Wednesday 18 September 2013

Problem Solving with Iain Duncan Smith

The Department for Work and Pensions boss Iain Duncan Smith has an incredible knack for getting himself into ridiculous situations. Before he even became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions he had an appalling track record  which included stuffing his CV with baltently false claims, "Betsygate" (paying his wife a taxpayer funded salary to do virtually nothing, according to people from his constituency) and being such a weak leader that he was deposed by the Tory party before he could even lead them into a single General Election.

Ever since his appointment as the top man at the DWP he's given a truly unrivaled display of callousness and incompetence. Quite a feat in a government which includes a myriad of appalling and malicious personalities such as George Osborne, Theresa May, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Eric Pickles, Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps Michael Green.

In this article I'm going to highlight some of the ridiculous situations Iain Duncan Smith has got himself into in just the last year or so. I'm also going to provide some options to help you consider how you might have dealt with such situations, were you incompetent/cognitively illiterate/hubristic/malicious enough to have got yourself into them in the first place (which I suspect you're wouldn't have been). 

Atos deaths

2012: Official DWP research shows that in the space of just 10 months, 10,600 people died within six weeks of enduring an Atos Work Capacity Assessment. This figure didn't even include the potentially thousands of people to have died in the aftermath of being found completely "fit for work" by Atos and stripped of all of their disability benefits entirely (such as Brian McArdle). No data on their fate was collected at all, so it is pretty difficult to estimate how many people have died within weeks of being declared completely "fit for work" by Atos, but I have tried to work roughly how many might have died under these utterly appalling circumstances to add to the 10,600 proven deaths.


A. Launch an urgent inquiry into these deaths. Suspend the WCA assessment regime until the inquiry has been completed. Attempt to establish whether there was any causal link between the Atos administered WCA assessment regime and the high death rate. Broaden the scope of the investigation to include the fates of those declared completely "fit for work" and thrown off benefits too.  
B. Do none of the above, ensure that similar research is not carried out for the following year and stonewall Freedom of Information requests for more recent data on the scale of these WCA deaths.
Unlawful workfare scams 

February 2013: The Court of Appeals declares that your mandatory unpaid labour "Workfare" schemes are unlawful. The consequence of this judgement is that several thousands of people who had had their unemployment benefits unlawfully stolen should be entitled to compensation, amounting to an estimated £130 million in total. Despite a tide of grotesquely inaccurate propaganda from you and your DWP minions to pretend otherwise, the ruling is very clear about the reasons your schemes are unlawful. There are two main reasons:

Firstly, the rules had been written so incompetently that they were unintelligible. It is clearly unfair to expect people to comply with rules that are impossible to understand.

The second factor that made these rules unlawful was that you blatantly exceeded your powers by bypassing parliament and introducing these rules without first subjecting them for parliamentary scrutiny


A. Accept the judgement of the court. Compensate the victims of your unlawful regulations. Draw up some intelligible rules and present them for parliamentary scrutiny before you even dare try to enact them.  
B. Repeatedly lie about what the court judgement actually said. Bodge together a ridiculous piece of retroactive legislation designed to avoid compensating your victims by retroactively rewriting the rules so that the "workfare" rules would have been intelligible, had they been written that way at the time your victims were sanctioned for non-compliance.

The £53 a week petition

April 2013: In a remarkable display of hubris you (a person who lives rent free in a £multi-million property owned by your family in law) make a public declaration that you could easily live on just £53 a week. It doesn't take long for a petition for you to live up to your boasts by surviving on £53 a week for a year to gather over 400,000 signatures.

A. Accept that your empty bragging has been well and truly found out, live on £53 a week for a whole year, and try to salvage some kind of moral dignity from the situation.
B. Hypocritically declare that the petition is a political stunt (unlike your own empty bragging presumably), and refuse to live on £53 for even a single day, let alone a whole year.
The Universal Credit shambles
August 2013: A National Audit Office investigation into your flagship welfare reform finds that £millions have been wasted on botched IT projects. The report reveals that the Universal Credit  project is suffering from "over-optimistic time scales", "a lack of openness about progress", "weak management, ineffective control and poor governance". It also describes the DWP as having a "fortress mentality" and a culture of only ever reporting "good news".

In another internal report into Universal Credit which came out a few weeks before, staff working on the scheme described the project as "soul-destroying", "unbelievably frustrating" and "a complete nightmare". Other staff complained of
"a near complete absence of anything that looks like strategic leadership in the programme" and "a divisive culture of secrecy".

Yet another report demonstrates that Universal Credit will create huge disincentives for people to increase the hours they work, meaning that in many cases, people will actually be financially worse off if they move from part-time, to full-time employment. What makes this so much worse is that you have repeatedly claimed that Universal Credit will give people more incentive to work, but the way your flagship scheme has been designed means that it will actually create significant financial disincentives which are even worse than the current system!

