Monday, 21 March 2016

History Being Made

Sometimes you become aware of history being made and for me that was yesterday Sunday 20th March as I watched and listened to Iain Duncan Smith put the knife into George Osborne, not just once, but repeatedly on the BBC 1 Andrew Marr show. 

Whatever you think about the man, his policies or motivation for resigning from the Cabinet, what the famously 'quiet man' of politics had to say was dynamite for the Tory government and the Nasty Party under David Cameron and the particularly loathesome Chancellor of the Exchequer. You just knew what he was saying about the government dividing the nation was true with the poor having to continually shoulder the burden of national debt reduction and that we were indeed not "all in it together". 

To hear a politician speak honestly is so rare nowadays, it's noteworty in itself. We've all come to accept that politicians lie and spin most of the time and the trick is to try and fake sincereity. Tony Blair was brilliant at it and later today David Cameron will have to try and rebut IDS's accusation that the Tories don't give a toss about poor people because they will never vote for them. 

He's going to have to fake compassion and that is going to be quite an uphill task, especially as the Andrew Marr interview was merely the 'hors d'oeuvres' with IDS delivering the main course in the House of Commons to traditional silence and before the Prime Minister can embark on any damage-limitation exercise. 

All the chickens are beginning to come home to roost for this 'nasty' government and it's only to be hoped that HM Government's Loyal Opposition can start getting their house in order so as to capitalise on this spectacular 'own goal' by the Tories. 

IDS was careful to get his retaliation in first and it's worth savouring:-      

"I am incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the government has delivered over the last five years. Those reforms have helped to generate record rates of employment and in particular a substantial reduction in workless households.

As you know, the advancement of social justice was my driving reason for becoming part of your ministerial team and I continue to be grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to serve. You have appointed good colleagues to my department who I have enjoyed working with. It has been a particular privilege to work with excellent civil servants and the outstanding Lord Freud and other ministers including my present team, throughout all of my time at the Department of Work and Pensions.

I truly believe that we have made changes that will greatly improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged people in this country and increase their opportunities to thrive. A nation's commitment to the least advantaged should include the provision of a generous safety-net but it should also include incentive structures and practical assistance programmes to help them live independently of the state. Together, we've made enormous strides towards building a system of social security that gets the balance right between state help and self help.

Throughout these years, because of the perilous public finances we inherited from the last Labour administration, difficult cuts have been necessary. I have found some of these cuts easier to justify than others but aware of the economic situation and determined to be a team player I have accepted their necessity.

You are aware that I believe the cuts would have been even fairer to younger families and people of working age if we had been willing to reduce some of the benefits given to better-off pensioners but I have attempted to work within the constraints that you and the chancellor set.

I have for some time and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they've been made are a compromise too far. While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. They should have instead been part of a wider process to engage others in finding the best way to better focus resources on those most in need.

I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.

Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign. You should be very proud of what this government has done on deficit reduction, corporate competitiveness, education reforms and devolution of power. I hope as the government goes forward you can look again, however, at the balance of the cuts you have insisted upon and wonder if enough has been done to ensure "we are all in this together".


  1. It is not very often that I find myself in agreement with anything IDS says but I agree we are not all in this together unless you are in the millionaires club that currently misleads this country. As a CRC probation officer in London I have a number of disabled clients and they have little hope and few prospects and it saddens me that this government seems set on reducing what little they have whilst giving tax breaks to the rich and those that control the corporate media. Probation officers need to regain their critical voice and advocate on behalf of their clients. Stand shoulder to shoulder with others who are protesting injustice.

  2. The compassionate IDS, Feb 2015, Reform Conference:

    "Take for example the cost of supporting child in care – estimated at over £60,000 per year. The cost of keeping a first-time young offender in jail – over £20,000. The cost of someone sitting on jobseeking benefits for a year – £10,000.

    £90,000 for just a single life that goes off track.

    So we know the cost of failure all too well.

    By monetising this value and underwriting the return… Government can then create a bond into which others invest. If the programme delivers the outcomes, investors see a return… whilst Government pays not for the process of tackling the problem, but for success at the other end."

