Archive | January 2013

Universal Credit is having teething troubles.

Posting here for those of you who haven’t noticed I now have my own website www.aidaaleksia.com

Universal Credit is having teething troubles.

Actually it may be a bit unfair to say that.  Strictly speaking Universal Credit refers to the new benefit that will replace income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Child and Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Multiple problems have occurred over the past months but not all of them are related to Universal Credit.

The roll-out of PIP (Personal Independence Payment, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance) has been delayed, so that people currently receiving DLA will not be reassessed for PIP until October 2015.  This is a delay from the previous date of January 2014.[1]

Universal Jobmatch is facing trouble.  The government seems keen to get Jobseekers registered on the job-search site and there have been suggestions that this is so that the Jobcentre can track Jobseeker’s efforts in applying for jobs.  However as it is not legal to force a person to allow cookies on their computer, the Jobcentre cannot force anyone to reveal what job-seeking activities they have carried out on the Jobmatch site.

This may be a good thing.  There are many job-search sites and I would suggest anyone searching for a job should not restrict themselves to just one site.  Particularly one that is known to be open to abuse by scammers and hackers – including Channel 4, who deliberately hacked into the government’s Universal Jobmatch site to demonstrate how vulnerable the system is.  Or rather how vulnerable are the people who are using it.

The Benefits Cap is also having trouble.  Asides from being totally against Beveridge’s principles when he set up the first social security system,[2] it is also facing delays of up to 6 months.

The Work Programme is another area facing trouble.  Multiple organisations have withdrawn from it, after public disapproval of a scheme that effectively pays people less than minimum wage for their work.

Even areas that aren’t undergoing reform are having trouble – GPs and the General Medical Council earlier this year called for an end to the Work Capability Assessments for ESA.

 

But these troubles are not related to Universal Credit.  They’re separate troubles.  Universal Credit has troubles of its own…

 

Most recently, that the massive real-time information system on which Universal Credit partially relies is not working.  The Guardian reported today that the IT system supposed to match employer’s payments to employee’s ban accounts (i.e., track how much an individual is paid in a given month) fails on 25% of cases.[3]  This is based on figures given by the Treasury Secretary, David Gauke, in response to a question by Stephen Timms MP (deputy shadow Work and Pensions Secretary) on 17thn December.[4]

Month

Matched Hashes

Unmatched Hashes

Failure Rate

April

2,193

87,888

97.6

May

99,264

577,174

85.3

June

747,217

828,226

52.6

July

1,091,365

200,638

15.5

August

1,307,797

239,494

15.5

September

1,209,276

348,078

22.4

October

1,453,502

273,895

15.9

November

1,544,683

526,608

25.4

 

Interestingly, and perhaps also disturbingly, whilst it is to be expected that the initial failure rate was high, that failure rate has also risen recently.

This isn’t the only problem that Universal Credit is facing.  The above-mentioned real-time information system lost some of its “key personnel” in November, according to The Independent.[5]  These included the programme director, Malcolm Whitehouse, and the head of IT, Steve Dover.  The newspaper also reported that the programme has been placed on a Treasury list of projects in crisis, is running late and is over-budget.  A national roll-out has been delayed, such that the national roll-out scheduled for October 2013 will not involve instead a small number of regional projects.

 

So maybe it isn’t unfair after all to say that Universal Credit is having teething troubles.  Whilst many of the problems are due to wider welfare reform (or lack of it, in the case of ESA), a substantial number of issues remain with Universal Credit specifically.

We’ve had a Labour government for 15 years, so perhaps it’s to be expected that a young Conservative-LibDem government has teething trouble.


[1] Note this is a delay only for those people on DLA who are not due for reassessment before October 2015.  New claims, claims due for renewal and claims with a change in circumstances will be assessed for PIP starting at various months in 2013, depending on claim type and location

[2] all families should receive child benefit because a) it’s good for the country to have a new generation to support the old b) children should not live in poverty c) only giving benefit to those reliant on social security creates a perverse incentive against work