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Universal Credit Benefit - Will Chaos Reign?

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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


OneFootInTheGrave Report 29 Apr 2013 12:17

Today sees the start of the governments new Universal Credit Benefit, initially it was to be tested in four areas involving about 7,000 claimants, however for reasons only known to those in The Department of Works & Pensions, it is to be tested in only one area and will only involve a few hundred new claimants, and these will be single unemployed individuals with straight forward claims:-S

The new Universal Credit when fully rolled out could affect nearly eight million people, and it will replace six benefits, the main things it will include are:-

A single, monthly payment

The inclusion of financial help to pay rent, which is currently paid directly to landlords

An online-only claiming process, with accounts managed online

The benefit paid to households, rather than individuals, and put straight into bank accounts

Benefits automatically adjusted depending on earnings as employers will provide earnings information using HMRC's PAYE Real Time Reporting System.

Although I like the thinking behind rolling six benefits into one benefit, I have reservations about the way this is being handled, and they are:-

1) Why is it not being properly tested to ensure it works before it is introduced
2) Is it too dependent on others providing information, i.e. HMRC and Employers
3) Should rent be paid direct to tenants
4) Should payments be made monthly
5) Will immediate help be given to people as a result of system failures or errors

If past governments hopes, that new computer systems will deliver, is anything to go by, I fear with this one we will end up with a more chaotic system than exists at present :-(

Rambling Rose

Rambling Rose Report 29 Apr 2013 12:30

The 'test run' using the software that was set up failed dismally with some being paid ( housing benefit I think? ) twice, some late and some not at all.

'In theory' it would be an improvement if all benefits were delivered together...but in practice I can see chaos all round.

Will it be paid 'in advance' or 'in arrears' as if you are going to make a claim will you be without any money for a month? or will you owe them a month's money if you come off benefits?


OneFootInTheGrave Report 29 Apr 2013 12:37

Good questions RamblingRose, and I think there are a lot more that need answers, if they get this wrong it could become Cameron's Poll Tax.

Rambling Rose

Rambling Rose Report 29 Apr 2013 12:48

One thing that occurs to me, I know it will be new claims to start with, but what will happen if someone like my friend has to claim. I helped her fill in all the forms for housing benefit...if this has to be done online, who will make sure that facilities are available to people who are housebound and can't use a PC?
It will have to be done over the phone, which will be even more difficult than form filling, at least you have time to re-read the form to make sure you have all the details right.


maggiewinchester Report 29 Apr 2013 12:54

As far as I can see, there are going to be problems before you start!

The online form that takes approximately 45 minutes to fill in, doesn't save. This was waffled away this morning by a minister saying it was 'for security' reasons - yet, as was pointed out, when a tax form is filled in online, it saves.

So - good luck and let's hope you don't make a mistake!!!

Imagine, when it's fully rolled out, the thousands of people who don't own a computer queuing in jobcentres and libraries :-(

Rambling Rose

Rambling Rose Report 29 Apr 2013 13:08

They would be out of luck at our small library Maggie, two computers and 30 minute time slots. Already they are used by people obliged to log in and look for jobs, upload cvs , and the librarian is often called to help by people who are not used to computers.


Potty Report 29 Apr 2013 13:22

Changing from weekly payments to monthly is going to be very difficult for a lot of people. How are those who are living from week to week going to manage for 4 weeks without any money?


RolloTheRed Report 29 Apr 2013 13:27

The software is being developed in India under the DWP "Offshoring policy"" i.e. get it done on the cheap. Just like certain banks and the DVLC.

The contractors promise to adhere to confidentiality agreements.

The chances of the system being half way up and running by June 2015 are vanishingly small. If it goes tits up then IDS is toast as most of the top tory dogs are hostile to this project.

Along with the bedroom tax, DLA changes and the upcoming badger massacre it will make good press copy though.

Rush for the cliff


wisechild Report 29 Apr 2013 13:56

Of course it will be a disaster.
Not least because the staff who have to administer it aren´t sufficiently knowlegeable(It´s new to them too) & also most probably the new software will not be fit for the purpose & the powers that be will have been told that it doesn´t do what the staff need it to do, & the staff will have been told not to be defeatist & give it a chance.
6 months down the line, chaos will reign. :-0 :-0
Also, monthly payments are a disaster for people on low incomes. It´s possible to manage for a couple of days if you run out at the end of a week, but a MONTH.
Rent arrears will rocket if Housing Benefit is paid direct to the claimant, costing Local Authorities thousands in rent arrears cases being taken to court. Honestly if you had to choose between feeding & clothing your kids & paying the rent & you had money in your hand, what would you do? By paying rent direct to the landlord, at least people keep a roof over their heads.
Hopefully I will be proved wrong, but I´m not holding my breath.


BrianW Report 29 Apr 2013 13:59

I am sorry to say that, although the general aim of simplification is good, I have no faith in Government IT projects.
And I foresee that paying housing benefit to claimants and not directly to landlords is going to lead to massive numbers of rent arrears and evictions.

(Sorry if that repeats what Wisechild says, we were typing at the same time)


OneFootInTheGrave Report 29 Apr 2013 14:24

A lot of excellent feedback in response to my initial post, glad to see I am not the only one with reservations about this project.

In regards to the software proving to be unsuitable, it will be in good company when it joins the hundreds of other failed pieces of government software in that huge warehouse marked "NFFP" (Not Fit For Purpose) :-|


maggiewinchester Report 29 Apr 2013 14:34

Just had a thought.

