More benefits to be administered by hand

It seems that the DWP is appointing 112 additional staff to administer the benefit cap, a policy estimated to affect 40,000 people nationally. They will have to process the changes manually. The Independent attributes this to the failure to develop the new IT scheme for Universal Credit, but it’s not clear that if the system had been in place, it could have easily been adapted to do what the government hopes; the decision depends on lots of moving parts, including rent, family circumstances, the assessment of personal needs and income.

The problem is, bluntly, that decisions about the benefit system are being made on the basis that they look like a wizard wheeze that will make for good headlines; but when it comes to the dirty details of how to do things, the politicians can’t be bothered with the practicalities. This has been the pattern of a series of inept policies – the cuts in child benefit, procurement, IT commissioning, the Work Programme, the Universal Credit system itself. Nothing in the benefits system can be made to work on that basis.

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