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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Government's Duty of Care

Political affiliations, dogma and individual policies aside, one naturally assumes and expects that one’s elected Government will at least manage whatever it does effectively and with appropriate due diligence to protect those whom it serves.  This is not difficult as there is a wide range of well established management techniques available to assist.  The public sector is, we are told, better paid and better educated than the private sector.  It spends a fortune on training, process improvement and consultancy which whether one agrees with it or not, does at least remove any excuses for adopting anything other than ‘best practice’ in everything it does.  Think again!!!
Nobody expects the Government to get everything right first time or all of the time, but one does expect them to be able to prove that this is what they have tried to do and that they have taken suitable precautions to avoid, detect and remedy any mishaps or unintended, unanticipated consequences along the way.  This is their job.  Applying their own “evidence-based” mantra, just saying this is the case in response to parliamentary questions is not enough; they have to be able to demonstrate that this philosophy is entrenched in everything they do literally day to day.  They cannot.
This is most apparent in their overall approach to risk management – not altogether an awe-inspiring subject, but nevertheless critical to effectively managing process change and guard against any undesirable consequences, particularly if the impact could be disastrous.  They are aware of the technique but only apply it selectively and/or partially and often under sufferance when they have no choice.
Turning a blind eye to adverse consequences does not of course make them go away – exactly the reverse, as left unchecked, they will probably expand rather than naturally contract.
This is the case with the WCA.  No matter how well designed it is and no matter how effectively it is performed, there will inevitably be the odd error.  DWP ignored this in 2008 when the WCA was introduced and has done nothing to redress the ‘oversight’ since despite the body of evidence that points to the fact that a small but significant number of lives have been lost.
We all need to realise that the only explanation is that they simply don’t care – whilst a risk assessment may have been an oversight initially, there has been more than enough time to deal with it since.  To ID-S & CG, any amount of collateral damage is acceptable and can continue indefinitely.  As they refuse to consider a target error rate they regard as acceptable, they cannot estimate how long it will take to get there and indeed won’t know it if they ever do.  They will however continue to try to reassure us with commitments to ‘improvement’ without any clear definition of what this means to their so-called customers.
It is all a charade, so don’t be hoodwinked.  Note too that this overall disregard for loss of life will inevitably manifest itself in policy elsewhere so be on your guard and don’t believe everything you are told – however convincing it might sound.
Personally I would hold DWP in higher regard if they acknowledged the risks and ‘managed’ them rather than just feigned ignorance or pretended they do not exist.

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