Coffee House

Why Universal Credit delay is a good thing, not a political failure

11 July 2013

‘Iain Duncan Smith must now ask himself if he is fit for purpose.’ That’s what Liam Byrne thinks of the Work and Pensions Secretary’s admission that the roll-out of Universal Credit is being delayed. The original plan was for all new claims for out-of-work support to go into the universal credit rather than the current benefits system from October 2013. But a written ministerial statement yesterday said the pilots of the new benefit will be extended to six hub JobCentres instead. Labour says the ‘we have final confirmation that the welfare revolution we were promised has collapsed’.

If deep down you don’t want universal credit to succeed, then you must be quite chuffed with the slowing of the timetable. But its supporters should be happy, too. Why? Well, it shows that the government really is piloting these serious and major reforms, rather than pretending it has made sure they work before rolling them out nationwide. Often pilots are rarely treated as anything other than a box-ticking exercise: indeed, one of the main problems with the reassessment of those on incapacity benefit is that lessons were not learned from the original pilots under the Labour government. But in this case, there clearly are glitches.

An opposition politician will naturally think ‘aha! glitches are good news for my universal-credit-is-failing narrative’ and rub his hands with glee. A responsible minister will think about the consequences of arrogantly pursuing a timetable just to rob his opponents of the opportunity to say the reform is failing. Real failure, meanwhile, would be a speedy nationwide rollout that ignores the glitches. These are benefits that are paid to people who have nothing else to pay for their food, rent or electricity. By all means slow the changes down if it means avoiding catastrophe.

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Show comments
  • Monkey_Bach

    After three years the government doesn’t have a system which can deal with a small number of new claims from single people without children – where their new claims are processed manually on Excel spreadsheets by clerical staff! – let alone one that can cope with the eternally fluctuating circumstances of the self-employed, families, part-time workers etc., and what is more it never will. The whole idea of rolling all these benefits together and adding a dollop of conditionality to try to force people to continually look for more work, or better paid work, and administer it semi-automatically over the internet was one of the stupidest programmes any government in history committed itself to try to implement, particularly as one of the first things it did in power was to cancel the former government’s NHS Computer Scheme.

    Universal Credit in it “digital by default” form with all of its “conditionality” attached was. is, and always will be as impossible to achieve as a perpetual motion machine. It will crash and burn and the only good thing to come out of it is an end to the careers of Iain Duncan Smith and Baron David Freud.

  • Felix

    And zealous beleiver Isabel Hardman remains completely blind to the politics of over-promising and under-delivering. Tell her it’s Tory and she’ll suck it.

  • George_Arseborne

    Bad conception always leads to failure. That is the whole truth about universal credit. So stop making flimsy excuses on behalf of a poorly thought project. Postponement at time of implementation is catastrophy

  • Theodoxia

    ” Often pilots are rarely treated as anything other than a box-ticking exercise”

    Someone needs to check her prose before pressing the publish button.

  • Temulkar

    Is the new Editor of the Spectator Comical Ali?

  • Roland’s Delectus

    Universal Credit is the most insane project in government history, attempting to co-ordinate housing benefit payments from 300 local councils, child and working tax credits from HMRC and Jobseekers’ Allowance from the Dept for Work and Pensions. It will not work. The government simply hasn’t the competence and never pays enough for such projects. It also incorporates the principle that social housing tenants receive their housing benefit themselves and pay it on to their landlords whereas at the moment the money is passed straight to the landlord from local councils. This measure has already failed hopelessly in the couple of pilots where it was tested, yet this clown IDS is going ahead with it anyway. Universal Credit will fail on every level – in its technical aspects and in the change of culture that is required for it to work.

    It will not, will not, will not work.

    And, no, Iain ‘Duncan’ Smith is not fit for purpose, as a human being or anything else.

    • telemachus

      He would make a passable rural vicar

    • starfish


      Obviously You Know Everything

      How about seeing the results of the pilots first then telling us the outcome?

      Or is that too scientific?

      • Roland’s Delectus

        Try this pilot scheme, which, as I said, has already failed:-
        Is that scientific enough? Is it abject failure enough? We already know that it will not work. You don’t have to ‘know everything’ to know that.

        • anyfool

          IDS is naïve, he believes the permanent skivers want to work and do not want to be on benefits.
          For a large proportion work has become something to fear, they have become so pathetically addicted to benefits the country has imported millions of people to do work that these people should be forced to do.
          Using the rent for cigs, booze or drugs is something that IDS will now have to take into account.

  • textmaniac

    That is spin and nonsense. It doesn’t show it’s being piloted seriously – it shows it is a complete and unmitigated disaster at the moment and needs serious tweaking at the very least.

    • andagain

      Because, as we all know, if any project is even slightly behind schedule that means it is a “complete and unmitigated disaster”.

      • textmaniac

        Having worked in DWP for 15 years i know that projects only get slipped if they are going disastrously wrong in the pilot phase. But maybe you can show me otherwise.

        • telemachus

          I trust you have now moved on
          Big Brother is watching your IP

          • Colonel Mustard

            Which you support, remember?

            • telemachus

              By definition anyone posting on this site is neither paedophile nor terrorist
              Now Coffee House Wall….

              • fantasy_island

                Please don’t rule yourself out.

          • Monkey_Bach

            Ever heard of Open DNS?

        • anyfool

          So someone who should take some responsibility for you and your fellow workers inability to do the simplest task, stands at the side lines sneering about a man IDS whose only fault is to believe the public sector can be trusted with any task.

