Does Universal Credit Mean The End of Jobcentres?

Further evidence that Iain Duncan Smith is making it up as he goes along comes from the DWP’s Major Programmes Director Steve Dover who admitted this week that Universal Credit (UC) will be ‘digital by default’.

In a piece buried in the Guardian’s Computing section Dover says:

“The starting point, I said to our telephony collaboration teams based in Newcastle, was just think of a contact centre, but it has got no people in it and think of an operating model that has got no back office, and start from there,”

This may well comes as a shock to the thousands of people who currently work processing benefits and dealing with claims in jobcentres and Housing Benefit offices.  At present new claimants have a face to face interview with an advisor at the jobcentre, where a Job Seeker’s Agreement is drawn up and a claim for benefits is established.  It appears this is no longer to be the case.

Whilst the DWP claim there will be a small back office for ‘vulnerable’ claimants, for the vast majority there will be a “massive web-enabled internet channel for the vast majority of the transactions that will be done for universal credit.”

It therefore seems unlikely that IDS is planning to retain Jobcentres and Housing Benefit Offices to carry out the same job.  However this doesn’t fit with Duncan’s Smith’s claim that Universal Credit will feature the toughest ever sanctions regime, with even part time and low waged self-employed workers to face being bullied off benefits.  Currently this type of bullying is carried out by jobcentres.  There is also the small matter of helping people find work, sometimes jobcentres actually help someone find a job.

Are these services to be farmed out to private poverty pimps like A4e, effectively privatising jobcentres and condemning thousands of public sector workers to the dole?  Is this his plan to curb rocketing unemployment – close the jobcentres and sack all the staff?

The alternative is that the two systems will be run in tandem, creating two huge bureaucracies which is hardly conducive with IDS’ claims that Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system.  And like so many of his increasingly bonkers plans, it will cost of fortune.

Despite the DWP persisting with claims that the new benefit will be ready to roll out next year, so far there have been no clear answers to these questions.  Possibly IDS himself doesn’t know and if he does he ain’t telling.  The goal posts seem to be shifting ever more frequently as the deluded Secretary of State attempts to blag and bluster his way through the quagmire he has created.

Equally worrying is the fact that according to Ofcom only 75% of people have access to broadband.  It’s not a big leap of imagination to assume that those without broadband generally represent people with lower incomes and therefore includes a substantial proportion, if not most, of the millions of people set to be moved onto the new benefit.

Will these people be expected to process their claims and provide sensitive and confidential information to the DWP from internet cafes in full view of any passing fraudster?

Even possessing a broadband connection, an additional expense to be  inflicted on the very poorest, may well not be enough.  Many claimants have literacy and numeracy difficulties, some people do not speak English as a first language, and the ability to use IT varies hugely from person to person.  Some people have disabilities and may not be able to afford specialist IT equipment or use internet cafes and libraries to administer their claims.

When Working Tax Credit became available to claim online the system quickly fell over and was abandoned as millions clogged phonelines for advice on how to use the clunky bug-ridden system.  Universal Credit is set to be far more complicated than Working Tax Credit, taking into account as it allegedly will, housing provision, health needs, childcare support and possibly even Council Tax Benefit.  On top of this Working Tax Credit was an annual claim.  Universal Credit is planned to be a real time benefit, with monthly alterations to awards.

This ‘contact centre with no people in it’ looks set to be a very busy place.

None of this is stopping Iain Duncan Smith, who appears to have been bought an lap-top for Christmas and now thinks he’s Bill Gates.  He won’t be the first silly old man to get himself in a muddle with computers.  Unfortunately he plans to inflict his ineptness onto millions of the countries poorest people.

But it’s not all bad news.  Cameron nailed his colours firmly to the mast by forcing the Welfare Reform Bill through Parliament last week.  So when the whole thing comes crashing down it won’t just be Iain Duncan Smith who might find himself queuing up outside a non-existent Job Centre.

14 responses to “Does Universal Credit Mean The End of Jobcentres?

  1. Iain Duncan-Smith is one of the biggest cunts of the modern era.

  2. Hitler in his bunker was less deluded than IDS.All these problems never even entered his thick,insensitive skull when he was drawing up his plans with his crayons and colouring book.

  3. Lord Knight of Weymouth showed great interest in the New IT for UC in the committee stage of the Lords.

    Heard nowt about it since.

