NAO to examine Universal Credit this year

The National Audit Office (NAO) is due to publish another report on Universal Credit this year.

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The National Audit Office (NAO) is due to publish another report on Universal Credit this year.

It will follow a damning report into the early progress of Universal Credit, which revealed losses of at least £34 million, weak management and poor implementation, which the NAO produced last September.

Speaking to ComputerworldUK, an NAO spokesperson said: “We will be doing a follow-up study into Universal Credit this year."

He did not give a precise date for the publication, saying only that it would be before the end of the year.

The announcement follows news that Labour has said it will ‘pause’ the introduction of Universal Credit if the party is elected in the general election next year.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said that Labour would put a temporary stop to the build of the system, but the pilots that are already underway would continue. However, she warned that Labour is prepared to scrap the project if it feels that the costs of continuing would outweigh the benefits.

Reeves told the Sunday Times: “If we thought this was a totally ridiculous idea we would just say we're going to scrap it. Given that work has been started and a lot of money has been spent on it, we hope the costs of continuing with it will be smaller than the benefits of not proceeding with it.”

She added: "We're not going to go in with a preconceived notion that we are going to proceed at any cost, which seems to be Iain Duncan Smith's approach. This is his baby and he's not going to abandon it, however bad things get.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Reeves said: “If we win the next election we will pause... the build of the system for three months, calling in the National Audit Office (NAO) to do a warts-and-all report on it."

She added: "We set up a Universal Credit rescue committee in the autumn of last year because we had seen, from the National Audit Office, from the Public Accounts Committee, report after report showing that this project is massively over budget, and it is not going to be delivered according to the government timetable.”

Although Labour backs Universal Credit in principle, the party has criticised its implementation and says there has been a lack of transparency surrounding the programme.

The NAO emphasised that its report later this year has been planned for some time and is unrelated to yesterday’s announcements by the Labour party.

Universal Credit, which aims to merge six benefits into a single payment, is due to be expanded to four job centres in the north west from today, bringing the total number of jobcentres where it is available to 14.

The benefit is currently only available to single individuals who have never claimed benefits before, however the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it will be available in every jobcentre in the north west by the end of this year.

 

 
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