          • telemachus

            Hear these words of Helen Sims on IDS and his £53 claim

            “The idea that a bunch of elitist, millionaire and multi millionaire ‘career politicians’ are qualified to make decisions which affect ‘everyday’ people. It’s ridiculous!

            I doubt many of them have any idea what things actually cost because they’ve never had to worry about it. After all, I read they get a £200 a week allowance for groceries alone.

            They live in an entirely different world, where reality, it seems to me, doesn’t gets a look in!

            Why are we letting these people make decisions for us?

            We need people in parliament who have lived a ‘real’ life, and at least have some idea of what it’s like to struggle, not people who think the poorest and most vulnerable in society are lazy ‘scroungers’ who just need to work harder!

            Despite what the government says, the fact is that in an ever expanding number of cases people need benefits to top up their income.

            When wages are so low and there aren’t enough jobs (even for those who are able to work) benefits are a necessity, not a luxury – and definitely not a lifestyle choice.”

            • starfish

              Helen Sims

              Ah yes, another lobbyist

              Isn’t she the one who recently claimed 75 deaths a week were due to welfare reforms?

              I should carry on quoting her

              And the welfare news service is probably yet another front for the labour party or socialist workers party or whatever they call themselves this week

              • telemachus

                As you see they are all around
                The message will be heard

            • HookesLaw

              MPs who lived a ‘real’ life. ..
              Spare me all this garbage. Atlee went to public school and was good enough to be Labours longest ever serving leader.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Don’t talk rubbish.

  • telemachus

    Remember the comical IDS assetion that he

    “would live on £53 a week if he had to”


    Matthew Parris tried it on the equivalent £26..80 in 1984

    He spent £11 on food, £2.50 on a terrace ticket for a Newcastle United game and 72p on a bus ticket to get there. And, as Barnes observed, “with two days to go he was down to his last 61p, and his plan to save £3 out of his £26.80 had collapsed. On his last evening the gas and electricity ran out and he loitered in a working men’s club, unable to afford a drink.”

    Twenty years later he returnd to the same estate for another week, this time on a 2004 jobseeker’s allowance of £54.65. The result was depressing: in 1984, Scotswood residents were angry, but still kicking. By 2004 they had basically given up and were living on antidepressants.

    That was 9 years ago. So IDS can live on £53 now.


    • HookesLaw

      Yes you are comical

      • telemachus

        It is far from comical that IDS believes that a family can live on money that is not enough for food
        Let alone shoes

        • fantasy_island

          Let them get jobs then.

          • telemachus

            They cannot find them

            • fantasy_island

              Absolute rubbish, we have jobs a plenty.

              The problem is the generosity of the welfare system, as a guy I know who has not had a job from leaving school to the age of 32 said, “I would have to earn £35K a year to be as well off as we are now”

              Who would pay this guy anywhere close to that based on his history?

              This teletubby is the problem.

              • Monkey_Bach

                It doesn’t help your case to lie. There are NOT enough jobs in the economy – even the Tory Party admits this – and many of those that do exist are part-time and too low paid to enable the people who take them to survive without large top-ups from the state. In many cases men and women moving from unemployment into very low-paid work end up receiving more in benefits that they did before moving into work.

                I think you are a right-wing dreamer.

                You’re not Iain Duncan Smith are you?

        • HookesLaw

          Refusing to admit to your lies? Benefits are not £53 a week.
          If for whatever reason you ‘had’ to you would ‘have’ to.

    • dalai guevara

      Lets put this into perspective.
      In the UK, JSA is £71/wk payable for up to 6 months
      In Greece, unemployment benefit was reduced in 2012 from €450 to €350 per month, which is…you guessed it…£71/wk, payable for up to 12 months.
      Yet Britain has a winter.

      We have long stopped comparing ourselves to Germany, sovereign wealth funded Norway, or socialist France even. Going Greek is now our paradigm.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Well given Pariss spent well over 12% of his weekly income on two hours entertainment (1% of the time period) its hardly surprising he ran out of cash……In 1984 if he hadn’t have been that extravagant he could have paid for the energy and had a couple of pints in a working man’s club and still put a little somethnig away.

      By 2004 they had basically given up and were living on antidepressants

      Indeed thats what 7 years of Labour government does for you……..

      • telemachus

        The mistake of the rich is that they think welfare must just pay for food
        The spirit must be kept alive

  • telemachus

    I do not feel we should worry
    We have the food banks

    • dalai guevara


      • telemachus

        Problem is that when you are bottom of the heap and needing help it is far from funny
        The Trussel Trust which runs food banks reports a 21% rise in the number of people who needed the banks because of problems with benefits
        IDS does not care
        The coalition does not care

        • dalai guevara

          You misunderstand my response entirely.
          I have made no secret of the fact that I believe Mother Theresa was the most reactionary Home Secretary in living memory, only surpassed perhaps by the Inept, Delusional and Stupid.

          • telemachus

            Like the description
            One of the better quotes floating around the net on IDS is

            “They are all Anti Robin Hoods. ‘they Steal from the Poor, and give to the Rich’
            Well he is a fool anyway, but not a nice one.”

            • starfish

              That’s a good quote is it?

              Seems rather weak to me

              Still, back to Helen Sims for a bon mot eh?

              • telemachus

                Helen cares
                Were it that everyone toiled to make the lot of the disadvantaged easier

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