"Universal credit benefits system 'in meltdown', claims LabourLabour claims work on universal credit system has been halted but DWP insists plans for April completion are still on course
Patrick Wintour, political editor The Guardian, Tuesday 5 March 2013 20.28 GMT Jump to comments (299) Iain Duncan Smith leaving Downing Street. The work and pensions secretary denied again that universal credit had suffered IT problems. Photograph: Rex Features Labour has claimed that the government's universal credit plans have hit serious problems and that work on the £500m IT delivery contract has been halted and hundreds of IT staff stepped down.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) denied the claim and said the new head of the universal credit (UC) delivery system was in discussions with contractors.
Labour says senior sources among the five firms working on the IT contract have said work has been stopped. Although claims about IT difficulties have dogged the introduction of UC for nearly a year, the shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, is convinced a huge new problem has emerged and is airing his concerns ahead of a debate on in the Commons on Wednesday.
His office says the DWP has made clear to the major contractors that hundreds of staff are no longer needed.
There have been suggestions from some ministers that work might be taken in-house as a result of the discussions.
Important figures, including the project chief, Malcolm Whitehouse, have already left the programme.
The DWP hired David Pitchford as the interim chief executive of UC in February after the death of Philip Langsdale over Christmas. Pitchford, previously the executive director of the government's Major Projects Authority – which takes charge of all the government's major IT projects – has been recruited pending the appointment of a full-time replacement.
The DWP said: "David Pitchford has been tasked with ensuring the smooth delivery of the universal credit and has been speaking to key suppliers.
"Work on UC continues ahead of delivery in April and our plans for the October rollout have not changed." A spokesman added: "It's categorically not true to say that work has stopped on Universal Credit. All of our suppliers are working with us to deliver Universal Credit from April. Our plans have not changed."
Labour said that DWP suggestions that there was no change to the contract were "wholly misleading".
Accenture, one of the suppliers, refused to comment apart from saying it was a matter for the DWP. The IT consulting and outsourcing provider is to manage the subcontractors building the customer-facing component of the scheme.
The principal subcontractor will be Atos, which Accenture chose for "its strong track record of successfully delivering IT services for the Department for Work and Pensions, and with a particular focus on delivering secure online citizen self-service applications", it said in a statement.
But Byrne said he had seen evidence that the reforms were in "meltdown". He said: "Universal credit has descended into universal chaos and millions of families' tax credits are at risk because ministers would not listen to clear and repeated warnings issued to them since November 2010."
He added: "Iain Duncan Smith must now come before parliament and account for the incompetent mess his department has become. His Work Programme is worse than doing nothing, his bedroom tax hits soldiers but not prisoners, and now his flagship universal credit scheme is falling apart...................."
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Mar 6, 2013 18:29:57 GMT
It's a train crash....
'Universal Credit has the hallmarks of another IT failure'
Whilst government presses on with its overly positive promotion of Universal Credit, it appears that concern has escalated from the previous car crash to now 'Train Crash' status. Mark Hoban was due to speak about it in Parliament earlier today; no doubt it will be the same old 'on track, on time and on budget' nonsense telling us all is well....
In reality it's well behind time, only due to be rolled out in pilots from April and as regards what happens from October is anyone's guess. The problem with government is that it's made a rod for its own back by dreaming up these wonderful 'in theory' schemes, where it all goes wrong is when the theory test is no more and we turn to the practical side of things. Government has promised a simplification of the benefits system and the public perception is that all manner of benefits are going to be rolled up in to one 'single payment'. I'm beginning to believe that government's downfall may well be the absolute mess it has made of welfare reform.
Here's a good article passed on to me via Twitter from Computer Weekly ; it gives us some idea as to what's going wrong on the IT side of things.
For what it's worth I think the greater problem is the one IDS has with his chancellor over the budget for the wretched scheme. Here's the article....
By Kathleen Hall
Charities, housing associations and consultancies have warned that the Department for Work and Pensions’ £2.2bn Universal Credit programme has all the hallmarks of another public sector IT disaster.
The warnings come amid mounting concerns that the programme is floundering, with government sources reporting that one of its key suppliers has failed to deliver, reports of significant budget overrun and a shake-up to the project’s top leadership team.
At a recent roundtable, organised by Stone Group, bodies working closely with organisations due be impacted by the forthcoming roll-out of Universal Credit raised concerns that the programme will struggle to be delivered .
