Wednesday, 6 November 2013

DWP v. the Cabinet Office – seconds away

The Department for Work and Pensions  (DWP) want option A – please see Universal Credit and GDS – think twice – and the Cabinet Office want option B. Neither option will benefit Universal Credit but that won't stop them fighting.

Normally there would be no contest between the country's biggest-spending department and the Cabinet Office – DWP spend even more than the Department of Health. You may think it's different this time and that DWP haven't got a leg to stand on, having wasted over £100 million of public money so far on Universal Credit.

You're wrong. It isn't different this time. DWP are still huge and anyway, it's not obvious that the Cabinet Office have got a leg to stand on either, with their "agile"-is-a-magic-bullet and big-companies-are-all-useless-unless-they're-Apple arguments. Just in case these points aren't clear to the protagonists, DMossEsq issued a press release the other day, please see below. That should help.

It promises to be a bitter fight otherwise.

Long-term readers will remember Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, saying: "... soon Identity Assurance Services will be used to support the Department for Work and Pension’s Universal Credit scheme and the Personal Independence payment which, from 2013, will replace the complex and outdated benefit system".

That was on 6 March 2012, at the Information Commissioner's Conference, and of course it never happened, please see Universal Credit – GDS's part in its downfall.

Relations between DWP and the Cabinet Office can't have improved the other day when ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, blogging about his presentation to the Cabinet, wrote: "GDS [the Government Digital Service] is here to support everyone building Digital by Default services, wherever they are. We’ve already had public betas from teams at MOJ and DWP, and I’m excited to see what other teams build. It’s hard work, but it’s work people outside of government are already starting to appreciate".

In support of his claim that "people outside of government are already starting to appreciate" GDS's hard work he refers to a post on the FT blog, What HealthCare.gov could learn from Britain, which includes this:
GDS has avoided becoming fully involved in projects such as Universal Credit, where big data and big government collide. The UK government’s flagship welfare reform is having problems which would be familiar across the Atlantic, such as integrating multiple databases, managing a project with dozens of separate teams and dealing with what Mr Bracken calls “oligopolistic supply chain[s]”.
"Thank you, ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken", Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, may say, "for your support and hard work. It has been noticed inside of government as well as outside".

Needless to say but let's say it anyway, that is the flimsiest of surmise.

To get back to terror firmer, there was Mr Maude 18 months ago telling the Information Commissioner that DWP would soon have the benefit of identity assurance services.

Actually it goes back further than that. Computer Weekly magazine told us in September 2011, two years ago, that: "The first service to be delivered using identity assurance will be the Department for Work and Pensions' Universal Credits scheme", please see Identity assurance - how it will affect public services and your personal data. The deadlines came. Identity assurance didn't. The deadlines went.

So a second candidate had to be nominated as the first recipient of identity assurance – HMRC: "There were two announcements about Identity Assurance this week: HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) are going to be the first department to use the identity platform, and updated privacy principles were published for consultation so we can make sure privacy is at the heart of the services we provide", please see This week at GDS, 21 June 2013, and GDS, agile PAYE on-line.

There is still no news about the privacy principles.

And there is still no news about HMRC's planned October 2013 trial of identity assurance for PAYE on-line. What was the result? Did it happen?

You've got to be agile in this business. Be prepared for the announcement of a third candidate to be the first user of GDS's elusive identity assurance services.

Seconds away:

PRESS RELEASE


The Universal Credit tragedy

4 November 2013


It is over a year since Frank Field wrote The universal credit programme is on course for disaster. He was right then and he still is.

According to an internal DWP report leaked to the Guardian, a decision will be made in the next few days what to do about Universal Credit. DWP are said to have backed themselves into the anomalous position where there are only two options to choose between, A or B, and neither of them will help, please see:

Universal Credit and GDS – think twice

Will DWP waste hundreds of millions of pounds more of public money and add another government IT failure to our unenviable tradition?

Or will they turn Act IV of a tragedy into Act I of a new play where Whitehall starts to behave rationally and responsibly?

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Notes to editors
The word “agile” is endlessly incanted in favour of option B. That’s all it is. A word. A noise made by people clinging helplessly to the mirage of £38 billion of savings to be made by Universal Credit.

About David Moss
David Moss has worked as an IT consultant since 1981. What started 10 years ago as a campaign against the Home Office’s plans to introduce government ID cards into the UK has turned into a campaign against Whitehall’s misfeasance in public office.

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Updated 11.11.13:

Should G-Cloud and the GDS be taken seriously as contenders to run Universal Credit?
First G-Cloud Cookie land: This may indeed be a very sensible approach towards providing a common front-end to citizen-facing on-line and commodity services (like Payroll and HR) that have been unnecessarily "customised". But it is, as yet "unproven" for "heavy lifting" service delivery. Cabinet Office  has not yet demonstrated that it can deliver anything more than comparative trivia (e.g. website rationalisation) - although it has demonstrated that it can help prevent others from wasting money.
Updated 16.11.13:

Who won the battle between DWP and Cabinet Office over ID Policy? 
We know who lost in the battle between DWP and Cabinet Office over ID Policy - the taxpayer and the private sector bidders. Who won, apart from the fraudsters?

2 comments:

brianwernham said...

David,

I think it would be good for DWP to consider 'Option C' - that is that the Universal Credit policy itself assumes a 'big bang' go-live of an almightly big IT system that will solve all the woes of overcomplex benefits regulations.

I propose Option C:

a) An initial version of 'not-so-universal credit', that rolls together just 2-3 existing benefits (perhaps just JSA and ESA)

b) The abandonment of the 'lobster-pot' principle. If someone is on 'not-so-universal credit', and their lives become more complex, then they leave the 'not-so-universal credit' system. (see http://bit.ly/Universal-Credit-NAO-Blog)

Once 'not-so-universal credit' is proven, with online claimant access, working ID Assurance and security, then AND ONLY THEN would it be expanded to include Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and Disability Benefit/PIPs.

In other words - adopt an incremental approach...

Today's PAC report only outlines the problem, it does not help with a workable solution (see my analysis of today's PAC report http://bit.ly/uc-pac-report-blog-november)

Brian

David Moss said...

Brian, thank you very much for your comment and for your coverage of today's PAC report.

Yes, an incremental approach is needed.

That's one thing.

But look what's happening here.

Another Whitehall cock-up of epic proportions. It's a "procurement problem", says Francis Maude. Of course it is, what else would it be? Not exactly a new idea, it's 40 years since Edward Heath brought in Derek Rayner to sort out procurement at the MOD and a fat lot of use that's been, to the MOD and to every other Whitehall department. Ditto all the procurement reviews since and all the reorganisations of the Government Procurement Service.

They don't seem to learn. Laboratory rats do, officials don't.

They're not stupid in Whitehall. But the problems continue. So they must be insoluble. That's the only logical conclusion.

Centralisation. Standardisation. They don't work. How many more examples of huge pyres of public money going up in smoke do we need before we admit/confess it – Whitehall is the problem. Whitehall and the unhealthy relationship with their contractors.

Break it up. Devolve it. Let's add localisation to the nostrums, along with incrementalism.

There will be brain-dead complaints about post code lotteries. Post code lotteries may be preferable to standardised, centralised failure.

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