  3. Lest we forget - some bits & bobs about IDS from (from 2014):

    Iain Duncan Smith’s Departmental Spend on Private Consultants jumped 59% in just 1 year

    Over £150million of taxpayers’ money has already been spent on court fees related to successful appeals against unfair WCA assessments

    The DWP have written off £140million in overpaid Housing Benefit paid in error since October 2010

    £241m of taxpayers’money is set to be wasted in IT overspend, including £34m write offs, for Iain Duncan-Smith’s Universal Credit says the National Audit Office

    DWP Audited Accounts show that at least £90 million of IT spend on Universal Credit will have to be written off, a near trebling in the 3 months after the aforementioned NAO report

    The government admits it will fail to miss its own deadline for the roll out of Universal Credit by up to 2 years

    There are now 707 Food Banks operating in the UK, a growth of 613% since David Cameron became Prime Minister

    The number of people using Trussell Trust Food Banks has grown from 40,000 in the last year under Labour to 500,000 in the 9 months from April-December 2013

    David Cameron turned down EU Cash for Food Banks says the European Parliament

    The number of Suicides has climbed 8% in 1 year

    1,100 persons died in the period after a Work Capability Assessment ruled that they would be fit to work at some point in the future and that they should begin to ready themselves for work (Work Related Activity Group). *** This figure has since been revised in 2015 (Guardian): "between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,580 recipients of ESA had died. Of this number, 2,380 – or 4.7% – had received a decision that they were fit for work. Many of these would have appealed the decision, a process that can take many months. Another 7,200 claimants had died after being awarded ESA and being placed in the separate work-related activity group – a category which identifies claimants who are unfit to work but may be able to return to work in the future."***

    I count the loss of at least 2,380 lives and £600M of taxpayer monies while the 'quiet man' carried out his public duty. I don't doubt the figures are actually higher.

  4. The Tory party imploding is a great deal of fun to watch especially after the jibes they levelled at Labour under Corbyn and the Lib Dems. One can only hope the opposition stops infighting, gets their act together and comes all guns blazing after the Tories.

  5. This will help NPS pass their caseloads across to CRCs:

    "Almost 700 convicted sex offenders have been removed from the register in the past four years, the BBC has learned.
    Since 2012 at least 170 rapists and 157 child abusers were told they no longer had to register with the police.
    They include people convicted of raping boys and girls, incest, and taking indecent images of children.
    More than 50% of applications - allowed under a 2010 Supreme Court ruling - were successful, a Freedom of Information request revealed."

  6. Like one of his champions, Michael Howard, I have always thought 'there is something of the night' about Osborne as well. Unlike Cameron, he lacks the skills of a snake oil salesman. It's rare to see Osborne in a photo opportunity without a hard hat, overalls and a trowel or spanner in hand. He is one of those who knows the words but does not hear the music.

    It's wonderful to watch the Tories trading insults and spreading discord and disunity. Hopefully all this toxicity will do long-term reputational damage and put a stake through the heart of the lie that 'we are all in this together'. This was always a illusion, but the budget with its giveaways to the better-off and takeways from the disabled, plus IDS's lapse into truth telling, will put that trope in the same archive as 'peace in our time'.

  7. I've been reading about a legal challenge DWP and IDS lost just before he resigned, to do with disclosing FOI request information. Any truth in this?

    1. It would seem so. This from Independent Friday:-

      However, a legal decision this week has come to light which may also have had some bearing on the Minister’s decision. The DWP has been ordered to release potentially damaging documents after a four year long legal battle to suppress them.

      In 2012, Freedom of Information requests were submitted to the Department for a number of reports relating to the early stages of Universal Credit. The reports contain details of problems and concerns which DWP staff raised about the programme and the outcome of a high-level review of the scheme. The DWP refused to reveal the information.

      Appeals were submitted to the Information Commission who decided that all but one of the requested reports should be published. The DWP contested this again and a lengthy legal battle ensued. This week, once more, another judge ruled that they must publish the information.

      The DWP has said it is suppressing the reports because they were compiled on the assumption that the information would remain internally and that if they were to become public knowledge, it would have the “chilling effect” of staff no longer briefing the Department completely honestly as they would always be wary that the information would get out.

      However, critics have argued that the Department is more likely to be concerned that information in the reports is damning or embarrassing for the DWP and by extension its Minister, Mr Duncan Smith.

