From the TUC

Universal Cock-up

05 Sep 2013, by in Society & Welfare

The National Audit Office report on Universal Credit: early progress is the most negative I can recall on any aspect of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Every paper is covering this and Labour has forced Iain Duncan Smith to explain himself to the Commons by asking an emergency question. Among other things in the report:

  • Ministers do not know whether their expensive new IT system will work.
  • In May, they wrote off £34 million (17 per cent) of the new IT they had invested in.
  • They will review whether more needs to be written off when they are clearer about their plans for the future of the programme.
  • In spring, the whole project had to be “re-set”.
  • The ‘pathfinder’ project has only taken about 1,000 claims, and these are the simplest. They aren’t able to process claims that need to use the IT very much and parts of the process have to be carried out on paper. You may wonder what can be learned from a pathfinder like this; the NAO report straight-facedly, “The Department believes that the pathfinder is testing claimant behaviour.”
  • The national roll-out has had to be delayed and the report is rightly skeptical about the claims that the whole process will be completed by 2017: “to keep to the 2017 completion date, the Department would have to migrate a large volume of claimants within a short time frame.”
  • The project was managed using an “agile” methodology, typically used for small collaborative teams – this programme “grew to over 1,000 people.”
  • There have been five “senior responsible owners” since 2012.

The fundamental mistake, the one from which everything else flowed, is that “Throughout the programme the Department has lacked a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work.” In the absence of a grand plan, DWP needed excellent day-to-day management information, an eye open for problems down the road and regular reviews; in fact, in 2012, the Department was warned about problems, but didn’t respond for a long time. NAO says “the Department has never been able to measure its progress effectively against what it is trying to achieve.”

The normal way of managing changes like this, (“whereby systems are developed after policy is set”) would have meant roll out in April 2015; instead, the Department went for May 2013 and could not explain to NAO why they chose this date. A major decision that can’t be explained suggests something deeply awry.

Not understanding what they were doing was the key problem, but three subsidiary issues are also important. The NAO report describes them as “weaknesses in the management of Universal Credit”: – lack of transparency, inadequate financial control and “ineffective Departmental oversight”. The Department did not enforce key terms of its contracts with suppliers, so they weren’t able to hold them to account and financial control has been ineffective. The programme Board has been inconsistent and the programme team has become a victim of Groupthink.

Iain Duncan Smith must not leave his senior officials to take responsibility for this. Ministers responsible for major reforms have a number of key responsibilities. It was Mr Duncan Smith’s responsibility to make sure officials understood what he wanted, were able to tell him when this was unrealistic and to keep up with progress of projects. Above all, it was his responsibility to know what Universal Credit would look like when implemented and how the law and administrative machinery would deliver this.

The NAO’s summary of what has gone wrong manages to combine restraint with powerful criticism:

At this early stage of the Universal Credit programme the Department has not achieved value for money. The Department has delayed rolling out Universal Credit to claimants, has had weak control of the programme, and has been unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300 million to develop. These problems represent a significant setback to Universal Credit and raise wider concerns about the Department’s ability to deal with weak programme management, over-optimistic timescales, and a lack of openness about progress.

The Secretary of State must take full responsibility – his job should be on the line, not his officials’.

28 Responses to Universal Cock-up

  1. viki
    Sep 5th 2013, 12:37 pm

    Total disgrace to be blaming “others” for a system he was told years ago would not work!!!

  2. viki
    Sep 5th 2013, 12:39 pm

    total disgrace and waste of tax payers money we need IDS to be accountable for HIS errors and NOT blame other people

  3. AJH
    Sep 5th 2013, 12:54 pm

    Exactly,Mr Exell and Viki.

  4. Derek Trower
    Sep 5th 2013, 1:00 pm

    This idiot must be brought to account and certainly Sacked and possibly imprisoned for corporate manslaughter.Ian Duncan Smith is certainly on a par with Hitler.Trouble is he hates all the disabled in Britain irrespective of race.creed or colour.

  5. judy allen
    Sep 5th 2013, 1:04 pm

    IDS is not going to admit he is wrong about anything, after all it doesn’t affect him if he was sacked tomorrow he will still live his life of luxury, he has no idea how the “commoners” live their lives.

  6. garyxxx
    Sep 5th 2013, 1:23 pm

    I completely agree with Derek’s comment – The amount of money he has cost the Tax Payer “£billions” on unworkable and failing programmes, and his persistence on attacking the unemployed, sick, elderly and especially the disabled is sickening and the British people have had enough of this evil persecution of disabled people.
    Iain Duncan Smith along with David Cameron are the most hated people this country has ever seen, their policy’s are killing people, causing mass poverty, homelessness and suicide for some desperate disabled people wrongly and illegally deemed fit for work by Atos

  7. Allan Whitehead
    Sep 5th 2013, 1:24 pm

    When I was young I asked my mother where my brother-in-Laws hair had gone (I was 5) my sister being sixteen years older hence why I had a brother-in-Law. My mother told me not to be rude. People with broad foreheads were very intelligent.
    Now this story about Ian Duncan Smith, as just informed me that my mother, that my mother had told me a story that was not true.

