It’s an ambitious plan to transform the benefits system – but it looks as though the technology meant to power universal credit is turning into another great government IT disaster.
This morning the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that the planned 2017 deadline for the programme would probably slip – although the DWP statement still talks optimistically of the continued “safe and secure roll-out” of the scheme.
One civil servant close to the situation has painted a rather different picture. He tells me that DWP staff at the frontline are doing a heroic job using the IT but they are “struggling so much with the number of times they have to re-key, systems are crashing. They’re not joined up, they just can’t cope with the messy reality of people’s lives”.
The IT system that the DWP is using at the moment is the one severely criticised in a National Audit Office report. It has been developed mainly by big outside contractors such as Accenture and IBM at a cost of more than £300m. Some believe much of that money will have to be written off.