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News round-up 18/9: Cyber threat to welfare reform

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Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government

Welfare changes

Cyber attacks by criminal gangs and hostile regimes represent the biggest threat to the government’s new internet-based welfare system, the Telegraph reports. Private security companies will be commissioned to ensure that the system can identify bogus claimants and will remain in operation in the event of disruption, the paper adds.

Meanwhile, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has insisted that the introduction of Universal Credit will go ahead in October 2013, reports the Independent. Speaking at a work and pensions select committee meeting, Mr Duncan Smith rebutted fears that monthly payments would cause claimants to fall into arrears and insisted that the government’s target to get 50% of claimants online by 2013 would be met.

The Guardian reports that the evidence session threw up evidence of “late changes and lingering loose ends” in the implementation of the scheme. A computer bridge between Revenue and Customs and DWP has not been tested with real cases while the precise levels of earnings that an individual is allowed before it affects benefits had not been finalised with the Treasury, the paper reports.

To read LGC’s report on the evidence session, including the cost implications for councils, click here.


Adoption and safeguarding

New children’s minister Edward Timpson is preparing to give foster carers more powers to make everyday decisions on behalf of the children they look after, as carers are “fed up” with having to seek permission from social workers for things as simple as a haircut or a trip to the optician, the Times reports.


Schools reform

Both the Telegraph and the Guardian lead with education secretary Michael Gove’s plan to redraw the GCSE system. Describing the measures as “the biggest overhaul of the examinations system in a generation”, the Telegraph says competition between exam boards will be scrapped amid fears that the current system creates “perverse incentives”. The paper quotes Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, as saying the “proposals are entirely driven by political ideology”.

The NUT has said the plan to replace GCSEs with a revamped English Baccalaureate from 2017 will create a two-tier system, the Guardian reports. Exams watchdog Ofqual will recommend single subject exam boards next year, with final appointments made by Mr Gove himself.


Whitehall reform

In an attempt to secure cross-party support for civil service reform, the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, has commissioned the left-of-centre IPPR thinktank to undertake a study on how to make the civil service more effective and politically accountable, the Guardian reports. The study is the first example of Whitehall commissioning outsiders to undertake policy work for government. The IPPR beat 20 other bidders for the £50,000 contract and will by late autumn produce a menu of options for ministers based on experiences in New Zealand, Singapore, France, the US and Sweden. The IPPR undertook an international comparative study back in 2006 that has impressed Maude.

Although the Labour government were famous for appointing ‘tsars’, the Independent reports the coalition has been appointing policy tsars at double the rate of the last administration, according to research by King’s College London.


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