In his July 2010 Green Paper ‘21st Century Welfare’, Iain Duncan Smith downplayed the scale of the major IT project which has now led to delays in the implementation of Universal Credit.
The Green Paper included claim that: “The IT changes that would be necessary to deliver a more integrated system would not constitute a major IT project, but two developments building on existing technologies.”[i]
On this basis, in his November 2010 White Paper ‘Universal Credit: welfare that works’, Iain Duncan Smith set out his timetable which stated that from October 2013 all new claims for out-of-work benefits would be for Universal Credit and no new JSA, ESA, Income Support and Housing Benefit claims would be accepted, while by April 2014 no new claims would be made for tax credits, with Universal Credit being fully in place by October 2017.[ii]
In November 2011, the Government claimed that by April 2014, over a million people would be claiming Universal Credit.[iii]
However, by June 2012, Iain Duncan Smith realised that this timetable was unachievable and limited introduction for new out of work benefit claims to only one Jobcentre per region.[iv]
Then in December 2012, this claim was watered down yet again. In a letter to local authority chief executives, the new programme director Hilary Reynolds (then in her job for four weeks – now replaced) wrote that even then the roll out for new out of work benefit claims in the selected Jobcentres would only apply to straightforward claims such as those who do not claim housing benefit.[v]
While ministers still claim that Universal Credit will fully be in place by the end of 2017, given the delays to its introduction, on the existing evidence this claim is no longer plausible.
Universal Credit is a fine idea that builds on Labour’s tax credits revolution that made work pay more than benefits for millions of people.
Today’s pathfinder is a pathetic joke, limited to a tiny number of people the scheme can handle. The truth is the scheme is late, over budget, the IT system appears to be falling apart and even DWP Ministers admit they haven’t got a clue what is going on.
The warning lights are on, now we need a rescue plan – fast.
Notes to editors
[i] Department for Work and Pensions, 21st Century Welfare, July 2010, p.34
[ii] “October 2013 to April 2014: All new claims for out-of-work support are treated as claims to Universal Credit. No new Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit claims will be accepted. Customers transitioning from out-of-work benefits into work will move onto Universal Credit if they are eligible.”
“April 2014: No new claims are made to Tax Credits.”
“April 2014 to October 2017: During this time we would begin to work through existing cases.”
Department for Work and Pensions, Universal Credit: welfare that works, November 2010, p.37
[iii] Department for Work and Pensions, press release, Iain Duncan Smith sets out next steps for moving claimants onto Universal Credit, 1 November 2011
[iv] “Working with HMRC and local authorities, DWP has agreed that Universal Credit will be introduced in one district per region in October 2013 and then be rolled out to the remaining districts.”
Department for Work and Pensions, e-zine, Touchbase, June 2012
[v] “Initially [in the trials], UC will replace new claims from single jobseekers of working age in certain defined postcode areas. From October 2013 we plan to extend the service to include jobseekers with children, couples and owner-occupiers, gradually expanding the service to locations across Great Britain and making it available to the full range of eligible working age claimants.”
Letter from Hilary Reynolds, Universal Credit Programme Director, to Local Authority Chief Executives
[vi] Hansard, 13 March 2013
[vii] Hansard, 18 March 2013