Wednesday 23 January 2013

21 million prospective Universal Credit claimants, 40,000+ ex-public servants, 400 days and GDS

From spring 2013
It is the Government Digital Service's dream to make all public services digital by default. To make that happy dream come true they need identity assurance – each UK parishioner needs his or her own electronic ID.

20 April 2011:
... To someone's dyspeptic eye, IDA looks like a non-starter, another elaborate and expensive plan which turns out to be fantasy, doomed to failure when it confronts reality. The timetable for IDA was presented and described as not over-ambitious. That is perfectly accurate. The timetable is not over-ambitious. It looks more like the psychedelic product of a prolonged session on hallucinogenic drugs. Far from being merely over-ambitious, it is quite simply impossible.

22 September 2012Universal Credit and the December putsch:
... The revised notice was published on 1 March 2012 and the service has to be operational from the Spring of 2013? Barely a year later? Only six months after the contracts are awarded? 21 million claimants? Millions of whom have never used the web? Operational? Countrywide? ... It's a tall order.

25 September 2012Identity assurance – the clock is ticking, ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken's chickens are coming home to roost:
... That's six months time if we measure to the start of next spring, or nine months if we measure to the end. Either way, DWP's Universal Credit (UC) scheme has to be up and running by October 2013 and UC depends on identity assurance as Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister, has emphasised – no identity assurance, no UC.

6 November 2012Identity assurance – shall we vote on it?:
... That's what it says in the draft legislation. Ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken was meant to announce who would be the UK's so-called "identity providers" by 30 September 2012. We're still waiting ... He'd better hurry up. He's promised to have an identity assurance service "operational" for 21 million Universal Credit claimants by Spring 2013.

26 November 2012Identity assurance – one under the eight:
More to the point, there are 21 million prospective claimants for Universal Credit in the UK. Identity assurance is meant to be operational by the Spring of 2013 for all 21 million of them. The chances of that happening are now nil. GDS's failure is extending the imprisonment in the poverty trap of millions of claimants who could be released by Universal Credit. Putting the wrong people in charge of identity assurance has miserable social consequences.

10 December 2012Universal Credit – GDS's part in its downfall:
... That wouldn't be feasible, not now, December 2012, not even if the details of IDAP had all been worked out but they haven't been ("we now have a group of suppliers with whom we can work out the practical issues"). Why hasn't it already been done? How much longer will it take?

11 December 2012, GDS's identity assurance story continues to unravel:
... GDS went on in their blog post of last March to refer to the procurement of identity assurance services, needed by DWP for their Universal Credit initiative: "The initial DWP services will be required to provide identity assurance for approximately 21 000 000 claimants ... To support the rollout of universal credit and personal independence payments, identity assurance suppliers will be selected in summer 2012 and systems will need to be fully operational from spring 2013" ... Question – how did GDS come up with that timetable?

18 January 2013#2 of many lessons about GDS and the external digital thought-leaders:
... it's impossible. Would you trust an organisation that promises the impossible?
And so was born GDS's Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP) [29.12.17: currently known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)"] which they have repeatedly promised would be "fully operational from spring 2013".

In the first instance, GDS need to provide identity assurance for the new Universal Credit (UC) system which is designed to rescue people from welfare dependency by making work pay. It's UC that needs identity assurance to be fully operational from spring 2013 and that's what GDS have promised.

From March 2013
Eight so-called "identity providers" have been appointed to turn IDAP into reality. The documentation on the IDAP contracts was published the other day, 16 January 2013, and includes this:
To support the rollout of universal credit and personal independence payments providers will be selected by June 2012 and systems will need to be fully operational from March 2013.
"... fully operational from March 2013" – 37 days away.

That deadline has seemed impossible for years, since at least 20 April 2011 (please see opposite), before GDS existed, but they (GDS) have never sought in public to change it and, even now with only 37 days to go, there may be up to 21 million prospective universal credit claimants out there who assume that the deadline will be met.

It won't. It can't be.

April 2014
In his 22 January 2013 Computer Weekly blog the engaging Toby Stevens reports on the current state of IDAP and says:
And when does all this happen? We would expect to see the first pilots in October this year, with more widespread use kicking off in April 2014.
Fully operational from March 2013? No. October 2013. But that's just "trials". So not fully operational. Maybe more like April 2014. And maybe not.

Has anyone told Iain Duncan Smith that GDS have delayed his beacon policy by at least a year? Presumably not as he keeps telling Parliament that UC's going swimmingly. Has anyone told the press? Or the prospective claimants of UC?


GDS have kept quiet about it.

Cui bono?
Instead, they have diverted us with scores of blog posts about how important the users are – excluding benefit claimants, presumably – and how the users' needs are GDS's only guide and only concern.

They trumpet the success of their single government domain project – "This website replaces Directgov [and] Business Link", it says on the home page of GOV.UK. Manifestly false. The IDAP documentation quoted from above, for example, is on

They proudly announce that they will make a minimum of 40,000 public servants redundant thereby saving the government – but not the public – up to £1.8 billion p.a.

Cheekily, in view of UC, GDS claim to believe that they are dedicated to "delivery".

And on 21 January 2013, they held a jamboree, The future is here, attended by 300 civil servants to celebrate themselves and to announce vaingloriously that they would transform government in 400 days.

Who is this all for?

It's clearly not for the users. It's not for the 21 million prospective UC claimants. And it's not for the 40,000+ ex-public servants.

That's alright then
The executive director of GDS and senior responsible officer owner for IDAP is ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken. And on his website he modestly quotes these words of Martha Lane Fox's:
It is a rare individual that can take a bunch of ideas and turn them into a reality in any environment but particularly in government. Mike is doing just that for me and it has been a privilege to watch.
Ms Lane Fox was interviewed at the heady, revivalist, the-future-is-here jamboree by a Computer Weekly journalist, Kathleen Hall, who finishes her article with this:
Although Lane Fox has been digital champion for four years, she has no immediate plans to step down. “I think you have to be constantly appraising yourself as to whether yours is the best voice – or whether you are becoming a bit like white noise, and not doing a good as job as you could be. But at the minute I’m still having a great time,” she said.
GDS's new world
Martha Lane Fox describes her digital-by-default project as a revolution. Those of us who were born yesterday will have no trouble believing that we are living in a new world. First we believed that UC would be fully operational in 37 days time. Then seamlessly we believed that the target is 400 days.

And in 400 days time?

What will GDS have us believe then?

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