IDS admits more Universal Credit delays while hiding behind Autumn Statement

Thu, 05/12/2013 - 12:57 -- nick

Under-fire Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has admitted that he will miss his most recent timetable for the introduction of Universal Credit - the latest in a long line of delays.

He chose to release this information on the day the Chancellor gives his Autumn Statement, when most political reporters are busy, hiding his latest disappointment behind George Osborne.

Having been criticised by MPs and the National Audit Office for mismanaging the introduction of the scheme and getting poor value for money, he was forced to admit to the BBC that he would not be able to hit the target of enrolling 184,000 people by April next year.

He said: ""I'm not setting targets for specific numbers at particular points, what I'm giving you is the overall plan is how we will achieve the completion of Universal Credit."

This came despite setting a specific target for this in December last year.

Only around 2,000 people are currently receiving the benefit in seven pilot areas, but in September Smith promised MPs that all claimants would be transferred by 2017.

He said: "The plan is, and has always been, to deliver this within the four-year schedule to 2017. At the time I came here, I believed that to be the case, I am standing here today telling this House - whether you like it or not not - I'm saying that that is exactly what the plan is today. We will deliver this in time and in budget."

But he admitted to the BBC that 700,000 Employment and Support Allowance claimants would not join Universal Credit until after this date, fuelling speculation that the IT system is still not fit for purpose.

He said it "may take a little longer" before this group is able to be part of the new scheme, and the BBC commented that "the opposition will ask why an apparently unqualified commitment to the 2017 timescale was given to MPs as recently as September."

The Department for Work and Pensions claimed that "the overriding priority throughout will be continued safe and smooth delivery" despite delivery being anything but smooth to date.

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