The Public Accounts Committee is concerned at the progress of Universal Credit, particularly in terms of IT and claims that just 10% of the IT systems paid for will be used when the scheme goes live.
The PAC estimates that the Department of Work and Pensions has spent £700 million already on Universal Credit, including £344 million on IT systems of which only £34 million will be used.
At this stage the PAC feels it is premature to judge whether the expenditure, which is set to total £1.7 billion by 2022, represents value for money.
However, the PAC has recommended to the Department of Work and Pensions how to improve the development of the scheme, with particular focus on its digital infrastructure:
- To set out clearly what it has really gained from its spending so far, including investment in live service IT systems.
- To continue with the “dual development” of the system as it brings the digital infrastructure up to standard, but ensure that it does not go on longer than necessary.
- To establish more robust and costed contingency plans for how it would handle further delays in the digital service, including a thorough examination of whether it would be practical and affordable to use the current live service for this role.
Chair of the PAC, Margaret Hodge commented “the DWP has spent £700 million on Universal Credit since the programme began in 2010. However, very little progress has been achieved on the front line.”
Adding that “the IT infrastructure for Universal Credit continues to be of particular concern,” as currently the “live systems are technically limited and expensive”.
Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, warned that although encouraging a digital switchover for the benefits system is positive he is concerned that “official figures show that four million people are either unable to use technology or who feel uncomfortable doing so.”
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