The Achilles' heel of scale service design in social security administration: The case of the United Kingdom's Universal Credit

Authors


Addresses for correspondence: Professor John Seddon, Leader of the Vanguard organisations, Vanguard Ltd, Villiers House, 1 Nelson St., Buckingham MK18 1BU, United Kingdom; Email: john@vanguardconsult.co.uk. Brendan O'Donovan, Head of Research at Vanguard UK, Vanguard Ltd, Villiers House, 1 Nelson St., Buckingham MK18 1BU, United Kingdom; Email: brendan@vanguardconsult.co.uk.

Abstract

This article takes a critical view of the United Kingdom government's design for the delivery of the Universal Credit (UC) benefit reforms. It is argued that the UC is destined to fail because of the policy's extension into specifying the means (“digital by default”) of delivery for such services. The authors argue that an unseen but ubiquitous set of “scale” management assumptions has been allowed to infiltrate the means by which the government intends to enact its headline policy objective to “make work pay”. Following Seddon's “Vanguard Method”, a practical example of how a better service was designed in a local authority housing benefits service is then examined. Results from this service include being able to deal with up to 50 per cent more demand, with fewer resources, in half the official target time. Finally, the article will conclude with a call for more evidence-based policy.

Ancillary