The verdict: Universal Credit is a Governmental Disgrace

Can the DWP do anything right? Universal Credit joins the Work Programme and the murderous administration of Employment and Support Allowance on the list of Iain Duncan Smith's failures.

Can the DWP do anything right? Universal Credit joins the Work Programme and the murderous administration of Employment and Support Allowance on the list of Iain Duncan Smith’s failures.

The National Audit Office has published its ‘early progress’ report on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit scheme – and it is damning.

The report states that, after years of development in which £425 million was spent on the scheme, the Department for Work and Pensions does not even have a detailed view of how Universal Credit is supposed to work.

I should just stop there and spend the rest of this article discussing that one piece of information. After months and years of listening to ‘RTU’ ranting about how Universal Credit was going to be a revolution in benefit claims, we now know that he does not know – and never bothered to work out – how his revolution was going to be delivered!

Nor does Howard Shiplee, the ‘director general’ who has been talking it up on the media over the last few days.

Universal Credit is an attempt to “simplify” six major areas of social security into one streamlined payment system. They are: Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, tax credits (child and working), housing benefit and budgeting loans.

However: “Poor control and decision-making undermined confidence in the programme and contributed to a lack of progress,” the report states. This is directly attributable to the Secretary of State – it is his failure.

The report – and we should remember that this is from an organisation concerned with whether the government is spending our money wisely – concluded that the DWP has not achieved value for money.

The department was over-ambitious in both the timetable and scope of the programme, the report states. This is interesting in itself. How can its scope be “ambitious” if nobody even knew how it was supposed to work?

According to the NAO: “The Department took risks to try to meet the short timescale and used a new project management approach which it had never before used on a programme of this size and complexity. It was unable to explain how it originally decided on its ambitious plans or evaluated their feasibility.” In other words, from its employees right up to its ministers and Secretary of State, the DWP could not justify the risks it took with taxpayers’ money and never bothered to investigate the likelihood of failure.

“Given the tight timescale, unfamiliar project management approach and lack of a detailed plan, it was critical that the Department should have good progress information and effective controls. In practice the Department did not have any adequate measures of progress.”

The report singles out for particularly strong criticism the computer system intended to run the new benefit. “The Department is not yet able to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300 million to develop… Over 70 per cent of the £425 million spent to date has been on IT systems,” it states.

Then it says, “The Department, however, has already written off £34 million of its new IT systems and does not yet know if they will support national roll-out.” So the systems are not – to use a favourite DWP phrase – “fit for work”.

In fact, some parts don’t work on any level at all: “For instance, the current IT system lacks a component to identify potentially fraudulent claims so that the Department has to rely on multiple manual checks on claims and payments.” Meaning: In the single Job Centre where UC has been introduced, employees have been working out claims on paper.

“Such checks will not be feasible or adequate once the system is running nationally.” It seems amazing, but Iain Duncan Smith probably needed to see that, written down in black and white, or he might never have considered the possibility.

Problems with the IT system have delayed the national roll-out of the programme (and for that, considering all of the above, we should all breathe a long-drawn-out sigh of relief). “In early 2013, the Department was forced to stop work on its plans for national roll-out and reassess its options for the future… The Department will not introduce Universal Credit for all new claims nationally in October 2013 as planned, and is now reconsidering its plans for full roll-out.

“Instead, it will extend the pilots to six more sites with these new sites taking on only the simplest claims. Delays to the roll-out will reduce the expected benefits of reform and – if the Department maintains a 2017 completion date – increase risks by requiring the rapid migration of a large volume of claimants.”

The DWP intends to spend £2.4 billion on Universal Credit up to April 2023. To put that in perspective, that’s twice as much as the government loses on all benefit fraud – not just those being bundled together here – every year. And this will “increase risks”.

The spending watchdog found that the DWP took some action at the end of 2012 to resolve problems, but was unable to address the underlying issues effectively.