A. Accept that your flagship scheme is turning into an expensive shambles, apologise for your failure to effectively manage your own project, and resign from your job.
B. Mislead parliament, refuse to accept any responsibility for these spectacular failings. then lay the blame these spectacular Universal Credit failures with the civil servants that work for you (the ones who complained about an abject lack of strategic leadership and a "divisive culture of secrecy").
Lying to parliament and the public

2013: You get caught out telling lie after lie after lie to the public and parliament alike. In one instance you blatantly misuse official statistics in order to create a misleading narrative about how successful your welfare reforms have been, despite the statistics showing nothing of the sort. In another case you lie to parliament about the amount of money wasted on botched IT projects for Universal Credit, telling them that it was £34 million, when the real figure is at least £161 million.
A. Apologise for misusing official statistics, and resign from your job for having lied to parliament.
B. Refuse to accept that misusing official statistics is wrong, invent some absurd justification narrative that it is OK to misuse official statistics as long as you claim to personally believe in the false conclusion you've developed. Doggedly hang onto your job in the hope that standards in public life have fallen so low that lying to parliament is an offence that doesn't even elicit punishment these days.
Food bank referrals
April 2013: It becomes clear that the welfare cuts you are imposing are driving people into such desperate situations that they become reliant upon food banks. You try to claim that the exponential rise in food poverty has nothing to do with your savage welfare reforms, but one of the biggest food bank chains keeps presenting evidence that significant percentages of people being referred to them by JobcentrePlus are being referred because of welfare changes and delays in welfare payments.
A. Admit the blindingly obvious (that cutting welfare payments to the poorest and most vulnerable people in society drives many of them into greater poverty), undo some of the welfare reforms with the worst outcomes, and subject all future welfare cuts to evidence based cumulative impact assessment.
B. Identify the JobcentrePlus referral form as the source of the information being used by the food bank to prove that welfare reforms and benefit delays are responsible for a high percentage of referrals, then simply change the referral form so that it no longer includes the reason for referral (make sure this is done before your next raft of savage welfare reforms such as the "uprating" bill and "bedroom tax" are imposed). Continue to spread unsubstantiated assertions that the unprecedented rise in food poverty has absolutely nothing to do with your welfare "reforms".
The discriminatory WCA regime

May 2013: A court judgement finds that the Atos Work Capacity Assessment regime discriminates against people with severe mental health conditions. The case that the WCA regime is discriminatory is a compelling one. It is blatantly unfair to expect many people with severe mental health conditions to have the ability to either collect the required evidence of their condition, or to adequately explain how their condition limits their ability to work, during the Atos administered assessment procedure.

When it comes to mental health issues, there is another consideration too; the social stigma of mental health problems. Given the history of social stigma, institutionalisation and abuse inflicted on sufferers of mental health conditions throughout history, it is hardly difficult to empathise with people that find it an extremely challenging, and even shameful, to openly discuss their mental health problems. To make such difficult admissions of their mental problems (in a hastily conducted interview, with a complete stranger, employed by a profit orientated corporation) under the threat of losing their entitlement to benefits and being forced to look for work that they are incapable of doing, is clearly a form of state administered abuse. 

One of the worst things about the WCA regime when it comes to mental health conditions, is that the tiny minority of "system gamers" milking the benefits system by faking mental illnesses will know precisely the right things to do and say in order to get the desired "unfit for work" outcome, whilst the genuinely mentally ill are much more likely to fail their assessment due to their inability to provide adequate evidence, or their reluctance to even admit the seriousness of their condition (many people with extremely serious mental health conditions steadfastly refuse to even admit it).


A. Accept the judgement of the courts and bring a halt to the 11,000 odd discriminatory WCA assessments being conducted every week, at the very least until a new assessment regime that doesn't discriminate against the mentally ill is developed.
B. With breathtaking contempt for the courts openly refuse to accept the court judgement, refuse to halt your discriminatory regime, and launch yet another vexatious appeal against the findings of the court.
How you did

You answered A to all of the questions: 

Well done, you clearly possess moral integrity. You should be proud that in a world where corruption, greed and dishonesty rule supreme, you can still easily identify the decent course of action.

You answered A to most of the questions: 

Your moral integrity isn't perfect, but it is still much higher than the standard amongst the political classes. Perhaps you should consider a career in politics?

You answered B to most of the questions:

Oh dear, you don't seem to have much human decency. I wouldn't want to be a member of your family.

You answered B to all of the questions: 
Only one person is capable of such extraordinary and regular displays of malice, dishonesty and shamelessness. You are Iain Duncan Smith, and nobody likes you.

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More articles from
"Lord" Freud: Risks, corpses and slums
Is the Atos WCA regime psychological torture for disabled people?
 The Atos disability denial factory

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