Chris Yapp, a consultant with wide experience working with public sector groups, has been working with local authorities to prepare for the changes. He compared the programme to that of the failed National Programme for IT. “The number of interdependencies is enormous compared with that of the NPfIT,” he said.
He said the project lacked clarity of governance: “You can’t run the project with vague generalisations, which is what happened with the NPfIT.”
“I think we have to wait for the [auto mod] to hit the fan, frankly. Because [we can’t] persuade the DWP at the moment it is not working.”
Peter Hall, director at consultancy PHHSL, said the DWP had failed to acknowledge the complexities involved in joining up the various different systems. “There’s been a failure to acknowledge the regional variation and that you cannot impose one central system on so many different organisations,” he said.
Gerald Power, owner of digital consultancy Trapeze Transformation, has been working with organisations due to be impacted by the programme.
“The politicians won’t break rank until it’s obviously a train wreck then they will come out the bunker and ask for solutions,” he said.
StephenMichael I've not heard of any plans to delay UC until after the next general election, from what I can gather Stephen they are pressing ahead; although they certainly appear to be phasing it in with much less haste than was originally promised. Anyone heard differently?
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Mar 8, 2013 15:07:28 GMT
No, they're still on track for a full on derailment, the man at the controls of the high speed 'Universal Chaos Express' is none other than Mr Hoban who's on 'full speed ahead' with firm orders coming from IDS (the chaotic controller) telling his driver to 'jump every red light in sight'....
The source of the reference is the Parliamentary debate which took place on Wednesday. There's some good quotes by a number of speakers over all manner of concerns ranging from IT, claimant capability, lack of resources, running late, calls to put the brakes on it and even a word or two about ensuring specialist advice would be available for those who need it most.
On the timetable, it's due to arrive in April 2013 according to Mr Hoban; although Mr Timms is not so sure....
Stephen Timms "I want to ask the Minister a specific question. For two years, Ministers said that all new out-of-work benefit applications would be handled as universal credit applications from October 2013, and all new in-work benefit applications from April 2014. What is his current estimate of those two crucial dates? Just how far have those milestones slipped? Does he have any dates now that he is confident enough to give the House for when those milestones will be reached?"
Who was faced with a government denial over the earlier (as previously posted) Guardian article....
Mark Hoban ......"What a load of rubbish we have heard! In a statement today, HP, one of the big contractors, said that it remained committed to supporting the DWP, to the universal credit pathfinders going live in April 2013 and to subsequent releases. It also said that it would continue to work with the DWP and our other suppliers on this major programme of welfare reform.
Hoban goes on to say the bigger roll out kicks off in October 2013, from there on it all gets quite vague. he does however give advice a mention....
Hansard: 6 Mar 2013 : Column 1028: A few lines down...
Mark Hoban...."The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) asked about access. We have not decided yet whether there should be specialist advice line for welfare rights advisers, but we will try to bring together all benefits guidance in one place—I think it is a legitimate criticism to say that it has been fragmented in the past—and provide a much more simplified resource for relevant information. I hope that will make life easier for advisers in the third sector. I take on board the hon. Lady’s helpful point."
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Mar 15, 2013 7:49:23 GMT
HMRC to close all of its 281 Enquiry Centres
"Most queries will now be taken over the phone and a home visit will take place if HMRC sees fit" ....
It seems Universal Credit and all the chaos it will eventually bring to the lives of millions isn't enough to stop government in its culling of yet more public services. A key strand to the Universal Credit is in adapting 'real time information' extracted from employers so that a Universal Credit claim can be regularly updated on a monthly basis to ensure the correct amount is paid and to avoid costly overpayments. It's bound to bring about situations where claimants and employers grapple with incorrect tax codes, multiple jobs and a whole host of other problems associated with the new changes. As a result the need for help is far more likely to rise rather than fall; the problem will be getting to see a person face to face. It therefore seems bizarre that the HMRC, who have already been heavily condemned for their inefficiency in dealing with telephone based enquiries, is closing hundreds of enquiry centres....
Read the BBC story....
"The UK tax authority is to close all of its 281 Enquiry Centres which gave face-to-face help to 2.5 million people with tax queries last year.
The move in 2014 by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will put 1,300 jobs at risk, although the authority aims to deploy these staff elsewhere.
The centres will be replaced by a telephone service and home visits, to save HMRC £13m a year.
The exact start date for the Pathfinder is now known to be the 29th April, and will be for “a small number of simple Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claims in a limited geographical area.” To be followed by a second phase running from 28 October 2013 to 31 March 2014. “intended to extend the number and type of UC claims across the country.” Detailed plans are not yet available for future phases.
