Quarkside

14/11/2012

IDS gets IDs; but has he lost the plot?

Filed under: Local Government,People,Policy,Politics — lenand @ 1:40 pm
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Computer Weekly has a searching blog about the state of the Universal Credit Programme.  The risk is that too many people are concentrating on the technology, such as the recent announcement of the suppliers selected for the ID Assurance programme.

What few people have talked about, are the horrors expected when UC goes operational.  The reduction in benefits is going to cause distress in many households that are already at breaking point. The Local CIO Council discussed this last week and here are some of the issues raised – none of which have Technology solutions:

  • Thousands of properties are “underoccupied”, benefits will be reduced, families will have to downsize.
  • Digital By Design is inappropriate for many people that are socially and digitally excluded. They will need costly, face to face, mediated access.
  • Some large councils are expecting to lose £100m.
  • More homelessness is expected by Councils and the Voluntary Sector.
  • Domestic violence and suicides are expected to increase.
  • Schools will see more hungry children.
  • Child abuse is expected to rise – remember that every child taken into care will cost a local authority £250,000.
  • Some currently exempt people will have to start paying council tax, which are often small amounts that are too costly to collect
  • Releasing Section 106 obligations will compound homelessness problems.
  • B&B costs and will increase, as will relocation into different boroughs

As one respected member said “IDS has lost his sense of reality”.  He may get his IDs, but at what cost to Councils and their poorer citizens?

08/12/2011

IDs for a UK Citizen Account

Quarkside has just heard of a way to solve the following problems:

  • Benefits costs
  • Under employed people
  • Education maintenance allowance
  • University living costs
  • Basic pensions
  • Enhanced pensions
  • Recovering money for fines
  • Health costs

It requires setting up a citizen account (UK citizens only) for EVERY citizen, including children. For sake of an abbreviation, we will call it the UK Citizen Account (UCA). The following rights are given, they are paid from taxation, without exception, into a freely spendable account (FSA).

  • 0-16 child allowance, spendable by nominated parent or guardian
  • 16-18 youth allowance, spendable by the young person
  • 19-24 tertiary education allowance, spendable by the citizen
  • 24-67 working age allowance
  • 67-80 first pension
  • 80+ second pension

Alongside the government input is personal input which is a proportion of taxable income.  This is a protected endowment account (PEA).  The main aim is to build up a personal fund that can be drawn down as housing, pension, health and mid-life education.  The nearest analogy is Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF).  It is a colonial legacy: ” When the Japanese Occupation ended in 1945, Singapore became a British colony again. Life was hard. People struggled to make ends meet. To ensure that workers could take care of themselves in their old age, the Central Provident Fund was set up as a compulsory savings scheme. ”

The benefits to the government are:

  • Simplicity of administration – entitlements are universal, every citizen independent of other income
  • Means tested benefits cease, such as housing benefit.
  • Personal National Insurance (NI) contributions are paid into the PEA, like a compulsory personal insurance.
  • Employers NI contributions are paid into the PEA as a percentage of taxable income.
  • Debts to the government can be taken from the fund, eg fines, unpaid taxes.
  • Choice by the citizen for medical treatment.  The tariffs are well documented.  A percentage is taken from the PEA for every access to NHS services – lower percentage for basic services (10%) – higher percentage for more expensive, private care provision (90%).
  • Funding for infrastructure from accrued savings
  • Funding for low cost housing by giving loans from accrued personal PEA savings
  • Choice to use the PEA for adult education and retraining for new skills.   The Working Age Allowance is always paid to provide some basic income.

The benefits to the citizen are:

  • Guaranteed untaxed income throughout life, whether working or not.
  • Working will always be better than not working.
  • Protected Fund, built up by work, for spending on housing, further education, pensions and health.
  • Additional contributions from employers (including self-employed), interest on account and profits from fund investments.
  • Opportunity to obtain a mortgage from funds accrued – commercial interest rates will be charged.
  • Opportunity to pay for adult education or re-training.
  • No risk of bankrupt or stolen pension funds.
  • Choice to pay for care at home or residential homes.
  • The residue on death forms part of the estate – not taken by the government.

The details can be sorted out, but it avoids the costly mistake of Universal Credits.  Such a total restructure of the welfare state means sacrificing sacred cows. Singapore now has a handle on social welfare costs, unlike the UK.  They have a successful economy.  Rationing of health costs is left to citizens and their families.

