Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Sept 14, 2013 9:26:00 GMT
Iain Duncan Smith accused of misleading MPs over cost of IT failures
Officials say up to £161m could be written off on universal credit IT system – four times what minister said
By Rajeev Syal, The Guardian 11th September 2013
Iain Duncan Smith, who last week blamed civil servants for IT problems and told MPs his department expected to write off £34m. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA
Iain Duncan Smith has been accused of misleading parliament after it emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could write off up to £161m spent on an IT system for ambitious welfare changes – more than four times what the minister said would be wasted.
The welfare minister also faces further embarrassing disclosures from PwC accountants who found that the universal credit system, which will allow the government to roll six welfare payments into one, has had little ministerial oversight. In one instance, a civil servant's personal assistant was allowed to sign off contracts, they found.
The disclosures emerged at a public accounts committee meeting on Wednesday when officials from the department were closely questioned by MPs.
Mike Driver, the finance director general of the department, confirmed that the costs could be as much as £161m, while Norma Wood, the head of the Major Projects Authority, agreed that the system would have to write off at least £140m.
Margaret Hodge, the committee's chair, said she had been sent an official PwC report into the project which highlighted concerns that there was a lack of ministerial accountability. Of 25 contracts costing at least £25,000 reviewed by accountants, only 11 appeared to have been signed off by ministers, she said.
The PwC report also found that a personal assistant to a senior civil servant had been allowed to authorise purchase orders, in contravention of strict procurement rules.
Hodge told the DWP's permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, that a National Audit Office report released last week was "damning" but an internal study she had been sent recently by PwC was even worse. "I think it's one of the worst I have seen in my time here … as I read it felt like it was an out-of-control project," she said.
Hodge accused the DWP of "sitting on" the PwC assessment for six months, and claimed it was a "damning indictment … PwC basically damns your control system."
Labour on Wednesday night called for Duncan Smith to return to parliament to explain why he told MPs last week that his department expected to write off £34m.
Liam Byrne, Duncan Smith's shadow minister, said: "Parliament's watchdog has blown apart yet another cover-up by Iain Duncan Smith who it seems has tried to hide a write-off of over £100m on his disaster-hit universal credit project.
The calamity unfolding over IDS's stewardship of this disastrous programme has to be seen and heard to be believed.
Scroll back to the previous post and use the link to watch some gripping Parliamentary TV coverage of Wednesday's public accounts committee session where officials from the Major Projects Authority and the DWP get a right grilling over the DWP's appalling financial stewardship of Universal Credit.
You won't get to see the increasingly incompetent IDS however; he's obviously in hiding when it comes to explaining his role in all of this. He's put it down to his civil servants and is no doubt preparing more yet more wondrous speeches for the Conservative Party conference where he'll no doubt continue telling them all how his reforms are based on a 'work pays' ethic, he'll go on ad nausea over Universal Credit being a radical reform which will somehow 'free' thousands of people 'trapped on benefits' from 'decades of dependency'. He'd better pull his figure out as it's only 'available' in ten Jobcentres from this October - laughably short of his much promised national roll out.
This wretched programme just goes from bad to worse and now we learn IDS is throwing away millions of pounds of tax - payer's money - what part of 'work pays' includes paying out for programmes which don't work?
Universal Credit just continues to highlight IDS's miserable failings, he's blamed the failings of previous government's on benefit claimants and misleadingly (if not recklessly) carries on trying to convince those foolish enough to believe him that he's the man with all the answers.
He isn't, he is a man who hasn't got the first clue - he's utterly & totally incompetent.
Universal Credit will no doubt happen one day, but let's not kid ourselves it will happen any time soon. The more I hear of the catalogue of errors in the building of this monstrous machine, the more I become convinced it will become 'headlines of chaos' in the newspapers of 2017. They clearly can't get this to roll this out and should stop the pretence that it's their answer to welfare reform. The chaos will erupt when the programme does eventually 'go live'.
It's time this man was made to account for his deplorable failings after which he should apologise to all those he's misled, what follows should be his humiliating resignation - I hope it happens soon.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Sept 14, 2013 15:30:34 GMT
Want to claim Universal Credit?
