Tag Archives: NAO

DWP misled two watchdogs over benefit deaths. Time to tighten up the rules?

Faceless: and is the DWP totally unaccountable as well?

We should be asking why the Department for Work and Pensions gets away with failing in its duty of service to the public – especially as the failures are causing multiple deaths.

We are seeing evidence that the DWP failed to safeguard its clients – extremely vulnerable benefit claimants – and that these claimants died as a result.

We are seeing evidence that the DWP failed to implement the recommendations of its own secret reviews into benefit-related deaths.

And we are seeing evidence that the DWP lied to two watchdog organisations (the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Audit Office), saying it had corrected these failings when it had not.

This is deliberate misdirection with only one possible aim: to continue causing the deaths of benefit claimants.

Anyone learning of this would be justified in asking two questions:

  1. Why have those responsible for causing these deaths never been brought to justice?
  2. Why are they allowed to cause these deaths? In other words, why is the DWP not forbidden by its own rules from doing anything that may lead to a claimant’s death?

Having had some experience in such matters lately, This Writer considered whether a court case for breach of contract would be in order – but there would have to be evidence to show that the DWP had indeed breached its contract with claimants.

Where is this contract defined? I don’t know. Why don’t I know? I write stories about the DWP all the time; if I don’t know, I have no reason to expect the vast bulk of the population to have a clue about it either.

So it seems to me that we – all – need to have a much clearer explanation of exactly what the DWP is expected to do for benefit claimants in return for all the draconian demands it makes of them.

Now: How do we achieve that?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been failing to track recommendations made by its own secret reviews into benefit-related deaths, it has told the spending watchdog, three years after claiming it had corrected the same failings.

The “appalling” revelation that DWP appears to have misled both the National Audit Office (NAO) and – three years ago – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will add to mounting evidence of the need for an independent inquiry into deaths caused by the department over the last decade.

NAO is now examining a letter provided by Disability News Service (DNS) and has asked for permission to share it with parliament and government departments.

Meanwhile, DWP has refused to provide assurances that its failure to track progress on implementing recommendations from its secret internal reviews has not caused any further deaths.

Source: Letter shows ‘appalling’ DWP misled two watchdogs over benefit deaths – Disability News Service

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Don’t believe DWP pledge to learn from cases linked to suicide – we’ve heard it all before

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued some pretty words in response to a damning report linking it to at least 69 suicides.

The National Audit Office said it could not be sure how many deaths could be linked to poor practice at the government department because the system is so muddled.

So on Monday (February 10), the DWP made a lot of promises.

DWP told the NAO that [it] will look at how its Internal Process Reviews are used to improve processes and prevent harm in future, across three areas –  identification of cases, improving the analysis of recommendations, and better prevention.

It will look at how to improve analysis of the reviews “to ensure that the department is aware of any systemic themes and issues, and is able to act to put in place effective corresponding improvements”.

And it will also look at how staff decide whether to carry out reviews in the first place. It will improve internal guidance and communication “to ensure staff are aware of and understand the processes for reporting a suicide”, the NAO said.

The review will be led by a new unit that has been set up within DWP to “improve the department’s approaches to identifying, investigating and learning lessons from customers’ experiences; and to ensure lessons are fed back into improvement processes”, the NAO report said.

Among other things, the unit will also be tasked with improving the coroner’s focal point – a mechanism put in place in 2016 to improve communication with coroners, including about suicide cases.

It will also be responsible for the serious case panel DWP has established in recent months, which it said would “consider the most serious systemic issues” identified in internal reviews and by the Independent Case Examiner.

We’ve had promises from the DWP before, but the deaths have continued.

And these latest promises? I don’t believe a word of them.

Source: DWP pledges to learn from cases linked to suicide amid call for independent probe | Civil Service World

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Watchdog to investigate after DWP refuses to provide information on benefit-related suicides

Pushed too far: How many people have been driven to consider taking their own lives because of brutal DWP policies? How many have actually done so?

The National Audit Office (NAO) is to investigate the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over its refusal to provide figures on the number of benefit claimants who have committed suicide.

It seems the situation at the DWP is so bad that the NAO may attempt to collate the figures itself, if the government department fails to co-operate.

