So yet again IBS, er sorry I mean, IDS (Iain Duncan Smith to you and me) has been doing the rounds stating that everything is A-OK with his pet project to get every single darn rascal who has the audacity to be poor, ill, or worse still out of a job, off benefits. This time he was on the Andrew Marr Show stating that as well as getting people who had been out of work for a long time back into employment the reforms would save the taxpayer £50bn by the end of this parliament. So far so cushty, but it hasn’t been an easy couple of weeks for IDS. As mentioned in my previous blog on the bedroom tax, far from hitting targets around cost savings and making best use of housing stock, may well cost the taxpayer rather than at the very least being cost-neutral.
Additionally, Atos, the much loved and respected firm that has been dealing with the fit to work tests benefit claimants have to undertake to claim Employment and Support Allowance has decided its leaving the DWP. Well its contract at any rate. Interestingly IDS used the interview with Andrew Marr to state that it wasn’t Atos but the Government that sought to end the contract early. A bit like your mate at high school who claimed he dumped Jenny, and totally not the other way round. In all honesty no-one really cares but it is amusing to watch yet another seemingly straightforward bit of news go a bit sideways for the DWP. Less amusing is the fact that 4 out of every 10 decisions from Atos are overturned on appeal. Unlucky Atos, best of luck with your next Central Government contract.
And of course there is the great IT debacle that continues in a manner that would put some Greek Tragedies to shame (my favourite one has always been Oedipus, if only for the joke “Oedipus, Schmoedipus, what does it matter as long as the boy loves his mother?”). Hopefully we will see something akin to an IT system capable of delivering what the DWP wants, though I have a feeling at somepoint someone is going to go “f@#! it, let’s just use spreadsheets”.
Remarkably, in defiance of all logical trains of thought, IDS is still really quite buoyant. Though I do feel his is so in the same way the financial backers of the Lehmans Brothers were shortly before it went tits-up. Too much at stake to back out, too much pride to step back. Not a good combination. Certainly his grasp of figures, if not his grasp on reality has been called into question on previous occasions. I just hope that the support and guidance IDS claims will be there for those entering the dizzying world of the Job Centre and the realms of work after years of economic inactivity will actually materialise. As, despite promising much, not a lot of what the DWP has set out to do since 2010 has actually come off.
Mr Duncan Smith, your moment of truth is nigh.