The Department for Work and Pensions’ flagship welfare reform project, Universal Credit, could be scaled back or scrapped after the next general election if Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions minister, doesn’t start delivering results.
According to the Financial Times, many in Whitehall are behind the principle of Universal Credit – which aims to merge a variety of benefits into a single system – but sources claim that the incoming government is likely assess whether or not the new system is delivering returns and whether or not it should receive further investment.
The paper claims that Universal Credit must “start delivering results by the next election or risk being drastically scaled back or even abandoned, according to senior Whitehall source”.
The welfare reform project has been plagued by a number of IT problems since its inception, which has led to millions of pounds of assets being written off. This led to the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service (GDS) being called in to help develop a new digital version of Universal Credit after it was found that the existing system being developed by system integrators including IBM, HP and Accenture was not scalable, not flexible and had security problems.
This new digital version will be used as the final product for claimants in the national rollout and Iain Duncan Smith has faced criticism for continuing to spend money on the original IT, which is being tested by a few thousand claimants in a small number of pilot areas.
Computerworld UK also recently revealed that DWP only had three internal staff working on the digital version of Universal Credit and was having to undertake a big recruitment drive to support its development.