Universal Credit: Doomed to failure

Filed under: Local Government,Politics,Process,Technology,Time — lenand @ 8:32 pm
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Whilst one must applaud the simplification of the UK’s complex system of benefits, there’s a growing body of informed opinion that the ICT system proposals are doomed to failure.  Just read this from Page 35 of the White Paper on Universal Credit.

Recipients who have earnings from employment will have those earnings automatically taken into account. We intend to use HM Revenue & Customs proposed real-time information system to identify earnings and to calculate the net Universal Credit payment due by applying the appropriate taper to the gross payment. This means that those recipients who receive earnings through Pay As You Earn will not need to inform us for payment purposes if the amount of their earnings change. Recipients will, though, still need to tell us about other changes to their circumstances which affect their entitlement to benefit, or the conditions they must meet.

To reassure the readers, there’s a diagram, too.  It looks so easy to design real-time systems, doesn’t it.  Universal Credit Real Time SystemThere are opportunities for confusion.  As reported earlier, the Cabinet Office were expecting elements to be operational by April 2012, including hundreds of local authority identity hubs.  The White Paper refers to pilots commencing in 2013 and complete roll-out by 2017.

The impact on local authorities (LAs) has been reviewed by CIPFA.  They say “There is very little recognition within the administrative proposals of the Government’s overall localism agenda and, although there has yet to be any final decision on the future role of LAs, there are few specific proposals for any involvement for LAs in the future arrangements for the assessment and delivery of the UC.”   Payment of Housing Benefit currently provides employment for thousands of LA staff.  Will these staff be transferred to DWP or be part of an outsourcing deal?

All in all, the size and complexity of the project are typical of some of the worst failures in large government computer projects.  If history is a guide, then expect the prophets of doom to be vindicated.


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