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New National Audit Office report on the Department for Work and Pensions

National Audit Office website (link opens in a new window)The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a departmental overview on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) during 2012.  

This guide is designed to provide a quick and accessible overview of the DWP and focus in particular on where NAO believes its performance could be improved, using examples from their published work.

The report covers: 

  • The DWP's responsibilities and how it spends its money
  • Financial management
  • Reported performance
  • Issues identified in NAO reports.

The overview is one of 17 produced, which covers work on each major government department.

Key points in relation to benefits and welfare reform

  • The DWP was cited as an example of good project planning in its implementation of Employment and Support Allowance due to its phased implementation approach, strong monitoring and risk management processes, collaborative contractor relations, experienced staff, and buy-in from staff and senior management.
  • With regard to the introduction of the Work Programme (link opens in a new window), NAO found that there was a risk that the DWP's and providers’ assumptions about how many people the Programme would get back into work were over-optimistic. They recommended that by the end of July 2012, the Department should draw up a schedule of the assumptions it needs to monitor, including non-intervention rates and providers’ costs, and detail its approach to gathering the necessary information.
  • The NAO's work has also highlighted the importance of assessing broader risks to effective delivery of services when the role of government is being reshaped by major reforms:
  • Welfare reform raises several challenges for the Department, particularly relating to identifying impacts and coordinating across different responsible bodies:
    • The DWP and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) do not systematically consider or measure all of the impacts of means testing, particularly the burden on claimants. Understanding these impacts is critical to informing programme design related to means testing and anticipating impacts on both claimants and the administration. The government’s response to the Committee of Public Account’s report on means testing accepted the Committee’s recommendation that departments need to do more to understand the impact multiple benefits can have on an individual.
    • There needed to be more effective coordination between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government in order to understand the impact and practicalities of the localisation of Council Tax.

Sources: Rightsnet (link opens in a new window) and National Audit Office (link opens in a new window)

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