Understandably, there has been a lot lately about Universal Credit, but UC is currently only being paid to a very small number of people with the easiest type of claim to administer. If UC is affecting anyone then it is actually those not receiving it.
Let me explain, UC is, amongst other things, meant to replace the payment systems for Income Based JSA and ESA, but not Contribution Based. As a result, the existing systems will, all other things being equal, not be needed after current claims go over to UC. Such a process, given the high rate of turnover amongst people on JSA and ESA, would not I think take very long, in comparison with, for example, the original, pre IDS timetable for moving people from IB to ESA.
In the spirit of the blind optimism, associated with UC, the care and maintenance of the current computer systems for paying JSA and ESA has been reduced, if not almost ceased. After all, why bother spending money on a system that will soon be redundant? You will find this attitude linked to other changes since May 2010, all of them predicated on a speedy, efficient implementation of the panacea that is UC. They are also, possibly, part of the case that UC will save the taxpayer money.
I really do not need to tell you how unfounded Leigh Lewis’s optimism was about DWP’s ability to implement a project like UC without a more than a small degree of difficulty. Mr Lewis, Permanent Secretary at DWP, made his astonishing statement in the autumn of 2010, in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee and just before he retired and took his pension. Optimism, incidentally, not shared by the outgoing Labour Work and Pensions Ministers in May 2010 nor by the current Shadow Secretary of State. UC really is all down to IDS and so are all its effects on those not claiming it.
Out of Phase Rundown
What is now happening is that an out of phase rundown of the existing payment systems is increasingly affecting the routine payments for people on JSA and ESA. Have you and/or people you know been keeping your noses clean, meeting the requirements placed upon you by DWP to look for work, getting your sick notes in on time and so on, but have routinely not been being paid on time? Then your claim may have been made clerical.
Both computer systems have been rejecting claims being set up on them, for reasons sometimes beyond the wit of man, from the moment that they came into use. These claims have to be administered clerically and then, with the aid of a work around, set up on the system proper. Sometimes, the computer has subsequently rejected at a later stage claims that were fine when they were first set up. These claims have to be removed from the system and administered clerically whilst they are rebuilt. Unfortunately, the rejections and clerical administration are bound to result in delayed payments. Some of these effectively change for months the date on which someone may expect to be paid and imagine such delays happening over Christmas, Easter and/or a Bank Holiday weekend. And some claims are never rebuilt, because the system will not accept them.
DWP aims to process new claims within a certain time, for example, XX% of claims within XX days. New claims rejected at the outset (and requiring complicated WARs to set them up on the system) may fall down the cracks so that this internal target can be met.
Putting it succinctly, the deliberate neglect of the state of the systems for paying JSA and ESA to existing recipients is making the lives of many of those people much harder than it would otherwise be. One might almost go as far as to say it is criminal negligence or at least breach of contract.
Are You Jointly Claiming JSA? Are Your Payments Routinely Late?
If you answer yes to both of these questions then you may be a victim of a new phenomenon (according to ex colleagues within DWP), the rejection by the computer systems of a class of claim rather than individuals or a select group within a class. Joint claims are relatively few in number, but what next? The rejection of a larger category of claims?
What Can You Do?
Firstly, if you are experiencing regular delayed payments, whether or not your’s is a joint claim, then demand to know why you are not being paid on time. Do not be fobbed off with an apology and with the payment to which you were entitled. You met your side of the bargain and DWP did not meet their side. Can you imagine any of those, who label people receiving social security as as scroungers, accepting similar treatment by their bank? If DWP decline not to be specific about the problems with your claim then send in a request under the Data Protection Act 1998. They will have to tell you about a matter having a direct impact on your individual claim. After all, no one else is affected, are they?
Secondly, once you know you are off the system, contact your MP and demand to know what they plan to do about it. Point out, given the problems caused by your regular delayed payments, that you may in future have no other option, but to seek their help every time a payment is delayed. Also, copy your communication to Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, care of the House of Commons.
You Could Help Signal the Death Knell of UC
Personally, I think Ms Reeves has already decided to scrap UC, but wants the cover of a National Audit Office report to deliver the coup de grâce for her! IDS cannot put UC out of its misery. He has too much credibility (yes, I know, what credibility?) invested in it and were Ms Reeves to announce that she would cancel it, before she gets to warm a seat in Caxton House, then she will be painted as weak on welfare room by all the usual suspects between now and May 8th 2015.
However, there is nothing to stop Ms Reeves adding this farrago to the list she has started to wave at IDS in Parliament. In addition, evidence of endemic failure within existing systems lays the ground for terminating the development and implantation of UC. Repairing the damage to existing systems whilst continuing with the roll out of UC will, I assume, end up costing us a lot more than cancelling UC now. It is typical of IDS to not only come up with a programme of radical change, but in addition, claim that it will save money. However, to borrow a lyric from the 1960s, IDS is King Midas in reverse, everything he touches turns to dust. One might almost think he is a Demolition Man, put into DWP to destroy the Department and leave the field open to a series of contracts with the private sector, organised by the Treasury.
Anyway, Ms Reeves, although in favour of the principle of UC (who is not?) does not, at the very least, think it a project to be delivered within one Parliamentary term. I suspect her views have not moved closer to those of IDS, since her meeting with him, earlier in this Parliament. Perhaps a few more nudges are needed to make her feel comfortable in not waiting for May 2015 to make her views clear?
There is a thought provoking idea here though about a similar approach, but which might prove easier to implement and provide a better outcome for those most in need of one and it is not IDS!
Thank Heavens For Our Membership Of The European Union?
The DPA is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which defines UK law on the processing of data on identifiable living people. It is the main piece of legislation that governs the protection of personal data in the UK. Although the Act itself does not mention privacy, it was enacted to bring British law into line with the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995 which required Member States to protect people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and in particular their right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data.