Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Pathfindering and lobster pots: IDS defends Universal credit

If you’d judged the success of universal credit purely on Iain Duncan Smith’s tone at the Work and Pensions select committee this afternoon, you might conclude that things weren’t going very well at all. IDS was in a fabulously grumpy mood this morning on the Today programme, muttering about the presenters trying to find fault, and he didn’t seem to have cheered up by the time he arrived in the Wilson Room for his select committee grilling, accusing Labour MP Debbie Abrahams of ‘moaning’ and Glenda Jackson of ‘conflating so many issues here, it’s almost becoming risible’.

So what did we learn? IDS insisted that ‘in essence it will be delivered by 2017’: his plan was still the same as the original one he’d outlined to them in September.  He added: ‘This is what Howard Shiplee is saying, with the one exception, for reasons I think I’ve made obvious, in essence that was the plan delivered. The different way we’re delivering it is instead of loading those numbers up front, we want to ensure, by testing evaluation and then implementing, that actually the systems work for the complex groups before we then start rolling the numbers into it. I think that is nothing less – nothing more than common sense.’

Shiplee and Lord Freud also explained the new work on the UC technology to deal with the ‘lobster pot’ (this describes the way that once a claimant has moved to UC, they will stay on UC regardless of any changes in circumstances and is a bit of jargon that Freud described in July 2013 as a ‘term that we probably should not have introduced’) for couples: currently the system cannot deal with them. Universal credit is a trove of jargon: jam jars, agile, waterfalls, ‘pathfindering’ and ‘front-end loading’, not to mention those difficult rollouts.

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