And the governance issue is: – citizens will need to have a trusted Identity,  without too many duplicates.  Perhaps this will be good enough to allow them to vote, too.

02/04/2011

Agile: Challenge for Universal Credits

Filed under: Governance,Risk,Strategy — lenand @ 11:28 pm
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The PASC MPs were earballed by DWP about how Agile development would  guarantee that the Universal Credit (UC) system will deliver all that is needed within two years, without a fiasco.  This was shortly after Martin Ferguson (SOCITM) challenged the UC change process, which has not brought in the skills and experience of local authorities.  The inquisitors did not follow up this challenge and seemed to swallow the promise of technology without really understanding why agile is different.

Twelve principles underlie the Agile Manifesto:

  1. Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  3. Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Working software is the principal measure of progress
  5. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  6. Close, daily co-operation between business people and developers
  7. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  8. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity
  11. Self-organizing teams
  12. Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

It’s a superficially attractive philosophy, but endorsement by the Institute for Government would not convince many CTOs.  What is more relevant is advice from BT, who have had some success with Agile devekopment:

“To be truly effective, the agile approach needs to reach right across the business, not just the IT organisation. You might expect that the business would be excited at the prospect of having regular deliveries of valuable functionality. However, the business also needs to move away from traditional waterfall practices and change how it engages with the IT organisation.”

Knowing what we know about the risk aversion of public sector – the reliance on Agile may be ill-founded.  Many of the twelve principles run counter to decades of bureaucratic behaviour.

21/02/2011

Identity Icebergs to sink Universal Credits

Does the Cabinet Office talk to the Cabinet Office – or any other Department for that matter?  Last week’s Local Government Delivery Council also had two related presentations; “Identity Assurance for Public Services” by the Cabinet Office and  “Employee Authentication Services (EAS)” by DfE and DWP.

Put these into the context of “HMG CTO Council – Government Employees Strategy for management of Identities – Version 1.1 – 1 February 2011. ” This noble document has some excellent content as far as it goes – but look at the juicy bits it deems out of scope.

  • “Access control of data within a single system or organisation
  • Entitlements of a validated identity within a single system
  • Authorisation services and other capabilities enabled by identity management
  • Citizen and Individual authentication even for access to government services or visitors to government sites
  • Identity Management of systems, devices and other entities
  • Audit and accounting requirements other than by reference to their need.”

Most, if not all of these are required by real live systems, especially in Local Government.  They are probably the hard bit where most guidance is needed.  Federated identity management protocols do understand how to include these options.  For example the use of Shibboleth 2 in the education sector can easily differentiate between children and teachers in Web based application systems.

EAS has been around for years in DWP.  It has been recently used for the “Tell Us Once” (TUO) project, authenticating for multiple agencies handling common citizen data.  They have discovered the need for, and have implemented, some employee attributes that allow differential access to application systems. This is out of the scope of the strategy above, but they found they had to do it.  Every Local Authority (LA), and there are hundreds of them, needs guidance on this because most do not have the internal skills and knowledge to interoperate with external identity providers (like EAS, but there are lots more). A common standard for federating identity, supported with standard software, is the only sensible way to proceed.

Finally, there was a bomb shell from the Cabinet Office.  As part of the stakeholder engagement process, they presented  “a federated approach through which a person is able to assert a trustworthy identity“.  Here are some of the enlightening aspects of a working federated system:

  • delivered for DWP Universal Credits in April 2012
  • provided ‘by the market’, presumably meaning non-funded
  • dependent on external verification of identity by third parties (such as banks) selected by the citizen
  • LAs will provide an Identity Hub which collects personal data and matches with the external credentials (this is a minefield, not just icebergs)
  • links with biographic, health, wealth and education data by attributes
  • links with DVLA
  • links with an ‘official’ address file
  • not dependent on a centralised identity register
  • Oh, and by the way, it will run on the GCloud. Trebles all round.

The aspirations are wonderful, straight out of the junior management consultant’s handbook, but three simple questions illustrate the risks involved:

  1. Does the Identity Management industry, working with hundreds of LAs, have the capacity to deliver in such a time scale?
  2. Does the Cabinet Office (or anybody else?) have a Technical Architecture that is fit for purpose and compliant with the CTO Council strategy?
  3. Identity management ignorance crippled the development of ContactPoint – why is it so much easier and simpler for Universal Credits?

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