'Just ask James'
He makes it sound so easy
Yet more deluded nonsense from the DWP over how easy it is to claim Universal Credit. So far the DWP promotional video has attracted 832 views, it's got two 'likes' (most probably IDS & his sidekick Hoban) and two 'dislikes'. Clearly the DWP have a long way to go before they've convinced ing great numbers over how they'll magically transform the lives of 8 million households by making 'work pay' ......
I rather suspect most people's Universal Credit customer journey will be a very different story.
'The Universal Credit obstacle course'
Only single 'without complication' claimants need apply
(1) Yes, James will need to be single or else the big bad DWP computer will say no to his claim.....
He'll also need to live within only four very limited Jobcentre Plus districts, although from October this is being extended to six more - hardly nationwide but there you go.
James will also need to be the most straightforward of claimants, with no children, no partner cluttering up his claim (or rather the DWP's brain), no disabilities are allowed and James will be barred if he has anything as as complex as a mortgage or claiming other benefits which may overstretch the DWP's excel spreadsheet currently available in no less than four Jobcentres in the UK.
James must be computer connected
(2) Steady on James. You have got fully functioning internet access haven't you?
James will need to access a computer to make his claim, his patience may snap if dodgy broadband kicks in and poor old James shouldn't be surprised if he ends up with a mental breakdown after battling to complete his claim in the sure no knowledge it has no 'save' facility, the results of which are that after in-putting all the information he'll probably realise he can't answer one of the questions meaning he has to scrub it all and start another day.
So James patience & stamina are a must.....
James better not have a chequered employment history
(3) I hope James you left your last job for a good reason?
In this day and age the chances of an errant employer sacking someone for a bit of easily fabricated so called 'misconduct' are much greater than ever before.
James may well find himself arguing for ages over why he lost his last job. The JCP computer says no technician may frown upon James before saying something along the lines of 'oh James it does rather look like you may have left your last job voluntarily, I'm ever so sorry (ha ha) but I'm going to have to pass this on to some unnamed official with our Jobcentre who will need to take this up with your employer and see what they have to say. So give us a ring in a week or so and hopefully we may have had an answer".
James could be waiting a while. But regardless of the wait James will need to sign up to something far more binding than the ten commandments.....
James must agree to be 'committed'
(4) Yes James, believe me 'you will' or else your 'claimant commitment' will be put seriously in to question.
James may resent having to sign the crazy claimant commitment in 'return' for his Universal Credit on the solid grounds that it's almost certainly unworkable and in any event he's yet to receive a single penny - he's effectively promising to do everything the DWP demands before they've so much as given him anything 'in return'. And by 'in return' James will be waiting a good while before he gets a single cent. Oh one other thing James, you have got a bank account haven't you? - because if you haven't Universal Credit isn't for you.
Universal Credit is all about survival of the fittest....
James must have plenty of stamina
(5) Oh man up James, stop moaning. Perhaps now's the time to think about going on a diet?
He'll probably have little choice.....
Little problems like starving, being unable to pay his rent or having no money to keep his mobile phone topped up may well just stand in the way of enhancing his miraculous job finding prospects as the DWP watches his every move in readiness to sanction him before he's so much as got his first payment; not to mention how some psychotherapist is probably clocking his behavioural pattern to see if he's been suitably conditioned in to accepting the first zero hours job offer at national minimum wage.
But no matter how desperate he is or how little he has in his bank, his overriding objective is to stick to his claimant commitment and make sure he's firmly focussed on making work pay....
James must be prepared to work round the clock
(6) James will probably be very much focussed on making sure work pays....
Prising a living wage out of any employer has become an obstacle in itself these days.....
James is entering the world of hiring and firing at will, employee protection is as rare as social protection. James will need to make sure (a) he gets paid (b) he stays in work, and (c) he earns enough to live on.
James will need every penny he can get in overtime if he is to make anything like the same money he was probably on before so called 'austerity' cuts forced him out of a job he was perfectly proficient. It matter not that he may have been bringing in substantially more in tax and national insurance than government will ever recoup under this half baked attempt at welfare reform.