      In particular, the DWP has projected that the Universal Credit scheme would be extended to 12 million claimants by 2017. However, figures suggest that a mere 200,000 have joined the scheme, which would represent a gross failure to meet the target.

    2. 10 mar 2016 from DNS website:

      A tribunal judge has hinted that he may order the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to release vital information from 49 secret reviews it carried out into the deaths of benefit claimants.

      Judge Andrew Bartlett QC was chairing a three-person tribunal panel that was hearing an appeal brought by Disability News Service (DNS) against DWP and the information commissioner.

      DNS has been trying since August 2014 to obtain information contained in the 49 so-called “peer reviews”, to find out what actions ministers have taken following deaths linked to the withdrawal or non-payment of benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA), and to the discredited work capability assessment.

      DWP first insisted that it held no information about such deaths, but later admitted that it carried out internal reviews into some deaths and serious and complex benefit-related cases, and that it had conducted 49 reviews of deaths between February 2012 and the autumn of 2014.

      DNS appealed to the information commissioner after DWP refused to release any of the information from the peer reviews, but was forced to appeal to the information rights tribunal when the commissioner ruled in favour of DWP.

      Judge Bartlett told the barristers representing DWP and DNS at last week’s hearing: “Suppose we were to decide… that there are some bits of reviews… which should be released.

      “What would the practicalities be of applying that? You might want to think about that.”

      He said later that the panel had seen headings such as “lessons learned”, “local recommendations” and “national recommendations” in the seven reviews they had been shown by DWP so far.

      He said: “Those are the areas we are going to have to be thinking carefully about.”

  8. they have replaced one waste of space with another - Steve Crabbe has form for believing that homosexuality can be 'cured' and he's also got a terrible record for voting in favour of all benefit cuts over the last couple of years. The fact IDS has gone isn't a time to rejoice imho.

  9. This blog is schite. Same crap different day.

    1. Then don't read it...........not rocket science

    2. There is always, telly tubbies!

    3. I have to read it. I wouldn't if I didn't have too!

    4. No-one's making you.

  10. This blog is raw and unsanitised, some would say schite but I recognise a huge pile of steaming reality for many working in the 'brave new world' of Probation. Having said that we have to make the best of it as it is, in the here and now for the benefit of those various interests that we work for and not least those who have offended. There is much we can do, within the constraints placed upon us to, to achieve something positive. A little more focus on what we can reasonably do to ameliorate the worst of TR, of which there is much to identify with, and how we can make the most of our strengths would add to the credibility of this blog. Yours an avid and grateful reader and participant.

    1. Everyday I go into work and achieve something positive despite my job! That's down to the person I am and nothing to do with my masters who have different targets to me and there's don't involve treating clients as living beings. But this is becoming harder and harder to do and I can feel myself being consumed by civil service buerocracy

  11. Look the blog has been in free fall for a while. TR is here to stay and the Tories won. napo top table also won. We lost everything despite all Jim's efforts.

    1. Really not bothered about the Tories or Napo top table in the grand scheme, here today and gone tomorrow. The future will be guided by ideas for tomorrow which we can influence. Where I have some issue with this blog, much as I admire it, is the idea that harking back to the 'good old days' will not inspire the changes we can find some new consensus around. I am heartily sickened by what has happened to Probation but I am ever more convinced that moaning and groaning (I moan and groan a lot about it)will achieve very little. Have some faith 19:56 this blog has got some legs left in it yet.

    2. Chin up 19.56

    3. Just take the medicine. Service levels and reducing reoffending are your only priorities. Accept this and your feel so much better. I do

  12. If you can fly by the seat of your pants while everything is made up as you go, you will survive !

  13. I still find this blog interesting and informative and I respect the author's tenacity in continuing to blog frequently. In spite of the put downs and crap that is dished out, probably by the same people that were not prepared to stand up and fight for probation.

    1. Shut up 23.15. The author don't give a crap anymore. We've had the same topic for days. Nothing new is reported. No guest blog. No accountability. No halting TR. The fight is over and this site only helps us to mourn our losses whilst others rejoice in our demise.

    2. Oh what a silly person! Author has a day job and clearly cares enough to post and moderate. You can offer a guest blog. There is lots of new stuff today. Posting at one minute to midnight my guess is you're now a pumpkin and possibly sober(ish).