Cyber security biggest challenge for universal credit, says David Freud

Cyber security could be the biggest challenge for the government’s universal credit roll-out, says welfare reform minister David Freud

Cyber security is the biggest challenge for the government’s universal credit roll-out, welfare reform minister David Freud has told a select committee.

Speaking to a select committee, pensions minister Ian Duncan Smith said government had consulted with E-commerce company Amazon about the security of universal credit systems.

Duncan Smith said: “We’ve been in discussions with companies like Amazon, who actually have a very good record on this. And we’ve also talked to other government organisations who are specifically involved in this.

“This is essentially a consumer product just like theirs, but has a particularly an important feature that we must always be ready to pay people at all times because not paying them can cause particular problems.”

David Freud, the welfare reform minister, singled out cyber security as the biggest challenge to the programme. 

David Freud said government was using sophisticated security systems to tackle the issue of fraud, similar to those used by banks.  

Duncan Smith said education was still needed among MPs on the issue of cyber security and fraud, which has dramatically moved on from the early days.

The aim of universal credit is to get 50% of welfare claimants to use the online service by 2015. The project is due to go live by 2013.

Duncan Smith said more computers would be placed in job centres to help claimants through the process.

“We are preparing a system capable of expanding through decades of technological development,” said Freud.

Concerns have been raised that small businesses will struggle to comply with the real-time information changes, which will see them submit PAYE details on a rolling basis. Software company Sage claims 36% of businesses are unaware of upcoming real-time changes.

But Freud said the RTI pilots had gone more smoothly than expected, which ranged from one-man bands to much larger organisation.

“Now providers and employers have come forward and HMRC has accelerated the introduction of new employers in this current period. 

"We are on target to get large numbers in by April and complete the transfer by October.”

Issues over the software guidelines have been ironed out, with HMRC offering free software to the smallest companies, said Duncan Smith.

The DWP recently rebutted concerns that the IT systems underlying the UC system is not ready, with Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow Work and Pensions secretary, having claimed there was widespread unease surrounding the implementation of the £2bn scheme’s IT system.

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


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