James will never realise he is an IDS guinea pig
(7) James won't have the first clue over how he's being used in an ideological experiment to reform the welfare state.
Universal Credit has been recklessly promised as a solution to the problems of welfare dependency. The whole ethos revolves around 'conditionality', promising that work always pays and simplifying the system so that people like James can drift in and out of work easily and take up a claim for Universal Credit between jobs.
In its current form Universal Credit simply cannot cope with the raft of changes in circumstances which affect many claimants. There are many changes which can affect a claim but the DWP has narrowed down the prospect of complications by only using people like James to see if the system works. James is one of a thousand or so of the least complicated guinea pigs, government has yet to give the go ahead to the real test of whether this untried experiment works. It's when people with partners, children, disabilities, sickness, caring duties, mortgages, disputes, ongoing appeals, overpayments, assets, variable earnings and so forth are introduced in to the system that we will see whether it works or not.
Until then frankly IDS should stop boasting over what it will deliver, he has no idea whether it will work or not.
People like James will provide the green light for IDS to launch the rest of Universal Credit by unleashing it on to 8 million unsuspecting households - affecting around 12 million different people, not far off a quarter of the population of Britain. James's claim should not provide any system with a problem, it could if push came to shove be managed 'clerically'. So no - one should take comfort from any claimed 'results' from such a low impact test of what this system ultimately has to deliver - we are a million miles away from full testing of this system.
The DWP should stop using animated guinea pigs like James and start getting real people to give truthful accounts of their 'customer experiences' when claiming Universal Credit.
It's high time IDS came clean and declared we are no where near achieving a cost saving and efficient solution to all that IDS would make you believe was wrong with the welfare state. His greater problem is that of the rising pension crisis rather than working age benefits but you'll never get that degree of honesty from someone like IDS.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Oct 11, 2013 19:42:57 GMT
Universal Credit: the view form Tameside
Benefit claimants cannot navigate new Universal Credit online system
By: Information Daily Staff Writer Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 10:25 GMTJump to Comments
The online application system for Universal Credit in pilot area Tameside is proving problematic for the community’s benefits claimants, according to its local Citizen’s Advice branch.
The findings, which suggest problems are beginning to emerge ahead of Universal Credit’s nationwide implementation, have been released ahead of an in-depth analysis of the benefits scheme to be aired on BBC Radio 4 tonight.
Citizen’s Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy has said that the issues with the IT system should be a “clear warning sign to ministers” that many future claimants of the benefit will require help, both in managing their budget and in dealing with the new online forms.
Indeed, a recent study by the charity revealed that nine out of ten people say they will need some form of support in moving on to the new system.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said, “Ministers have been worryingly unclear about how they will help people who cannot deal with online forms and who are already struggling to meet their living costs.
“Introducing such a major reform slowly is sensible, but there are major problems coming further down the line unless ministers strengthen the help given to people as the new benefit is rolled-out more widely.
“The difficulties reported from Tameside are a clear warning sign that people will need strong local support to manage the new online claims system”.
Nigel Morgan, from Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau, added, “Being part of this pilot is an important role and has meant we’ve had to significantly change what help we give to our clients
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Oct 31, 2013 20:55:03 GMT
Government faces tough options over universal credit
Ministers divided over which of two plans to use to get scheme back on track – but both will cost taxpayer over £200m
By Shiv Malik 31st October 2013
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is understood to prefer the plan to improve the existing system. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Ima
Ministers attempting to put the troubled universal credit welfare reform programme back on track have been presented with a radical plan to restart the scheme and write off £119m of work over the past three years.
The proposals would create a much more web-based system, reducing the need for jobcentre staff, but putting the whole scheme back to "phase one".
The plan is detailed in more than 150 pages of leaked documents that present two options for rescuing the huge project to merge six majorbenefits and tax credits into one payment. The other plan would attempt to improve the existing system and build on the investment already made. Both plans were drawn up by civil servants at the direction of Department for Work and Pensions ministers.
The documents include a risk assesment of each option, which criticises both plans and warns that a maximum of 25,000 people – just 0.2% of all benefit recipients – will be transferred on to the programme by the next general election, whichever route is taken.
