with the strictures laid down by those political leaders.
They are very good at their job.
If they are failing, then the problem must lie with the politicians. If a goal is unrealistic, then blaming the ‘help’ is totally unproductive – it only serves to make them hostile.
And, let’s face it, we’ve all seen sheep with more intelligence than Iain Duncan Smith.
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Isn’t this fraud? The man pictured is Grant Shapps, but his name tag claims he is Michael Green – the name he used to run How To Corp before and after he became an MP. Isn’t that fraud – gaining a financial advantage by deception (in this case, the pretence that he wasn’t Grant Shapps)?
Picture David Cameron’s bemusement, as he stares around the Cabinet at its next meeting, wondering why Labour has asked him to order an investigation into criminal allegations against Grant Shapps – when George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith are in the room.
Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher has written to Cameron, calling for Shapps to be suspended and an investigation launched under the ministerial code of conduct after the police said one of his companies may have committed “an offence of fraud”.
The official Conservative line is that the police have closed investigations into Shapps’s How To Corp, there is no case to answer, and any further allegations should be put to the Party (as Dugher has) or the police. The source added: “To suggest there are allegations left unchallenged is actionable”, implying a threat of legal action if Labour persists.
But this is to deny the result of the police inquiry. The Metropolitan Police stated in a letter that the company’s sales of TrafficPaymaster software, that ‘spins and scrapes’ content from other websites, “may constitute an offence of fraud, among others”, but that this would not be investigated further.
Why not? A crime is a crime and the police are specifically employed to prevent it.
It seems that Tory ministers really are above the law.
The masks were adopted by the loosely-affiliated protesters Anonymous as a clear indication of members’ feelings towards a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government whose actions, they believe, have been increasingly fascist.
These people have a point.
Has anyone read V for Vendetta lately? An early chapter, ‘Victims’, provides the historical background to the fascist Britain of the story – and provides very disturbing parallels with the current government and its policies.
In the story, there is a recession and a nuclear war. Fortunately, in real life we have managed to avoid the war (so far) but the recession of 2007 onwards has caused severe hardship for many, with average wages cut by nine per cent (in real terms) due to government policies.
In the story, the line “Everybody was waiting for the government to do something” is notable. Isn’t that just about as British as you can get? As a nation, we seem unwilling to take the initiative; we just wait for someone else to do something. We queue up. And then we complain when we don’t find exactly what we wanted at the end of the queue. But then it’s too late.
Does the government “do something”? Well, no – not in the story, because there isn’t any government worth mentioning at this point. But then… “It was all the fascist groups. The right-wingers. They’d all got together with some of the big corporations…”
Here’s another parallel. How many corporations are enjoying the fruits of the Conservative-led (right-wing) government’s privatisation drive?
The NHS carve-up signified huge opportunities for firms like Circle Health and Virgin, and Bain Capital (who bought our blood plasma supplies). Care UK, the firm that famously sponsored Andrew Lansley while he was working on the regressive changes to the health service that eventually became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, no doubt also has fingers in the pie.
The Treasury is receiving help – if you can call it that – from the ‘big four’ accountancy firms – PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. They have written the law on tax avoidance. By no coincidence at all, these are the firms that run the major tax avoidance schemes that have been taken up by businesses and rich individuals who are resident in the UK. For more information on the government’s attitude to taxing the rich, see Michael Meacher’s recent blog entry.
The Department for Work and Pensions has employed many private firms; this is the reason that department is haemorrhaging money. There are the work programme provider firms who, as has been revealed in previous blog entries, provide absolutely no useful training and are less likely to find anyone a job than if they carried on by themselves; there are the IT firms currently working on Universal Credit, about which Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith lied to Parliament when he said he was having to write off £34 million of expenditure – the true figure was later revealed to be closer to £161 million, almost five times as much; there are Atos and Capita, and probably other firms that have been hired to carry out so-called ‘work capability assessments’ of people claiming sickness, incapacity and disability benefits, according to a plan that intentionally ignores factual medical evidence and places emphasis on a bogus, tick-box test designed to find ways to cut off their support; and there is Unum Insurance, the criminal American corporation that designed that test, in order to push British workers into buying its bogus insurance policies that work on exactly the same principle – this is theft on a grand scale.
So we have a government in cahoots with big business, and treating the citizens – the voters – like cattle. We’ll see more of this as we go on.
“Then they started taking people away… All the black people and the Pakistanis…” All right, these social groups have not been, specifically, targeted (yet) – but we have seen evidence that our government would like to do so. Remember those advertising vans the Home Office funded, that drove around London with a message that we were told was for illegal immgrants: “Go home”?
“That is a term long-associated with knuckle-dragging racists,” said Owen Jones on the BBC’s Any Questions.
“We’re seeing spot-checks and racial profiling of people at tube stations. We have a woman on the news… she was born in Britain; she was told she was stopped because she ‘didn’t sound British’. And we have the official Home Office [Twitter] account being used to send gleeful tweets which show people being thrown into vans with a hashtag, ‘#immigrationoffenders’.
“Is this the sort of country you want to live in, where the Conservatives use taxpayers’ money to inflame people’s fears and prejudices in order to win political advantage? Because I don’t think most people do want that to happen.”
This blog’s article on the subject added that not only this, but other governments (like that in Greece) had created an opportunity to start rounding up anybody deemed “undesirable” by the state. “Greece is already rounding up people of unorthodox sexuality, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants and the poor and transferring them to internment and labour camps,” it stated.
Note also the government’s response to criticism from UN special rapporteur on adequate housing Raquel Rolnik. Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith and their little friends tried to say that she had not done her job properly but, when this was exposed as a lie, they reverted to type and attacked her for her racial origin, national background, and beliefs – political and personal. You can read the lot in this despicable Daily Mail smear piece.