“The programme suffered from weak management, ineffective control and poor governance,” said Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office.

Despite all this, the report incredibly states that “the programme still has potential to create significant benefits for society, but the Department must scale back its delivery ambition and set out realistic plans”.

Liam Byrne will no doubt seize this as an opportunity, yet again, to offer Labour’s help to find a way forward and bring Universal Credit back on track. He should be discouraged from doing so. This ‘flagship’ hasn’t so much sailed as sunk.

Universal Credit is a FAILURE.

It should be SCRAPPED – before that idiot Smith wastes any more of our money on it.

25 thoughts on “The verdict: Universal Credit is a Governmental Disgrace

  1. Big Bill

    What else could anyone expect from a department headed by intellectual inadequate Iain Duncan-Smith? The man has no place in public life or office.

  2. Alex Casale

    “David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have spent £420m of taxpayers’ money to deliver universal credit in the grand total of just ten job centres – that’s less than 1.5% of the nation’s job centres”. The whole thing stinks! They are in a huge mess, and are apparently going to carry on with this badly flawed exercise. With the unbelievable waste of taxpayer’s money they intend to carry on spending whatever it takes to keep on with this scheme even though the DWP do not have a detailed view of how it is supposed to work!
    Taxpayers’ money is being wasted hand over fist. No way will this government make any savings from their benefit cuts, when their outrageous spending on implementing Universal Credit, Workfare, ‘Bedroom Tax’, etc. etc. will cost more than they get back. Utterly farcical!

  3. noneoftheabove1

    The average minister is in post for about two years. In that time they want to make some sort of impact so they come up with ideas off the top of their heads and try to implement them as quickly as possible. However, two years is not enough to even really come to grips with the job, much less to consult properly, run trials, evaluate the results, make adaptations where necessary and roll out the program in a controlled manner. Then the next guy comes in and tries to do the same with his smart ideas, meanwhile dropping or sidelining the previous guy’s efforts. As a result we end up with an endless string of poorly thought out initiatives, some of which are good, some bad, most probably could have been good or better if properly thought through. IDS is just one high profile example. In education for example schools are bombarded with an almost daily barrage of new inititaives,many of which are ignored or haphazardy implemented. These thing are too important to be left to politicians.

  4. Chocky

    Providing social security to citizens is one of the most complex and far reaching activities that government is responsible for. Iain Duncan Smith is one of the stupidest and least capable Members of Parliament in history. Putting IDS in charge of the DWP and entrusting him to implement a sheaf of unworkable and ridiculous “reforms”, cobbled together by other people (mostly supporters at Smith’s own pet Centre for Social Justice) that he doesn’t understand himself was a disaster waiting to happen. As was appointing that incompetent faker David Freud as unelected minister in charge of delivering the project successfully “on time and on budget”.

    I suppose the Coalition will now try to bluff and play for time until the next election is over but really, being honest, Universal Credit has failed big time and is actually already dead in the water.

    Thank goodness!

  5. bookmanwales

    It seems the media is attempting to draw the heat away from the failure of universal credit with more lies and propaganda. Little has been published in any media about the failure but an enormous amount of coverage instead given to the Taxpayers Alliance requirement we take on board the American system of welfare.

    Coupled with Daily Heil’s (debatable) story that 59% of benefit claimants themselves believe they are paid too much the onslaught against the unemployed and sick continues unabated.

    “Renegotiate” with the EU to allow slavery once again. Work for £71 or get nothing at all. Have the slums as they do in the US or live in the streets or abandoned cars (of which we have none because you need tax and insurance anyway).

    We see an idealised version of the US on TV they all have nice houses, nice cars, good well paying jobs, kids are all in college, parents are all happy and home all the time.

    The reality is a country with a massive gang culture in the absence of parents working 2 or 3 jobs, slum landlords that make our old slums look palatial, drug and crime problems beyond control, suicide and mental health problems out of control, Trailer parks full of substandard housing and prisons full to overflowing controlled not by the guards but the inmates themselves.