The risk assessment warns that the plan to start again, the "design and build" web-based scheme, is "unproven ... at this scale". It says the plan to fix three years of work on universal credit is still "not achievable within the preferred timescales", describing it as unrealistic.
The scheme has suffered management and computer problems since work began in 2010, causing Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, at the start of the year to push back the timetable for rollout. Labour says the scheme is in "total chaos".
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Nov 4, 2013 23:28:15 GMT
£425 million blown on Universal Credit?
Welfare cuts are paying for IDS's incompetence.....
Someone please tell me how IDS is able to continue in his current role?
His chaotic welfare reform programme is crumbling before Parliament and yet he is is being applauded for his efforts, something has to be seriously wrong when a minister is allowed to cause so much wreckage, inflict so much grief and yet he is hailed as some kind of hero when it comes to turning round the welfare state.
To add insult to injury, the tax payer is oblivious to the harsh reality. IDS's reforms must now surely be costing far more than they save. The catalogue of disaster after disaster gets even worse when we learn via Brian Wernham, an independent consultant, project governance expert and author that Universal Credit may result in a £425 million pound write off of the IT systems which according to IDS was 'on time, on track and on budget' to revolutionise and simplify the benefits system by merging six main means tested benefits in to a 'single streamlined payment' called Universal Credit.
Here's Brian's on BBC News and his article.....
Universal Credit £425m write-off on the cards as Treasury freezes roll-out
September 2, 2013
Universal Credit £425m write-off on the cards as Treasury freezes roll-out
Today’s report from the NAO has revealed DWP have been told to consider writing off more than £425m spent so far on Universal Credit in addition to a £34m already written off.
DWP’s accounts are usually published in July each year before Parliamentary recess. This year’s accounts were not published in July but have been withheld until after today’s report from the NAO. A £34m write-off has already been made, and DWP “is conducting further impairment reviews of the value of its Universal Credit IT assets before finalising its 2012-13 accounts” says the NAO.
DWP has also been told to freeze the roll-out of Universal Credit beyond a handful of Job Centres until the Treasury is convinced that there is convincing business case. In its investigations, NAO found that the Pathfinder IT already in use is “limited … and does not (work) as originally intended”.
Are all Government IT projects doomed? No.
Other recent Government IT projects have gone well. For example, the DVLA is putting live various new systems incrementally, such as the automation of links between vehicle ownership and insurance information.
Police patrol cars and CCTV cameras are now using number plate recognition technology to stop and search uninsured vehicles, often uncovering much more serious offences in the process.
So, what went wrong at DWP? Lobster pots…
The intended ‘big bang’ implementation of Universal Credit was based on the ‘lobster pot’ principle. The idea was that once a claimant is on the Universal Credit IT system, he/she remains on it – no matter how complex their life becomes.
For this simplifying assumption to work, the IT would have to calculate all six existing benefits simultaneously from the very first day of go-live. But the IT that has been developed so far simply can’t deal with that complexity.
When the coalition government came into power, it introduced a new IT Strategy to ensure that incremental ‘Agile’ development would be the norm, and thus new IT projects would be less risky. There has been one exception to the rule: the Universal Credit programme.
Despite DWP’s insistence that an Agile and incremental approach was taken on Universal Credit, the NAO and the Cabinet Office “do not consider that DWP has … appropriately adopted an Agile approach.” The approach was, in fact, the opposite of Agile: it was predicated on a ‘big bang’ implementation of all the Universal Credit functions simultaneously from October 2013. A target that has now been abandoned.
Can the Universal Credit Programme be put back on track?
Perhaps, but two major problems need to be overcome.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Nov 5, 2013 0:50:59 GMT
UNIVERSAL CREDIT DELIVERY BY 2017 IS UNREALISTIC....
Is UC doomed?
Report out 7th November 2013 - 'just 0.2% of claimants able to use Universal Credit by next election in 2015'
News via Public Net - the Public Services Community
Headlines: November 4th, 2013
"The welfare reform programme, which will merge six benefits, has reached another defining moment and is going through a further rethink. What is clear amongst this uncertainty is that it is unrealistic to believe that the Universal Credit can be delivered by 2017 as planned.