Back to V for Vendetta, where the narrative continues: “White people too. All the radicals and the men who, you know, liked other men. The homosexuals. I don’t know what they did with them all.” Well, we know what Greece is doing with them all, and in the story, such people also ended up in internment and labour camps. We’ll come back to that.
“They made me go and work in a factory with a lot of other kids. We were putting matches into boxes. I lived in a hostel. It was cold and dirty…”
Last month this blog commented on government plans for ‘residential Workfare for the disabled’, rounding up people with disabilities and putting them into modern-day workhouses where someone else would profit from their work while they receive benefits alone – and where the potential for abuse was huge. If that happens, how long will it be before every other jobseeker ends up in a similar institution?
A while ago, a friend in the cafe I visit said that a Tory government will always see every class of people other than its own as “livestock”. That’s the word he used – “livestock”. From the above, with descriptions of people being treated like cattle, or being herded into the workhouse for someone else to profit from their work, it seems he has a very strong case.
So let’s go back to these internment and labour camps – in V for Vendetta they’re called “resettlement” camps. A later chapter – The Vortex – reveals that inmates at such camps are subjected to unethical medical experimentation. The doctor carrying out the trials notes in her diary that the camp commandant “promised to show me my research stock… they’re a poor bunch.”
Her research stock are human beings who have been subjected to conditions similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps. Notice the language – this doctor considers the other human beings taking part to be her property. And they are “research stock” – in other words, she does not see them as other human beings but as livestock – exactly as the friend in the cafe stated.
Can the DWP do anything right? Universal Credit joins the Work Programme and the murderous administration of Employment and Support Allowance on the list of Iain Duncan Smith’s failures.
The National Audit Office has published its ‘early progress’ report on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit scheme – and it is damning.
The report states that, after years of development in which £425 million was spent on the scheme, the Department for Work and Pensions does not even have a detailed view of how Universal Credit is supposed to work.
I should just stop there and spend the rest of this article discussing that one piece of information. After months and years of listening to ‘RTU’ ranting about how Universal Credit was going to be a revolution in benefit claims, we now know that he does not know – and never bothered to work out – how his revolution was going to be delivered!
Nor does Howard Shiplee, the ‘director general’ who has been talking it up on the media over the last few days.
Universal Credit is an attempt to “simplify” six major areas of social security into one streamlined payment system. They are: Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, tax credits (child and working), housing benefit and budgeting loans.
However: “Poor control and decision-making undermined confidence in the programme and contributed to a lack of progress,” the report states. This is directly attributable to the Secretary of State – it is his failure.
The report – and we should remember that this is from an organisation concerned with whether the government is spending our money wisely – concluded that the DWP has not achieved value for money.
The department was over-ambitious in both the timetable and scope of the programme, the report states. This is interesting in itself. How can its scope be “ambitious” if nobody even knew how it was supposed to work?
According to the NAO: “The Department took risks to try to meet the short timescale and used a new project management approach which it had never before used on a programme of this size and complexity. It was unable to explain how it originally decided on its ambitious plans or evaluated their feasibility.” In other words, from its employees right up to its ministers and Secretary of State, the DWP could not justify the risks it took with taxpayers’ money and never bothered to investigate the likelihood of failure.
“Given the tight timescale, unfamiliar project management approach and lack of a detailed plan, it was critical that the Department should have good progress information and effective controls. In practice the Department did not have any adequate measures of progress.”
The report singles out for particularly strong criticism the computer system intended to run the new benefit. “The Department is not yet able to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300 million to develop… Over 70 per cent of the £425 million spent to date has been on IT systems,” it states.
Then it says, “The Department, however, has already written off £34 million of its new IT systems and does not yet know if they will support national roll-out.” So the systems are not – to use a favourite DWP phrase – “fit for work”.
In fact, some parts don’t work on any level at all: “For instance, the current IT system lacks a component to identify potentially fraudulent claims so that the Department has to rely on multiple manual checks on claims and payments.” Meaning: In the single Job Centre where UC has been introduced, employees have been working out claims on paper.
“Such checks will not be feasible or adequate once the system is running nationally.” It seems amazing, but Iain Duncan Smith probably needed to see that, written down in black and white, or he might never have considered the possibility.
Problems with the IT system have delayed the national roll-out of the programme (and for that, considering all of the above, we should all breathe a long-drawn-out sigh of relief). “In early 2013, the Department was forced to stop work on its plans for national roll-out and reassess its options for the future… The Department will not introduce Universal Credit for all new claims nationally in October 2013 as planned, and is now reconsidering its plans for full roll-out.
“Instead, it will extend the pilots to six more sites with these new sites taking on only the simplest claims. Delays to the roll-out will reduce the expected benefits of reform and – if the Department maintains a 2017 completion date – increase risks by requiring the rapid migration of a large volume of claimants.”
The DWP intends to spend £2.4 billion on Universal Credit up to April 2023. To put that in perspective, that’s twice as much as the government loses on all benefit fraud – not just those being bundled together here – every year. And this will “increase risks”.
The spending watchdog found that the DWP took some action at the end of 2012 to resolve problems, but was unable to address the underlying issues effectively.
“The programme suffered from weak management, ineffective control and poor governance,” said Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office.
Despite all this, the report incredibly states that “the programme still has potential to create significant benefits for society, but the Department must scale back its delivery ambition and set out realistic plans”.
Liam Byrne will no doubt seize this as an opportunity, yet again, to offer Labour’s help to find a way forward and bring Universal Credit back on track. He should be discouraged from doing so. This ‘flagship’ hasn’t so much sailed as sunk.
Universal Credit is a FAILURE.
It should be SCRAPPED – before that idiot Smith wastes any more of our money on it.
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