Government Digital Service backs away from Universal Credit

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is backing away from its involvement with Universal Credit, after it was called in to create an ‘enhanced IT solution’ with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

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The Government Digital Service (GDS) is backing away from Universal Credit, after it was initially called in to create an ‘enhanced IT solution’ with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP said yesterday that this enhanced solution is viable, but that it will continue to develop its existing system to “allow for greater understanding of how individuals in different circumstances interact with Universal Credit”.

However, following a report by Computer Weekly, the government has confirmed that the proof of concept is being completely handed over to DWP to manage, and GDS will eventually have no involvement in developing the new IT behind the system.

“Following the delivery of strategic proof of concept in October 2013, a team within DWP will now take the digital solution forward, led by the department’s digital leader,” a Cabinet Office spokesperson told Computerworld UK.

DWP recently hired Kevin Cunnington as its new director general for digital transformation and he will now guide the direction of GDS’ ‘enhanced solution’.

A spokesperson for DWP told Computerworld UK that GDS is still involved in the work but will eventually step away, although the timings of this are not yet confirmed.

In confirming the viability of the Universal Credit system yesterday, DWP also revealed that the rollout of Universal Credit will be completed later than its deadline of 2017.

Universal Credit aims to merge benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance, income support, housing benefit, child tax credit, and working credit. The IT system supporting it will require real-time data on the earnings of every adult, from a new Pay as You Earn (PAYE) system being developed by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

However, the project has been plagued with problems and evidence given at a recent Public Accounts Committee suggested that DWP may write off over £174 million of the IT assets that have been developed so far by IBM, HP, Accenture and BT.