In September the NAO published a critical report which highlighted weak project management, ineffective control and poor governance. It revealed that £34m has been written off because of failed IT programmes. It expressed concerns about the delivery timetable.
The Public Account Committee is due to deliver a report on the programme on 7 November. The Committee asked to see the project review report, due to be produced after the Committee hearing by the recently appointed programme director Harold Shiplee. The report has now been delivered to ministers but it is understood it will not be released to the Committee.
According to the Guardian, the Shiplee report sets out two options for ministers, both of which make delivery by 2017 unrealistic. The least risk option is to fix the system which started was started as a pilot in April 2013 and has now been extended to areas in the north west and to Hammersmith. The alternative is to go back to the drawing board and devise a web-based system. This option would reduce the need for job centre staff, but it would make less use of learning gained so far and consequently carry greater risk. It would also result in writing off £119m spent on development to date.
The Guardian reports that the DWP would prefer to fix the existing system, but the Cabinet Office favours a fresh start with a web-based system.
Whatever course ministers decide it has emerged that by the date of the next election in 2015, a maximum of 25,000 people, or just 0.2% of benefit claimants will be able to use the Universal Credit system.
All the problems which have caused delay to the program and resulted in the write off of costs relate to the technology. The other major issue which is likely to cause as much disruption is the cultural change which is needed to allow Universal Credit to function effectively. All claimants will have to interact with the system online, but only some 60 percent of benefit claimants have online access.
Theoretically claimants can use facilities in libraries to submit claims, but they don’t visit libraries and they need support to cope with the technology and with the benefit processes. Some pilots are experimenting with providing access points in council premises and with staff on hand to support the claimants. Other pilots are exploring various approaches to improving access but have found it difficult to encourage take up."
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.
“There has been a shocking absence of control over suppliers, with the Department failing to implement the most basic procedures for monitoring and authorising expenditure. In some cases multi-million pound orders were approved by secretarial staff. Individual payments could not even be linked to particular pieces of work that had been delivered.
“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.
“It lacks the security components needed to prevent fraudulent claims and protect individuals’ personal information.
“It does not deal with the key issues that Universal Credit must address: the volume of claims; their complexity; change in claimants’ circumstances; and the need for claimants to meet conditions for continuing entitlement to benefit. The Department needs a revised pilot that is capable of properly informing the full roll-out of Universal Credit.
“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.
“The Department needs to focus on the long-term successful implementation of Universal Credit. It should evaluate what benefit it can derive from the existing IT but must not throw good money after bad by introducing a short-term fix that does not stand the test of time.”
Margaret Hodge was speaking as the Committee published its 30th Report of this Session which examined progress in delivering Universal Credit and the problems there have been in implementing the programme. The Committee had taken evidence from the Department for Work and Pensions (the Department), the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority and HM Treasury.
The Department has stated that Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system by consolidating six means-tested working-age benefits into a single system intended to encourage claimants to start work or earn more. The Department expects to spend £2.4 billion up to April 2023 on implementing Universal Credit, and by April 2013 it had spent £425 million, mostly on IT development (£303 million). In February 2013 the Department ‘reset’ the programme following a Major Projects Authority review which expressed serious concerns about the programme lacking detailed plans.
It is highly likely that a substantial part of the expenditure on IT development will have to be written off. Since then the Department has been working to address these concerns, but has yet to submit revised plans for approval by ministers, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.
Management of the Universal Credit programme has been extraordinarily poor. Oversight has been characterised by a failure to understand properly the nature and enormity of the task, a failure to monitor and challenge progress regularly, and a failure to intervene promptly when problems arose.
Senior managers only became aware of problems through ad hoc reviews, mostly conducted by external reviewers, as inadequate management information and reporting arrangements had not alerted them that things were amiss. Given its huge importance to the Department, the Accounting Officer and his team should have been more alert to identifying and acting on early warning signs that things were going wrong with the programme.
