The Guardian last night published an article, based; it would appear, on a leaked DWP report, focused on the Current UC fiasco, suggesting DWP Ministers are currently considering two options:
1.       Scrapping all Universal Credit development work and starting again, from first base, to create a new web-based IT system which will require much less involvement of JobCentre Plus staff (even more work for Social Landlord staff helping tenants to use the system!).
2.       Re-examine, revise and improve on what’s already been delivered.
The report, produced at the bequest of DWP Ministers, has already been criticised in an associated “risk assessment” which warns that a maximum of just 25,000 people (0.2% of all benefit recipients) will be transferred onto Universal Credit by May 2015 i.e. the next general election. Whatever path Ministers choose will involve writing off and spending hundreds of £Millions
There appears to be nothing in the report that will surprise you. It’s been predicted for the past two/three years that the proposed “all singing, all dancing UC system, producing real-time updating” would not be delivered because it was overly ambitious and optimistic. The system is highly critical to the delivery of UC and has been the main reason for the snail pace Pathfinder roll-out which, in itself, has been a disaster, involving only the simplest of claims with claimant information (DOB’s, NINO’s etc.) being transferred by DWP staff from bits of scrap paper and triple keyed into legacy systems (so said the Work & Pensions Committee members who visited Ashton-under-Lyne).
So what next?
We’re told Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who is responsible for the government’s digital team, is in favour of the fresh web plan. Whereas, Ian Duncan Smith and his newly appointed project director, Harold Shiplee, are understood to back fixing what has been created over the past three years. Interestingly, the risk assessment suggests the option to fix the current system is “not endorsed” by the Cabinet Office, which could have “an adverse impact on delivery timescales” in getting government approvals. We’ll not have to wait too long to find out what direction they’ll take as a decision is likely to be made in a couple of weeks. The leaked report will more than likely expedite the process.
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