    The fact that Labour MP’s such as Liam Byrne and Frank Field are quoted as supporting these policies brings to mind only one thing, to quote a songwriter

    “.. this is the road to hell”

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  7. JulieT

    … and I have heard IDS failed to turn up at the Work and Pensions Committee yesterday … will be checking out if this is true. This man is a total disgrace.

    1. Mike Sivier

      He wasn’t going to turn up there. His appearance is awaiting publication of the DWP’s annual report for 2012-13, which was due in June and has not yet arrived. Dame Anne Begg tells me he might not turn up until November.

  8. AM-FM

    Strange that it all turns out just exactly as many of us have been saying for yonks!
    How can you possibly ‘simplify’ something by heaping tons of condtionality on 15m people, 20m employers, 200 councils…

    Despite Howards attemps at deflecting the brown stuff, I don’t fancy his chances.
    Meanwhile, I read that RTU will be in the HoC this afternoon and may be questioned.

    He’s also speaking on ‘welfare reform’ in the US on the 16th, I think they should be forwarned, – I’d hate to see them to make the same mistakes.

  9. Vivienne

    It’s criminal – tax payers money being frittered away like nothing – I and thousands of others could have stayed in our public sector jobs and been paying tax if they had money like that to waste. Instead I’m unemployed in a high unemployment area getting 71.00 per week and being hounded by JCP staff and treated like a scrounger although I’ve only been claiming for 8 months. And I worked for 14 years in a well paid job. This all makes me feel sick to my stomach.

  10. b-b-p

    ID Smith has not only been taken to the Hague over his Welfare Cuts but now the UN are here to inspect the impact & rise in Poverty caused by the Bedroom Tax.
    Universal Credit is still an ‘Embryo’ & not fit to be rolled out in October.Although Smith in his ‘wisdom’ has brought in the Ex Head of a Building Firm “to cement it together”.
    Nicholson with NHS Deaths on his hands has so far collected £8000,000,000 for the sell off of the NHS.Austerity – “were all in it together”,BS.
    Compulsive Liar & Expenses Thief Grayling stated in February that Prisoners watching TV would be restricted & they must work harder to earn Privileges.From 2009 to 2013 we have paid £15 million on TV’s.
    The Funding we give to Al-Qaeda against Syria’s Assad is being spent on Engineers to examine the Vulnerabilities in Drones. Lying Public Purse Thieving Lunatics Run the Asylum.BSB

  11. garyxxx

    Why and how can this dim wit be allowed to waste the Tax Payers money like this? – This must be criminal he is costing us £billions on stupid ideas that obviously do not work – SAVK HIM NOW

  12. jeffrey davies

    but he stood up in the house this morning on tv saying its all hunky dory perhaps ids likes living in jackanory land jeff3

  13. Jonathan Wilson

    The funniest thing ever is his blaming the civil servants… forgetting that its almost entirely contracted out to the private sector… that very same “do it better” private sector who have… absofuckinglootly failed to provide a working system and who no doubt at this very moment are re-negotiating their contracts for the next tranch of making an un workable system, not work, yet again; while already they have off shored the profit from the first cock up into low tax areas….

    But hey, at least its good public money spent if the private sector have made a profit and not bad public money spent if it was in house… cnuts!

  14. garyxxx

    I have just seen Iain Duncan Smith on the TV and I am seriously concerned he has lost the plot, he must be delusional or mentally deranged – he actually believes what he is doing will work, even a person with half a brain can see it doesn’t and is costing us £millions – he even believes the National Audit Office are wrong as well.
    He needs some medication or committed for his own good and the rest of the country
    This guy is a complete walking disaster and seems to be a sandwich short of a picnic, They should re name him Bungalow because he has got nothing upstairs.
    He throws our money about and then wrights it off like it’s going out of fashion, lock him up this guy is a criminal .

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