Recommendation: The Department should ensure that new governance arrangements provide robust oversight of progress and that these arrangements are agreed by the Major Projects Authority. Responsibilities for programme management and different levels of assurance should be set out clearly, with appropriate engagement of officials at the most senior level within the Department for Work & Pensions and the Cabinet Office.
The lack of oversight allowed the Department’s Universal Credit team to become isolated and defensive, undermining its ability to recognise the size of the problems the programme faced and to be candid when reporting progress. The programme’s ambitious timescale and protected resources created the inevitable risk of a fortress culture developing. This risk should have been mitigated by robust management information and stronger monitoring by senior staff within the department which might have given clear and early insights into progress. Risk was not well managed and the divergence between planned and actual progress could and should have been spotted and acted upon earlier. The Department only reported good news and denied the problems that had emerged. The risk of a similarly blinkered culture remains as the Department will be working to tight timescales to get the programme back on track.
Recommendation: The Department must ensure it has comprehensive, relevant and clear information to assess progress. Progress must be monitored at the most senior levels within the department and it is essential that staff feel able to raise at an early stage concerns if they identify difficulties.
It is extremely disappointing that the litany of problems in the Universal Credit Programme were often hidden by a culture prevalent in the Department which promoted only the telling of “good news”. For example, officials were aware that a critical report highlighting many of these issues had been discussed internally for months. Indeed, there are real doubts over when officials became aware of these problems and it is difficult to conceive, based on the evidence we were presented with, that officials within the Department did not know of them before July 2012. This is a hugely important project which requires strong, consistent and unified leadership and management. This is essential to drive uncontroversial policy to successful implementation.
There has been a shocking absence of control over suppliers with the Department neglecting to implement basic procedures for monitoring and authorising expenditure. We saw evidence that purchase orders with a total value of £8.7 million were approved by a personal assistant to the Programme Director. In another case, two purchase orders, one for £22.6 million and one for £1.1 million, were approved by a personal assistant to the Programme Director whose delegated financial authority at the time of approvals was only £10 million. When the Department made individual payments to suppliers these could not be linked to particular pieces of work that had been delivered. Some of the IT assets that have been delivered cannot be used in the programme and so must be written-off; whilst initial estimates suggest the write-offs could amount to at least £140 million, we heard evidence that the precise extent is as yet unknown because the Department’s impairment review is not yet complete, relying so far on supplier self-assessment.
Recommendation: The Department must: complete its own impairment review as a matter of urgency; implement suitable payment controls; and demonstrate that it is getting value for money through future negotiations with suppliers.
The pilot programme is inadequate as it does not deal with the key issues that Universal Credit must address: the volume of claims; their complexity; change in claimants’ circumstances; the need for claimants to meet conditions for continuing entitlement to benefit; and the security of information to prevent fraud. The scope of Pathfinder is much narrower than originally planned. It is now restricted to only the simplest new claims of people who are single, have no dependants and would otherwise be seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance. The Pathfinder does not deal with most claimants’ circumstances or examine how the behaviour of different types of claimant might change with the introduction of Universal Credit. Pathfinder also includes limited IT functionality, with staff having to enter some information manually, and it lacks the identity assurance and anti-fraud components that the full system will need. While Pathfinder will provide some useful information, we are sceptical that it will adequately inform the full roll-out of Universal Credit.
Recommendation: The Department should evaluate what benefit it can derive from the existing Pathfinder programme and ensure it introduces a revised pilot programme to help prepare for the full implementation of the policy.
We are not yet convinced that the Department is in a position to present revised plans for approval by ministers, the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury that resolve the problems of developing a secure system that can accommodate large numbers of claimants who have complex and changing circumstances and who will be expected to fulfil certain conditions. When the Department presents its revised plans to these decision makers, it must clearly set out how it will: protect Universal Credit against fraud risks; establish the scope of secure online operations; determine how to confirm claimant identity; monitor whether the claimant fulfils the conditions of entitlement, and handle all the complexities and changes in circumstances for claimants. Universal Credit will not meet its current target of enrolling 184,000 claimants by April 2014, and the Department will need to accelerate the later stages of the programme if it still plans to meet a 2017 completion date which creates yet further risks. We believe that meeting any specific timetable is less important than delivering the programme successfully. There is still the potential for Universal Credit to deliver significant benefits, but there is no clarity yet on the amount of savings it will achieve.
