When government departments attack - universal credit in trouble again

Wed, 08/01/2014 - 13:41 -- nick

Iain Duncan Smith's failing universal credit programme faces further delays as warfare has broken out within the government leading to the breakdown of key relationships.

The scheme, which aims to replace six benefits with one online system, was being developed jointly between the Cabinet Office and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But, according to papers leaked to The Guardian, the Cabinet Office has dropped out due to serious tensions over the direction and progress of the project.

The Cabinet Office supplied most of the IT expertise used to set up the system through the Government Digital Service (GDS), meaning the DWP will need to recruit new high-level workers to take it over.

One source told the paper there was now a "significant risk of delay" to the completion of the final universal credit design as well as probable cost increases.

"You are losing … people who are in on the ground floor, certainly immersed in universal credit policy and design plans. Now they are going to have to bring people up to speed and probably have to pay top dollar for them because they are going to have to be cutting-edge digital experts."

The Guardian reports that the Cabinet Office withdrew all support when Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, decided to try to continue with the current failing IT system rather than starting again.

It is believed that the decision was taken to try to minimise the criticism Smith would receive for abandoning the previous design rather than for good operational reasons.

Universal Credit has provided a seemingly endless stream of negative publicity for the government.

Despite claims that those working will always be better off, millions of parents will actually get less income.

In September the government was hit with the double whammy of a damning National Audit Office (NAO) report and the loss of millions of pounds due to problems in IT design and delivery.

The NAO report condemned Universal Credit as overambitious, badly managed and poor value for money and said the government had already wasted £34 million on it.

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