DWP is still holding to the line that “the IT development is on track” but admits that Management have also assured PCS that the IT will only be rolled out on a “prove before we move” principle.
“The Pathfinder will be run from two Benefit Centres (Bolton and Glasgow) supported by 4 Job Centres in the North West (Ashton under Lyne, Oldham, Warrington and Wigan). The Pathfinder will be restricted to the most straightforward new claims to JSA only, in a very limited geographical area. This will create a situation where some claimants will receive UC and others will remain on legacy benefits.”
Critically, local authorities will be expected to provide support to claimants who may have difficulty claiming on line.
DWP told the PSCU that the IT would not be ready for the Pathfinder, but would be available to support Phase 2. Implementation of IT would be constrained by a ‘prove before we move’ principle.
THE UNIVERSAL CREDIT (TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) REGULATIONS 2013
2013 No. 386
THE JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE REGULATIONS 2013
2013 No. 378
THE EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE REGULATIONS 2013 2013 No. 379
1. This explanatory memorandum has been prepared by the Department for Work and Pensions and is laid before Parliament by Command of Her Majesty.
2. Purpose of the instruments
2.1 These affirmative instruments support the introduction of Universal Credit.
2.2 The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 make provision for determining entitlement to, and calculation of, an award of Universal Credit.
2.3 The Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations and Employment and Support Allowance Regulations make provision for these benefits to be only payable based on a person’s National Insurance contribution record and no longer through the alternative route of means testing. The rules for contributory entitlement are carried forward largely unchanged, but the regulations do make provision for new conditionality and sanctions regimes in these two benefits, so they are aligned with those for Universal Credit.
2.4 The Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2013 provide that the introduction of Universal Credit and the changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance from 29 April 2013 is limited to certain categories of claimant in “Pathfinder” areas.
The Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) The Regulations 2013 (List of contents)
Early interpretation (my notes & please by all means chip in with your take on these)
These changes only affect claimants in the 'pathfinder' areas defined by regulations 5 to 12 as to who 'falls in to the pathfinder groups'. In summary these seem to indicate:
Reg 5 - You must be at least 18 and up to age 60 & 6 months & be a British Citizen
Reg 6 - You are excluded if you are or are declaring yourself as unfit to work
Reg 7 - You must not be in receipt of any of the benefits listed (numerous)or in the process of appealing for certain benefits
Reg 8 - Defines ongoing tax credit claims
Reg 9 - Income and capital
9.—(1) The person must declare that, during the period of one month starting with the date on which the claim for universal credit is made, their earned income is expected not to exceed—
(a)£270, if they are aged under 25; or
(b)£330, if they are aged 25 or over.
(2) The person’s capital must not exceed £6,000.
Reg 10 - You must not be homeless or in certain other types of accommodation
Reg 11 - Excludes individuals with caring responsibilities
Reg 12 - Excludes the self employed and those in training or education as well as other exclusions.
Which essentially means the way they 'simplify' Universal credit is to exclude a huge raft of potential claimants who will just carry on claiming their existing benefits until such times as they've sorted it out and can include a few more!
Essentially the transitional regulations make it clear that those claiming contributory ESA and JSA will remain outside of the Universal credit and the pathfinder trial will focus on a limited number of new Jobseeker Allowance claims
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Mar 17, 2013 11:35:01 GMT
I would say fionan that for now you should take it that a limited number of new claim single Jobseeker's (see my post above) in the pathfinder areas from the 29th April 2013 (I have the postcodes somewhere) will end up having to claim the Universal Credit. The gist of it seems to be that they (the DWP) need to see how the pilot goes before making further and more significant statements about exactly which claimant groups will be subjected to Universal chaos with effect from the October 2013 roll out.
Anyone claiming JSA on the basis of their national insurance contributions will (so it seems) be excluded from a Universal Credit claim. What the pilot rules do not appear to be able to cope with are claimant situations which are remotely complex. (hence for instance the DLA exclusions which would give them an income based disability premium over and above their contributory JSA - I presume this to be too much for the system)
What I'm hearing is that not only are there problems with IT and RTI with the HMRC but also problems in linking up claims for Housing Benefit with Local Authorities. It's very clear from these transitional rules that many groups of claimants will be excluded from the pilot. The danger of which is that if the pilot is not fully tested with proper claim loading as in a 'real life' situation the results of the pilot are highly likely to be inherently unreliable.