  4. Speaking for rural Wales (which is everywhere except Cardiff really) the internet here is so slow broadband is 300kbs and the lifestyle here is so old fashioned even many teenagers aren’t online: it’s very common to have neither a computer or internet at home. The four computers in the nearest town library are besieged after the end of school by small children who need them to do their homework on in the short time before it shuts, and are rarely empty at other times. (For some reason, the council has installed free wifi on a bus route used only by pensioners, but none in the library, so we have other access i need to buy a laptop and learn to use it while the bus does nearly 70 down the twisty icy lanes. I love speeding buses, i know it’s wrong. Word is, the Polish drivers used in the hills are really fast, several crashes. And the pensioners are not technophobes, most use ipods for the long journey, but they socialise in real life and don’t get the web.)

  5. Also,internet cafes don’t exist in the countryside. In Shrewsbury, a town of 60,000, the only public internet was in the library on computers running Windows 98, the only wifi was at the now-closed reference library, and that was it for Britain’s largest inland county. In Pembrokeshire, the largest town is 15,000. The nearest internet cafe would mean travelling to Swansea, i assume there’s one there: if Cardiff, by public transport i couldn’t come back on the same day, and i live on a top bus route. There’s not even transport to hospital except a volunteer from several counties away, there’s only A&E and maternity there anyway – we don’t have services in the normal sense! One thing I have learnt is that only the ‘nationalised’ services were truly national, operating in the whole country, even here, eg post office, BT: all internet service providers claim to operate here but subcontract to BT, that applies to lots of services, and one thing that worries me about privatisation is the complete withdrawal of services from rural communities: 10% of us live in London, 25% in the countryside! Poverty is another topic entirely urbanised, yet the whole of the Rhonddfa is poor.
    Also also, i quite like jobcentres, they do a good job and the people in them are helfpful, you won’t remember the Thatcher era but they used to be rude to you, really nasty, now they are, if anything, too soft – it’s not like everyone’s really looking for work. (That sounds un-anarchist, but their job is to make sure you’re really looking, amongst other things.) I had to wait 2 weeks before starting my last job, during which time i became ‘long-term unemployed’,was switched to ‘training’,and they got loads of money for finding me a job because i started after two weeks with them, although it was actually the jobcentre who found me the job! I was really hopping about this…and now, i will shut up, i will…

  6. Also also also, having read the article, will they outsource it to India? And makes us pay to listen to Purcell on a loop?

  7. Maybe they’ll force us to go work in India lol…x

  8. Isn’t that the idea? Make benefits almost impossible to recieve so that you’ll do just about anything before you even consider signing on… shades of the “Nudge unit” there.

    The only hope I can see is that, bizarrely, they go too far. If they really trash the safetey net, maybe enough of the shit-munching morons who hold the balance of power in UK elections will turn against welfare “reform” and we’ll actually get some good reforms that help people instead of shitting on them for a change. It’s going to be quite a challenge for the Daily Heil to come up with all these welfare horror stories when people are sleeping on the streets and obviously NOT getting “$26,000 a year” and “a free mansion from the Council”, although they’ll obviously try and court the racist vote by blaming it all on immigrants.

  9. I think we all know or at least strongly suspect the government wants to privatise JC+. Sometimes i feel sorry for frontline staff – there’s no doubt they get a raw deal. But then i remember they can also be petulant little dictators not interested in helping people only sanctioning them.
    This idea of a ‘tough’ sanctioning regime: why not just build suicide booths ffs? That’s work for people: Workfare building the damn things followed by a huge cost to step inside and get a permanent vacation from this tory nightmare. They simply begrudge us claiming benefits on every level. I have no doubt that, if he could, Smith would simply remove them altogether and let us eat cake, privatised cake.
    I think I agree with Andy above: in a weird way really screwing the poor might be the only way to wake up Middle England and get them to grow a collective conscience. Certainly relying on the Daily Fail to do that job isn’t working.

  10. Pingback: Workfare Slavery Infects the Public Sector | the void

  11. Pingback: Iain Duncan Smith – Is He Pissed? | the void

  12. Rosemary Skinner

    Been on Universal credit 2 months had a sanction of a month,,,still had NOT a penny.. I still keep seeing things written about they cant sanction the Housing element????????. FFSAKE!!!. Where is mine then???,,can someone advize please????.

  13. Rosemary Skinner

    Advize please???.

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