His welfare schemes keep imploding, severely ill people keep being declared fit for work and so many people are falling through cracks in the benefits system that food bank use surpassed a million this year. Yet Iain Duncan Smith soldiers on. The media seem obsessed with discussing Ed Miliband’s appearance, but the man who has overseen the chaos and misery of the Department of Work and Pensions is still in his job – a serious media would call for this ridiculous man to resign.
Today the Major Projects Authority (MPA), a watchdog for government programmes, declared that the Universal credit scheme the DWP has been working on for the last three years has had to be so reorganised due to technological mishaps and problems that it is now effectively a new scheme. This means that the scheme is now recognised as reset – after three years of doomed attempts to get it started.
Last month the DWP blatantly ignored its own evidence in order to enact a punitive scheme that doesn’t help anyone. The Department of Work and Pensions decided to launch its “Help to Work” programme, despite the fact that its own test pilot showed it to have basically no positive effect. It revealed that only 19% of people on the scheme ended up in employment – compared to 18% in the control group. Millions of pounds are being wasted simply to garner a few more gleeful benefit-claimant bashing headlines in the Daily Mail.
The list of failures goes on and on. ATOS, the private company that the DWP hired to decide whether sick and disabled people are fit for work, has declared a shocking number of very ill people fit for work. Since the work capability assessment began there have been more than 600, 000 appeals lodged against Atos decisions and in four out of 10 cases the original decisions have been overturned. As a report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee noted, “in far too many cases the Department is getting these decisions wrong at considerable cost to both the taxpayer and the claimant.”
On top of all this is the rise and rise of food banks. The number of people using foodbanks has risen from 128,697 in 2011-12 to 346,992 in 2012-13 and to 913,000 in 2013-14, according to The Trussell Trust. The Trussell Trust has said that around 44% of people using food banks are there because of benefit changes or delays. This means that they are there because of problems or policies which are ultimately the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions.
Iain Duncan Smith seems to believe that the fact he once toured impoverished council estates in Glasgow gives him an understanding and level of compassion that none of his critics can possibly possess. But, the misery that his reforms have unleashed demonstrate that he is delusional. He has overseen a chaotic department that worsens the lives of the most vulnerable. Ministers have resigned for far less.
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