How many MP's do you think know how to use a computer properly?
Expenses are probably put through by PA's, anything they need to look at, probably PA again, any forms to be filled in - PA.

So, they won't understand the problems of online forms not saving.

The majority of front bench MP's have loads of money, so don't understand what it's like to be unable to afford to buy food.
(they can get it free - courtesy of the tax payer - anyway :-P)
They don't pay rent - (courtesy of the tax payer again) - so have no idea about that, and of course IDS lives rent free.
They've never sat in a freezing house unable to afford the gas.
They can't understand why someone wouldn't/couldn't have a bank account.

Nice to know they (and in particular IDS) think they know and understand sooo much about how the other half lives, that they feel they can re-arrange people's lives at the blink of an eye and people will cope.


OneFootInTheGrave Report 29 Apr 2013 14:48

maggiewinchester, it's all to do with what - David Cameron. George Osborne, and Iain Duncan Smith mean when they talk about fairness and us all being in it together :-D


wisechild Report 29 Apr 2013 15:00

The biggest fault with this, as I see it is the amount of money that will have been spent on an IT system which will almost certainly turn out to be unfit for the purpose. The NHS failure is a good example.......we´re talking millions, not thousands.
That money could have been much better spent in my view.
Maggie is quite correct when she says that the majority of MPs have no idea how ordinary people, even on relatively adequate salaries, have to budget their income.
Pensioners & others in low paid jobs don´t stand a chance. They will always have to sacrifice something in order to pay for essentials.
We are supposed to have some excellent IT brains in Britain, yet a country like Spain has an NHS computerised system which works perfectly in my experience. We also have bus passes for pensioners which give cheap, not free, travel & subsidised holidays for pensioners,& although we don´t get free prescriptions, we only pay 10% of the total charge.
This seems to help everyone because there is a small amount being contributed by the less well off, while people who can afford it pay the full amount.
I wouldn´t have thought it would be too difficult for all the so called economists in England to introduce a similar system instead of making so many people dependant on benefits at a time when work is difficult to come by.


RolloTheRed Report 29 Apr 2013 15:02

Well I've never sat in a freezing house without money to pay for the gas either. I don't think you have to have personal experience of such disasters. I do remember sitting in a freezing house by torch and candle light during the miner's strikes - does that qualify ?

A little mentioned gotcha of the new system is the calamitous effect it will have on housing associations. At the moment HA can get funding on very good terms as a lot of their income comes directly from councils and well over 95% of tenants not getting total HB pay their rent more or less on time. With the new system HA funding will cost them significantly more even if everybody pays on time ( which of course, they won't).

There can only be bad outcomes. (a) the HA will not be able to fund new social housing or significant improvements (b) rents will go up for people least able to afford them (c) possession orders will rocket.

Getting businesses used to real time PAYE filing would on its own be a massive undertaking. I am amazed that Osbourne has agreed to this. Maybe he is a secret socialist 5th column determined to bring the sky crashing down on his party.

The only possible conclusions are that either IDS and the Tory front bench are bogglingly stupid or that they intend to drive the country back into the dark days of the 1920s. Take your pick.


BarneyKent Report 29 Apr 2013 15:27

Of course it will be a disaster - its being run by civil servants. You know who they are don't you? Unsackable, over-pensioned and rewarded for interia at the end of their career with an OBE.

The theory is good, one benefit should mean one form. But it won't..............


wisechild Report 29 Apr 2013 15:39

That may be true of senior Civil Servants, but having been a run of the mill penpusher for years , I can assure you that the vast majority of Civil Servants are just work horses who get blamed when the harebrained schemes thought up by those as the top turn out to be crashing failures.
The greatest problem with the latest idea is that it isn´t just one benefit. It´s an amalgamation of several, each with different criteria for eligibility. Therefore it´s not a simple "one benefit,one form" unfortunately.


BarneyKent Report 29 Apr 2013 16:36

My apologies, I meant senior civil servants. Its the senior ones who dictate policy and mess everything up, its the poor workers who have to follow and apply their mistakes.


maggiewinchester Report 29 Apr 2013 16:38

You & me both, Wisechild.
I probably said it on anothr thread, but at the cost of £250,000, Hampshire County Council introduced a 'new' IT system - courtesy, of course, of a friend of a senior councillor.

Me & 4 colleagues are the admin for courses run for care homes - both HCC and Private.
As you can imagine, this means lots of courses, and lots of handouts, and course papers.
Whereas once, we would name a folder with the course title, and file all relevant course stuff in that folder, labelled day1, day 2 etc, now, we no longer have folders. Everything is in a list, and has to have a specific title added to it. Also can't just open an item, have to 'Check it out', then 'check it in' when finished. It also doesn't automatically save,and is so crap it slows everything down & regularly crashes, thus ensuring anything you have dome is lost!

To send an e-mail with an attachment to someone who doesn't have this system (the majority then) not takes 3 moves instead of 1.

There have been many complaints about this system, but the 'official' comeback is that 'windows' wasn't safe enough!

Hey ho, we're just the ones who use it - senior councillor (who has 2 secretaries to admin his 'voluntary' status, that gleans him over £47,000 pa, plus free petol) doesn't want to lose face does he?


terryj Report 29 Apr 2013 17:10

going to be absolute hell
all the benefits in 1 lump sum paid monthly to the main claimants bank account

where do you think the rent etc is going to fit into some peoples priority list especially if the have a drink or drugs dependency or even just mental health problems
at the moment the money is paid every 2 weeks and some people cant manage their finances monthly i feel some people will just not cope