Ministers denied a request from Frank Field MP, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions committee. In a letter to the NAO, he stated: “I struggle to believe that, given the time it must take to put together evidence for inquests, attend court hearings, and internally review the decisions, that there is no record of such.

“It shocks me even more that the DWP is apparently unconcerned with the most drastic efforts [sic; I think he meant “effects”] of its policies and conducts no internal monitoring of the tragedies in which it is complicit.”

“The tragedies in which it is complicit.” What a damning line from the chairman of the MP committee tasked with scrutinising the DWP. He was stating the belief that the DWP, its ministers, controllers and workers, are all knowingly involved in an activity that they are aware is morally wrong – that leads to the deaths of claimants.

There have been many studies linking with suicide the so-called “reforms” of DWP benefits since the Conservatives came back into office in 2010 and I do not propose to go over that old ground here.

I practically kicked off these investigations myself, when I forced the DWP to publish figures on the number of people who had died after being denied sickness benefits in 2015 – after a two-year struggle.

So I welcome this intervention by the NAO.

I hope it will include in its investigations all benefit claimants who may have taken their own lives as a result of the DWP meddling with their claims.

For example: the figures I extracted from the department in 2015 related only to those who died within a two week period of being denied their benefits. No effort had been made to discover the fate of those who survived beyond that point – although we have a multitude of news stories about people who died weeks or months afterward. They should be included in the NAO’s work.

I find myself in agreement with Sue Jones, who wrote, on her own website:

“An inquiry is long overdue.

“How many people with chronic illness and disability have simply died because they can’t meet their most fundamental survival needs in light of austerity cuts?

“What kind of government shows no concern or remorse that its policies are destroying some citizens’ lives?

“And continually denies that this is happening?

“Does the government intentionally disregard us as economically “surplus to requirements” and ultimately disposable? When the evidence points so clearly to the relationship between austerity cuts, which have disproportionately been targeted at the poorest and most fragile citizens, and suicide, it’s hard to reason otherwise. Especially when the government shows nothing but supreme indifference to those of us raising these serious concerns.”

Exactly.

The Tories’ attitude suggests that they regard benefit claimants as “useless eaters” – in just the same way the Nazis viewed people with long-term illnesses and disabilities in Germany between 1933 and 1945.

The only difference between their policies is that the Nazis took direct action to “euthanize” their “useless eaters”, while the DWP seems to prefer pushing UK-based benefit claimants to suicide, starvation, or death due to illnesses they can no longer afford to treat.

We have long suspected that the consequences of DWP – Conservative government – policy were far more serious than we had been led to believe, and we already have evidence that they are extremely serious.

Perhaps this investigation will prove it.

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Investigation launched into money spent on Boris Johnson’s ‘no deal’ Brexit

Two-fingered salute: Is this Boris Johnson’s likely response to the National Audit Office’s findings about his ‘no deal’ Brexit preparations?

It seems the National Audit Office isn’t convinced that Boris Johnson is spending our money responsibly. That’s understandable.

And the object of that organisation’s concern is nothing other than his plan for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

One can easily understand the reasons for the disquiet. Chris Grayling’s £50 million freight fiasco was just one of 24 scandals already discovered by the NAO.

And now Boris Johnson is prime minister.

All we can hope is that the report is published in time for Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘no confidence’ vote.

The National Audit Office has started its biggest and most ambitious investigation into Boris Johnson’s ‘no deal’ Brexit by scrutinising the £6.6 billion of taxpayers’ money earmarked to be spent on the project for rushed decisions and the wasting of public money.

Parliament’s financial watchdog announced the “super investigation” a week after Parliament rose. It now includes the extra £2 billion Johnson earmarked this month for “turbo charging” the ‘no deal’ process.

It follows a total of 24 reports by the NAO on Brexit since 2016, which highlighted scandals and public waste. This included the exposure of former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s mishandling of ‘no deal’ Brexit freight contracts which cost the country more than £50 million including paying Eurotunnel £33 million in an out-of-court settlement.

Source: Parliament’s Financial Watchdog Launches Investigation into Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit – Byline Times

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The verdict: Universal Credit is a Governmental Disgrace

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.

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.