Worrying uncertainty remains about the new Universal Credit
(UC) IT system, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report
published this week. This includes how it will work, how much it
will cost and who will develop it.
Universal Credit roll out timetable changed
National roll out of UC was due to begin in October 2013.
However, problems with IT systems meant that major changes to the
timetable have been made. New claims are not expected to be
extended to the whole of Great Britain until 2016; and the bulk of
existing claimants will not move over to UC until 2016-17.
New IT solutions
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is trying to resolve
the IT problems by developing a new “end-state solution” which will
eventually replace the IT system currently in use in the UC
Pathfinder areas. This is costing £25-32 million to develop up to
November 2014, with no indication of how much more it will cost in
the long-term. And it will only be clear that it works once it has
been tested at scale. However, it is still some way from being
tested on the first 100 claimants.
The Committee said that the Government should provide more
detail on what the end-state solution means in practical terms,
including how much it will cost, when it will be ready to test on
the first claimants, how it will be extended, and when it is
expected to be fully implemented.
The current "twin track" approach to UC IT development also
means that the Government is still spending money on the existing
IT being used in the Pathfinder while the end-state solution is
Scrutiny of Universal Credit
The Committee said that the Government has hampered the
Committee’s scrutiny of UC implementation by not providing
accurate, timely and detailed information. That it was not
acceptable for the Government only to provide information about
major policy changes when forced to do so by the imminent prospect
of being held to account in a public evidence session.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should set out how it
will improve the frankness, accuracy and timeliness of the
information it provides to the Committee on UC implementation.
Supporting vulnerable people to adjust to UC
Committee said that there was a lack of detail on how
the Local Support Services Framework (LSSF) will work in
practice. This sets out how the Government - working with local
authorities, housing providers and voluntary organisations - will
support vulnerable people to move onto UC.
The DWP should ensure that detailed information about the
operation and funding of the LSSF is set out when the final version
is published in autumn 2014.
Local authority funding
Delays to UC roll out mean that local authorities will
now administer Housing Benefit for much longer than
anticipated. DWP needs to provide local authorities with clarity on
the funding that will be available in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to cover
this additional cost.
Work and Pensions Committee Chair's comments
Commenting, Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:
"Only 4,280 people were claiming Universal Credit by December
2013 and the majority of these claims were of the simplest
nature. By comparison, in the same month, 1.22 million people
were claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. This demonstrates the scale of
the challenge still facing the Government in trying to implement UC
"Whilst it is right to ensure that the system works properly
before extending it, there is a difference between cautious
progress and a snail’s pace. Given the excruciatingly slow
pace of roll-out to date, it is hard to see how the most recent
implementation timetable can be met."
Money wasted so far "is a matter of deep regret"
Dame Anne Begg said that " the wasted on Universal Credit
so far – £40 million on IT software that now has no use and £90
million on software with a useful life of only five years – is
a matter of deep regret. It is vital that DWP learns the
lessons of past mistakes.
"At the same time as developing the "end-state solution" the
Government intends to spend £37-£58 million on further developing
the existing IT system. Given the small number of people
currently claiming UC, the Government should consider whether it
would be a better use of taxpayers’ money to abandon further
development of the existing system and focus solely on the
"Despite the millions being spent on the end-state IT solution
it is still not clear when the system will be ready or even how it
will work. It is still not ready for testing on the first 100
claimants, and we have no indication of when it will be possible to
test it on a bigger and more representative group of
Supporting vulnerable people through the
transition "remains a key concern"
Dame Anne also stated: "The fundamental problems with Universal
Credit have understandably dominated recent public debate. But how
vulnerable people will be supported through the transition remains
a key concern.
"The Minister stated that how support would be provided for
vulnerable people was almost as important as Universal Credit
itself. But like Universal Credit IT, it is still far from clear
how this will work in practice or what funding will be provided for
More information on Universal Credit
Read the Turn2us Universal Credit information
Find out more about the Work and Pensions Select Committee report:
Universal Credit implementation: monitoring DWP's performance in
2012-13 (link opens in a new window)
Source: Work and Pensions Select Committee
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Date of publication: 10 April 2014