Monday, December 12, 2005

Must be true - Woman In Pub says

I was just reading Clare's post at Ink and Incapability (hat tip Devil’s Kitchen Britblog Roundup) about her problems with the jobcentre. I had a conversation yesterday which might shed some light on why it took nearly four months for her to get a benefit payment when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions says that the average time for claims is under 11 days.

(I realise that information which begins with the phrase “I was talking to someone in the pub...” doesn’t usually instil confidence but here it is anyway. )

I was talking to someone in the pub who works for Jobcentre Plus dealing with benefit claims. She told me about a neat little wheeze that line managers within the agency use to help hit their targets. A benefit claim doesn’t become part of the stats until it’s completed, and for various reasons (complications, cock-ups etc) some take far longer than others. If a claim is dragging on, a request can be made to a central database for all the papers relating to it. When this documentation arrives the slate is wiped clean and the case is treated as brand new. According to Woman In Pub these database requests cost £150 each, and are used regularly on claims with simple errors worth a few pounds. I wonder how many times Clare’s claim had been round the system before she finally got her money, and how long the statistics pretended her case took. The chief executive at Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie, said last month:
“…in September, Jobcentre plus had processed 180,639 claims to Job Seeker's Allowance and had completed 93.3% of these within the12 day clearance target. I am pleased to say that the Actual Average Clearance time for Income Support was 10.8 days, which is well within our target.”
In the bizarro world of New Labour, 4 months can mean 10 days and money is no object (hat tip Tim Worstall) so long as ministers can stand up in the Commons and say that targets are being met. This is the alpha and the omega of government policy and to hell with the truth.

Yesterday’s Observer reported that spending on health has risen from £65 billion in 2002-03 to £87bn this year, and yet the deficit facing hospital trusts is set to reach £620 million (or as much as £1bn according health think-tank the King's Fund). But last week Patricia Hewitt and NHS chief exec Sir Nigel Crisp said productivity of the service is increasing, and they had the statistics to prove it. And of course, the statistics never lie do they?

I'd sooner believe Woman In Pub.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Utter utter morons. Urgh, it just irritates me.

11:40 am  

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