  8. Iain “hapless” Duncan Smith blaming civil servants | News and political views
    Sep 5th 2013, 2:10 pm

    […] Universal credit: Iain Duncan Smith blames civil servants for IT failings Now if a report says the government’s Univeral Credits project is late and that civil servants have poor control of a project, well who am I to disagree, even if political convention says the Minister, in this case Iain Duncan Smith, is supposed to account for this. But the bill of £2,400 million for an IT system should give us some warning that this project was always going to take some time. See – Rule of Thumb – Optimum Project Duration – The optimum project duration (in elapsed months), is equal to 2.5 times the cube root of the total project effort (in person months). My guess – software development – 600,000 days. The cube root rule then gives 15 years. So expensive, huge and unlikely to be delivered fast. But other assumptions that the government are making that further question the credibility of this project – – that online systems will mean a big saving in verification effort; – that employers will want to provide daily information on hours worked by employees. There are doubts about these assumptions; the first an indication of what’s happening in practice (and perhaps a bit of a surprise), and the second, a concern about the will to do this in the future. I think a unified understanding of anybody’s earnings, obligations, taxes and social security needs is laudable and could do a lot to mitigate poverty traps and claims of injustices that thresholds designed to make things simpler then introduce. But you’ve gotta ask some basic big questions before you set out to make changes like these. Especially if you’re the politican in charge. Fur fuller piece, see http://www.labourblogs.com/public-blog/michaeledwards/31269/ And for a review of the NAO report – http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/09/universal-cock-up […]

  9. Duncan Simons
    Sep 5th 2013, 2:17 pm

    IDS is a menace and he has blood on his hands because of this system people supposedly fit for work have died within weeks of their assessment’s. He should be held to account in a court of law for his criminal actions and he still trying to bring in more unfit for purpose systems with the new universal credit. It’s a disaster waiting to happen which has cost the tax payer million’s more then it’s supposed to save stop the whole thing now before total chaos and more people that are vulnerable die at his hands.

  10. Cornish Chris
    Sep 5th 2013, 2:17 pm

    Two of my friends have taken their own lives following interrogation by ATOS, their questions are stupid. “can you lift a cup and drink from it etc”
    I blame Iain Duncan-Smith for the early death of these persecuted people, they were not disabled by choice ! MURDERED !

  11. Stephen Bee
    Sep 5th 2013, 2:22 pm

    To Allen Whitehead Re your mothers assertions, I concur that she may have been wrong, I was always told that a wide tall forehead was a sign of ‘greed’ Checkout Cameron, Grayling et al…there’s more that just a few in the Tory Party.

    Good blog btw..I don’t recall many of the items mentioned by the NAO as revealed in the blog..being tested/quetioned in any great detail by the TV media in interviews..certainly the point about overall responsibility..and where it lays.

    IDS vision was seemingly ynot conveyed succingtly in the first place it seems…To blame others for his own fault..is a sign of cowardice. Nothing new there then? LOL

  12. Kernow King
    Sep 5th 2013, 2:49 pm

    Iain Duncan-Smith has nothing but contempt for the disabled, sort of a I D-S Master Race attitude.
    See his smug satisfied look on television, after he`s done something to make life even harder for the disabled.
    Not surprised his actions are not working, look up his past when you have time !
    He should go NOW !

  13. james
    Sep 5th 2013, 3:33 pm

    The only thing he has not failed at is in marrying a very rich wife.

  14. [email protected]
    Sep 5th 2013, 4:19 pm

    The Conservatives are using the Older MP’s or one’s that don’t stand a chance at being voted back in,They have been used to put unpalliative proposals of Universal Credit Scheme, put forward on instruction from the Conservative party executive in full knowledge this will only hit the less well off & when he steps down before the next election he will been promised a peerage in the House of Lords in my opinion lets see them take a Pay Cut & Reduction in Pension & Payouts when they are Voted out of Parliament, This will save enough money to Refurbish Schools, Library’s etc.

  15. george
    Sep 5th 2013, 5:25 pm

    should be sacked. no idea what damage he is doing.

  16. paul
    Sep 5th 2013, 7:01 pm

    The man is a repetitive lier, he won’t go in front of the commitee to state his lies about unemployed going down and saving the country money.His I.T is in shambles and way over budget and time already. I.D.S has cost the country more than they will ever save,”SACK HIM NOW”. Then sack the WHOLE GOVERNMENT. They have just about sold our country down the river.

