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Universal Credit digital service moves into the cloud

New system under trial in south London has been migrated to an IaaS platform ready for further roll-out

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has migrated the digital service being developed for Universal Credit into the cloud.

DWP procured an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform from supplier SCC through the G-Cloud framework to provide additional capacity for the service ready for further roll-out and expansion in the future. G-Cloud spending data shows two IaaS contracts signed by DWP with SCC, worth £40,636 and £23,430.

The digital service has been run as a trial in Sutton and Croydon in south London since November 2014, and is due to be extended to a third area of London soon.

The system is being developed using the latest digital tools and techniques. Mayank Prakash, the director general for digital technology at DWP, speaking at the Government ICT 2.0 conference in London last week, claimed the Universal Credit digital service is one of the “largest microservices, containerised applications in Europe”.

Last week, Universal Credit director general Neil Couling said in a tweet: “Not a cloud in the sky apart from the one we successfully moved the #UniversalCredit digital service onto earlier today. Progress, progress.”

The digital service will eventually support the full roll-out of the new benefit scheme nationwide. A limited version of Universal Credit is being rolled out across the country, but only targeting the simplest of claims, and using an IT system that will mostly be thrown away once the digital service has been completed. The digital version supports a wider range of applicants, including more complex cases.

The new system is being developed by the DWP’s in-house digital team, following the standards set by the Government Digital Service to iterate development of new functionality and test gradually. The software being used in Sutton and Croydon is effectively a working prototype that will be further developed into the final system for national roll-out.

Early IT development for Universal Credit was beset by problems. By the time the welfare programme is fully implemented, it will have scrapped over £300m of IT development work. Under the original plans, all benefit claimants were expected to be on Universal Credit by 2017/2018. The DWP has since revised the target so only new claims will be on the system by 2017.

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