Recommendation: The Department’s revised plans should set out:
A range of deliverable options to present to ministers, the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury detailing the services, processes and systems for Universal Credit
A clear strategy for IT development, demonstrating the best way forward for the programme and an accurate review of current investment which will not be needed in the long-term.
Realistic ambitions on timescales and the amount that can be delivered online, and the impact of these on the costs and benefits of the new system. While we recognise that timetables might need to be flexible, the Department should set out the milestones against which it can be held to account, such as: when each affected benefit will be replaced by Universal Credit; the migration of claimants onto the new system; and the availability of key services online.
The budget for the remainder of the programme and the net benefits it expects will be delivered, explaining how these have changed compared to previous plans.
It is important that HM Treasury and the Major Projects Authority have clear criteria against which to examine the Department’s revised plans. Both the Treasury and Major Projects Authority described to us the general principles they would expect the revised plans to address—such as affordability and the delivery of value for money—which could apply to any project. Given the scale of Universal Credit and the difficulties so far, we would expect Treasury and the Major Projects Authority to ‘raise the bar’ in order to give confidence that the programme can be brought back on track.
Recommendation: HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office should outline the specific criteria they expect the Department to address in its revised plans for Universal Credit. In the light of the failures experienced by this programme, we recommend that the Major Projects Authority is given stronger powers to monitor and intervene.
Response to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report: 'Universal Credit: early progress'
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 Public Accounts Committee, 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 Universal Credit delivery shortly.
IDS is now well and truly sliding on black ice, casualties are inevitable; the cost of the collision will be immense. It's astonishing that IDS continues to bluff his way through welfare reform by making more of the same far fetched claims as he crashes his way through a revolution which frankly just isn't happening.
Smith has shown that he's now only only motivated by a dangerous personal mission to prove he's capable of delivering something which he one day can call a 'success'. - something IDS has always struggled to achieve given his dire leadership history. Disregarding the sound advice of the Public Accounts Committee is folly, but what makes this a real disaster is the false promise upon which IDS is delivering his Universal Credit.
The flag ship reform is built upon a guarantee that Universal Credit will always make 'Work Pay'.
But for whom?
Implementation is now happening at no more than a snail's pace, we are now well over three years in to the Coalition's welfare pledges, it's a pathetically slow introduction where the latest estimate is that no more than 25,000 claimants will be Universal Credit beneficiaries by the 2015 general election. 25,000 claimants is a long way short of the 8 million households which IDS has consistently promised will have their lives turned around with what has been over sold as a welcome simplification of the UK's benefits system.
Except it isn't.
IDS completely underestimates the complexity of the benefits system. He continues to foolishly assert that rolling six key means tested benefits in to one is the key to welfare success. But it's not just six benefits which the system needs to cater for, it's a multitude of other benefits such as those which are contribution based, Council Tax reductions, Child Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Industrial Injuries, Occupational Pensions and many more - all of which have to link into monthly calculations before payments can be issued. The inter - linking of claims, some of which will be 'contaminated' by overpayments and ongoing appeals is a massive problem which Universal Credit looks no where near ready to cope with.
If you gave IDS the benefit of the doubt and generously assumed 'Work Pays' for each of the 25,000 claimants on Universal Credit by the next election, it's hardly going to make an impact on the Nations' economic growth is it?
The reason IDS isn't changing track is simple, his chancellor's told him there's not another cent to be wasted on his half baked plan.
The money wasted on this precarious experiment will be absolutely enormous by 2015; the cost savings to the UK tax payer will be a massive minus on the balance sheets. The car crash is coming, what should worry us all is IDS is at the wheel and has no inclination to apply his foot to the brake pedal.
The cost of IDS's reckless driving?
Many more welfare cuts will 'need' to be made to plug the gap left by massive black holes left in IDS's department's budget. I predict significant cuts will hit the poorer pensioner the hardest with more scare tactics being deployed by the DWP as it tries even harder to put every other claimant group off from claiming.