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Govt no comprehensive plan for Universal Credit

07 November 2013

The Public Accounts Committee has published its 30th Report on Universal Credit: early progress.

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

“Universal Credit is the DWP’s single biggest programme and enjoys cross-party support, yet its implementation has been extraordinarily poor.

“The failure to develop a comprehensive plan has led to extensive delay and the waste of a yet to be determined amount of public money. £425 million has been spent so far on the programme. It is likely that much of this, including at least £140 million worth of IT assets, will now have to be written off.

“The management of the programme has been alarmingly weak. From the outset, the Department has failed to grasp the nature and enormity of the task; failed to monitor and challenge progress regularly; and, when problems arose, failed to intervene promptly. Lack of day-to-day control meant early warning signs were missed, with senior managers becoming aware of problems only through ad hoc reviews.

“Pressure to deliver a programme of this magnitude within such an ambitious timescale created a fortress culture where only good news was reported and problems were denied.  Because they had no overall view of what was going on and no system to monitor progress, the Department’s Universal Credit team became isolated and defensive.

“We believe strongly that meeting any specific timetable from now on is less important than delivering the programme successfully.

“The pilot programme is not a proper pilot. Its scope is limited to only the simplest new claims of people who are single, have no dependants and would otherwise be seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance.

 “The programme will not hit its current target of enrolling 184,000 claimants by April 2014. The Department will have to speed up the later stages of the programme if it is to meet the 2017 completion date but that will pose new risks."

To read more and download the report got to http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/universal-credit-report/

Responding to the report a DWP Spokesperson said:

  • Universal Credit is a vital reform that rewards work instead of trapping people on benefits. It will ultimately bring a £38 billion economic benefit to society.
  • This report doesn’t take into account our new leadership team, or our progress on delivery. We have already taken comprehensive action including strengthening governance, supplier management and financial controls.
  • Since we have last spoken to the PAC, we have also launched Universal Credit in Hammersmith, which will expand to further areas later this month and the Claimant Commitment is rolling out to Jobcentres across the country.
  • We don’t recognise the write off figure quoted by the committee and expect this to be substantially less. The head of Universal Credit Howard Shiplee has been clear that there is real potential to use much of the existing IT. We will announce our plans for the next phase of UC delivery shortly.