Freedom, system thinking, politics, science, education, economics, pirates

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Chris Dillow today

Nice article from Chris today. As Deming said, environment drives behaviour.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

How long before a van full of ID cards go missing?


Link is to the lakelanders review - excellent blog!

Leave Amy alone

Amy is ill, true it may be self-inflicted, but that doesn't make her any the less ill. She needs help to get well and she needs to have her stress levels reduced. The paparazzi are part of the problem, a small part possibly, but a sick one. They have learnt nothing from killing Diana.

One sentence in the story is chilling:

"Police were called at about 2100 BST to clear a path for the ambulance through waiting photographers."

They knew the ambulance was called out in an emergency, but they were more bothered about their photos than the health of their quarry.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

It's a fiasco, I tell ya!

Predictably, Gordo's Tax Credits are doing as much harm as good. I know several families who were overpaid, double checked with the IR people and were assured the money was theirs. Now they get no credits until they have repaid the payments, which were incorrect after all.

The Tax Credit scheme is so complicated that no-one understands it, including the folks who have to program the IR computers. Over complex systems always fail, one way or another.

Other Gordo Gems include:
Taxing growth on Pensions
Selling our gold reserves cheap
Creating disastrous PFI schemes, just to hide his excessive borrowing from his own golden rules.
The 10p tax and its later withdrawal
and many many more...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Frank Field in The Times

July 22, 2008

Giving the jobless capacity for change

More reforms will be needed unless staff and claimants themselves are the engines of change

There can be little doubt that welfare reform still awaits a radical government. Despite this Government spending £60billion on the New Deal and initiatives to make work pay, and a bouyant economy that has created more than three million additional jobs, the total out of work has fallen only from 5.7 million to 5.4 million.

The largest group of workless claimants - which has grown since 1997 - are the 2.7 million people on incapacity benefit (IB). Yesterday the Government proposed three important reforms to that benefit. The first is to abolish it and to replace it with an employment and support allowance. This is deeply flawed because it leaves the same structural faults in the system. It will not stop people trying to graduate from being plain jobless to being classified as long-term sick, which rewards them with more money.

The first part of any serious reform should have been to create a single rate of benefit for all claimants of working age, thus taking away the perverse incentive to join the ranks of the officially long-term sick. Claimants with a disability would still be able to claim the disability living allowance - which all disabled people can receive, regardless of whether they are in work or not.

The Government's second reform is to replace the test for incapacity with one that establishes which activities claimants can actually do. It sounds nice but it, too, is unlikely to work. There are large numbers of genuine claimants on IB. There are also, sadly, a large number who, in Barbara Castle's phrase, simply “monkey about” with no intention of working. The trouble is that the Government is poor at judging which claimants fit into which group.

It was not long after the implementation of the last, supposedly more rigorous, test for IB that claimants intent on monkeying around found out which answers maximised their chance of getting a more generous benefit.

The Government may think that its new test is on a par with the Enigma Codes, but past experience shows that the best schemes that the Department for Work and Pensions can devise are quickly broken by groups of highly talented code-breaking claimants.

The third element in the Government's programme is a faith in the private sector's ability to help claimants back into work. But the use of private agencies doesn't necessarily mean an alpha service, as worried pupils awaiting their SATs results can testify.

A truly radical reform would include three complete breaks with the past. The first would be to build on the expertise of staff in local benefit offices. They have a much better idea than any minister of which claimants need - and want - help and which are simply swinging the lead. Benefit offices should be transformed into separate business units, run by the staff.

Each office would have its own budget and be required to operate within benefit laws. Freed from the miles of red tape, staff would be able genuinely to provide personal services to get claimants back to work. Profits earned by the office would be shared between staff bonuses, lower bills for taxpayers and new investment to help more claimants back into work.

The biggest gainers would be the claimants themselves, and here is the second break with the past that any truly radical government must make. Most claimants who have been on IB for two years will retire or die on benefit. Those claimants who have found work, then lost their job, have had an awful time getting back on housing benefit, for instance. In effect, the welfare system penalises them for trying.

The Government should invite claimants to be their own liberators. For instance, all claimants who have been on benefit, say, for more than five years should be given a more powerful incentive to find a job. If they find one, they would be able to keep their benefits for a year, to get them used to the routine of going to work. If they fail to hold down a job, they would not be penalised by the risk of losing housing benefit and their homes too. And if claimants find a part-time job, the benefits office should be on hand to help to turn it into a full-time role.

The third radical departure would be to put a time limit on benefits, as most of them had under the Attlee Government. In my constituency young lads with no intention of completing their New Deal placements go sick at the point when they have to choose one of the work options, then get themselves on to incapacity benefit. In areas where there has been a sustained growth in jobs over the past ten years, benefits for young people should be limited to a few weeks. After that, if claimants wish to keep their money, they should have to join a Workfare scheme.

Unless he makes local offices engines of change, allows claimants to become their own liberators, and puts a time limit on benefits for those cheating the system, James Purnell will not be the last Secretary of State to promise the revolutionary goal of abolishing welfare as we know it.