  17. Diana
    Sep 5th 2013, 7:05 pm

    For the pain, suffering, endless persecution and deaths of the sick and disabled alone, IDS needs to be on trial for gross inhumanities to humankind.

  18. Dun(g)can make your garden grow
    Sep 5th 2013, 7:24 pm

    He said “no-one ever gave me a penny”, but omitted to add that his in-laws gave him a mansion and an estate. Also let us not forget that he was accused of harassment of his office staff and fraud while Leader of the Opposition, see
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmstnprv/476/476we17.htm
    The hairstyle may have changed but there is no evidence that the character has.
    It says it all for the Govt when they employ people like this

  19. Geoff Dunn
    Sep 5th 2013, 7:54 pm

    a truely evil excuse for a man ,he should be arrested for crimes against humanity !

  20. South Barn
    Sep 5th 2013, 9:11 pm

    At my instigation as a consultant, in 1991 the then Inland Revenue undertook the development of the Collection Service Case Management System through eight adaptive stages with high sponsor and user involvement. The project was delivered to time, quality and budget. Yet again, we in the UK fall for the marketing hype of the US and then make a mess of what we have been doing quietly and proficiently; remember ‘virtual storage’ aka the Atlas II storage strategy, but Ferranti forgot to patent it.

  21. Martin Campbell
    Sep 6th 2013, 8:25 am

    I work on ‘agile’ software development projects, including large and complex ones with many dependencies.

    The key to success in large agile projects is splitting them into small enough teams and defining very clearly what constitutes a ‘potentially shippable product’ as a whole and for each team.

    I think we’d all agree that Universal Credit is, quite spectacularly, nothing like a ‘potentially shippable product’.

    I reject the implicit suggestion that agile methods could not have been used effectively here, and speculate instead that they may simply have been used badly because their use wasn’t thought through.

  22. Owen
    Sep 6th 2013, 1:12 pm

    “the Universal Credit programme the Department has not achieved value for money” and with those words a parallel Government department named Ofsted would place Iain Duncan Smith in ‘special measures’ and if he didn’t pull his socks up, close him down. So why isn’t this happening? One rule for them, a different rule for everybody else: hypocrisy.

  23. Phil Culmer
    Sep 6th 2013, 8:44 pm

    I wonder how much the contractor donated to the Conservative Party?

  24. Drew Gordon
    Sep 6th 2013, 11:51 pm

    This Etonion super-brat thinks he knows it all.Yet when it comes to facts he knows sod all. He is nothing but an arrogant schoolboy bully who has been put in charge of the till at the sweetshop.
    He has forced disabled people into a state of fear that no other person in his position has ever caused before and yet when challenged to put his money where his fat mouth is he crawls back under the stone fron whence he came. Time he was given his marching orders with not a single penny. Better still he should be tried and jailed for his crimes,as that`s really what they are…

  25. Colin Thompson
    Sep 9th 2013, 11:32 am

    One would think that an expensive public-school education would at least make IDS a little more intelligent than the average idiot of his stature. A ten year old with a “Hannah Montana” calculator could have figured out this would be a monumental waste of resources to implement.

    Perhaps between “Debating class” and “Greek Mythology” classes, Eton should have taught more practical subjects such as “Mathematics”.

    It is plain to see that IDS’s commitment, and continued support of this flawed and expensive catastrophe which is “Universal Credit”, is fueled more by a prejudice towards the poor and vulnerable whose lives he wishes to make harder, rather than to save the country money.

  26. jed goodright
    Sep 11th 2013, 5:40 am

    HOW MANY MORE DISABLED AND POOR PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO DIE BEFORE THE UNIONS AND THE USELESS LABOUR PARTY TAKE ANY REAL NOTICE AND REALLY START TO DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE????????????????????

  27. CHRIS
    Sep 11th 2013, 10:12 am

    Anyone not working and paying lots of tax are surplus to requirements, MP`s can`t claim even more expenses if there is insufficient tax coming in !
    However if Cameron had got his way, and attacked Syria, he would have found the money from a Country that cannot help support the Pensioners, Disabled, and Unemployed.
    In Cornwall Falmouth Docks and Pall of Redruth will be making lots of people redundant, these now respectable tax payers, will soon be called Benefit Scroungers by Cameron, and Duncan-Smith.

  28. Phil Culmer
    Sep 11th 2013, 10:37 am

    Well, not entirely surplus.

    As long as people don’t get too sorry for us, and realise what the government are up to, we are a useful stick to beat low-paid workers – “don’t complain or ask for a pay rise, we can replace you with someone from the dole in a moment”. We scroungers and useless eaters help to keep inflation down, and give the likes of Iain DipSh*t a blood-sport now that we’ve managed to get fox hunting banned.