COMMONS

Chair's statement: National Audit Office: Universal Credit progress update

26 November 2014

A statement from The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts:

"The Department for Work & Pensions is still not getting it right on Universal Credit, its single biggest programme which all parties support and want to see work.

In November 2013, it moved to an expensive ‘twin track’ approach after the programme was put back to square one by the Major Projects Authority, despite this costing hundreds of millions more than if the Department had simply waited for its digital IT service to be ready.

Now the digital service is already delayed by 6 months and the Department has just 18 months to get it up and running as planned. A further delay in rolling out the new system of just 6 months could lose us £2.3 billion in societal benefits, and the Department has no contingency plan in place.

The Department’s unacceptably poor management of this programme has wasted time and taxpayers’ money, with a staggering £600m spent in 4 years just to get to the first stage of business case sign-off.

Now the Department is throwing good money after bad by introducing a short-term fix with no adequate plan for delivery, insufficient skills and unclear milestones to measure progress against. The transfer of all claimants on to Universal Credit will not now be completed until after the end of 2019.

Given its track record, the Department needs to get its act together quickly if it is to deliver a system that vulnerable benefit claimants can rely on."

Further information

Image: PA

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