Frank Field is Labour MP for Birkenhead and was Minister for Welfare Reform, 1997-98


Thursday, 17 July 2008

Time for a change - David Blunkett (New Statesman)

Article about the Channel 5 series "Banged-up" in which some teenagers at risk are put in a jail with some ex-cons to experience prions life. What is interesting in this article is that Blunkett says he has learned about how kids like this are turned into criminals by their backgrounds upbringing and neighbourhood. Shame he's only just figured that out, since he has been Home Secretary and Education Minister.

Monday, 14 July 2008

£1.54bn tax credits 'paid in error'

"Tax credits are still open to "significant" fraud and error, a Whitehall spending watchdog warned as it refused to sign off the accounts for the sixth year in a row.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said up to £1.54 billion was wrongly paid out by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in 2006/7 despite Government efforts to combat the problem."

Could it be the design of the tax credit system accounts for the amount of fraud and error - and that is just the fraud and error they know about. Having a system that normal mortals could understand would be a good start, or scrap it, obviuosly.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’

Sadly Phony Bliar was neither, even though he was right. Good article.

The value of science

Friday, 11 July 2008

Tap Water

Does prison deter? Stumbling and Mumbling today.

My comment posted today on Stumbling & Mumbling:

"No mention of it here, but what about the causes of crime?

The current generation of poor youth are pretty justified in believing that there is no future for them in this society. Youth unemployment is so high; they have no expectation of a mainstream job. Starter jobs in manufacturing industry have all gone to China, in building and catering to Poles and in office and admin to computers and Bangalore. If they do get a minimum wage job, after benefits withdrawal, they earn 70p an hour.

Stuck in a system that does not provide stimulation or earning potential, is it a surprise they turn to drugs & crime.?

The welfare state pays their mothers to stay single and grants fathers no role in contributing to a household. So they grow up with no positive role models, other than the gang leaders at the top of the drug dealing and pimping pile.

So yeah, bang em up; that'll do it! But: there is another cohort ready to step in growing up right behind this one.

Merthyr Tydfil council are fuckwits

It's political correctness gone mad and some straightforward incompetence thrown in.

Child protection legislation does not require that parents need CRB checks to be with their own children.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Book review: Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: The Failure of the Reform Regime.... and a Manifesto for a Better Way

John Seddon's latest book is about applying Systems Thinking to the Public Sector. Full of real examples of waste in the public sector - and how to prevent it with tried and proven methods.

Must read for anyone interested in the Public Sector. Buy one for your MP. The ideas in the book can save Bi££ions in wasted tax; our money.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Andrew Rosindell on Mayo 5 Live

Calling for "Lean" Government and low taxes as the method to increase employment by helping business flourish.

Hooray! Yes.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Mogg the blog - Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con)

Ian L-G, Tory MP for Bridgewater is on a crusade against Somerset Council and IBM. Good on him. If it wasn't such a scandal, it would be hilarous.


Sunday, 6 July 2008

Saturday, 5 July 2008

DWP tables

Look at those Marginal Deduction rates - think you pay alot of tax?

Redesigning distribution

Friday, 4 July 2008

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Gateway Academy

My youngest son is due to start at the Gateway Academy in September. It is a new £32 Million school, replacing two former failing schools in the area (St.Chad's. Tilbury and Torrell's Grays)

Last night we went on an open evening to have a tour of the facilities. £32M buys a lot of school: the building is magnificent, very spacious and modern with sweeping hallways, high ceilings and architectural features. The facilities are top-notch, with more computers at every turn, excellent graphics, engineering, cooking and beauty equipment. Sports facilities consist of a 4 court large hall, a gym, dance studios, astroturf pieces, all weather tennis courts, etc..

The staff say that the students, who previously were housed in the most dilapidated surroundings have responded well to their new environment, with much improved behaviour and work. Hopefully the Academy will be able to sustain this improvement in an area that has suffered from among the poorest school attainment in the country.

Hopefully it won't go the way of Bishops Park School in Clacton:


BOM - my comment posted today.

The old law of unintended consequences eh?

They may be unintended, but what will happen is often predictable. With some basic human psychology, systems analysis or behavioural economics much of what has gone wrong with govt changes was predicted and ignored.

Wilful denial by centralising command-and-control ministers in the face of real hard evidence that their methods are wrong is the major reason why we pay so much tax and get so little service for it in return.

Much worse, our taxes are used to imprison the poor in a benefits trap, while providing lots of low paid jobs to people to administer it. They are clients of Nulabour, just as much as the unemployed are.

Have a read of John Seddon's "System Thinking In Public Services" for lots of well-documented examples.


Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The end of money

Knife crime: get youths in court before they stab someone

A rather unhelpful essay by Alice Miles in today's Times. My posted comment below:

Why do we have a youth with this "culture"?

Where is the analysis about why the lives of young people have become so detached from the rest of society?

Banging them up is not the solution, it does not address causes.

Youth unemployment is the problem, a prospect of life on benefits & crime.