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DWP hits back at criticism over Universal Credit IT systems

Kathleen Hall

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has hit back at calls to delay its flagship welfare reform following concerns that the IT underpinning the Universal Credit project is not ready.

Labour is now calling on the government to postpone the introduction of the welfare reform, claiming there are too many unresolved problems with the scheme.

The Local Government Association submitted written evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, slamming the approach to IT behind Universal Credit as “not grounded in reality”. 

In a Parliamentary debate last week, MPs called into question the IT behind the project. Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow Work and Pensions secretary, claimed Universal Credit is late and over budget, adding that there was widespread unease surrounding the implementation of the £2bn scheme’s IT system.

Tory MP Edward Leigh said: “The problem with IT systems in the public sector, rather than the private sector, is the sheer scale of numbers. Eight million households will use the new system.

"I beg the secretary of state to be cautious, to test and re-test, to pilot and re-pilot, and not to believe a word spoken to him by IT companies or his civil servants."

But a spokesman from the DWP said: “The IT is already mostly built. It is not a single IT system, but is being built part-by-part on an agile basis as well as bringing in existing systems. 

"It is built and tested, on-time and on-budget.”

Pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith said the department was committed to its IT investments in the programme.

“For what it is worth, I take absolute, direct and close interest in every single part of the IT development," said Duncan Smith.

"I hold meetings every week and a full meeting every two weeks, and every weekend a full summary of the IT developments and everything to do with policy work is in my box and I am reading it. 

"I take full responsibility and I believe we are taking the right approach.”

 


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