Universal Credit IT system “flawed”

0
446


By Lynda Williamson
The National Audit Office has blasted the UK government’s flagship welfare programme, Universal Credit. The watchdog said that welfare reform has been badly managed, is “over ambitious” and is poor value for money. In a report published today the NAO also slated the project for having “poor governance, ineffective control and weak management.”

Universal Credit is a new single monthly payment which takes the place of six key means – tested benefits. It was introduced in parts of Greater Manchester and Cheshire in April as part of a pilot scheme which was plagued by technical glitches. New claimants were due to receive the benefit from next month as part of a phased implementation plan but that has now been delayed. Instead further pilot schemes taking on the simplest claims will be put in place.

The NAO found that the Department for Work and Pensions had taken risks in order to meet targets and had put in place a new project management approach which was unproven on such a large and complex project. The IT systems were described as having “limited functionality”.

Ministers have claimed that the single payment will ensure that claimants are always better off in work and will cut down on fraud but according to the report the new IT system lacks the ability to identify potentially fraudulent claims.

SNP welfare spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP commented on the report saying:

“This report highlights  many problems with the project including officials being unable to explain the reasoning behind their timescales or their feasibility , inept computer systems and no real leadership

“Expenditure on IT systems has accounted for more than 70% of the £425m spent to date but the report suggested officials do not yet know whether the infrastructure in place will support a national rollout.

“We already knew the Tory- Lib Dem government’s welfare reforms were discriminatory, but we can now see the extent of how badly managed this project is.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way. Scotland has already made its opposition to welfare cuts absolutely clear, and a majority of Scots believe that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare policy for Scotland.”   

In response to the report, a DWP spokesperson said:

“Universal Credit is a vital reform that will ensure we have a welfare system that means people are always better off in work than on benefits and we are a country that truly backs those who work hard and want to get on”.

“We are committed to delivering Universal Credit on time by 2017 and within budget, and under new leadership we have a plan in place that is achievable”