Universal Credit, “Shambolic”.
The saga of the love child of Ian Duncan Smith (now an enthusiastic Brexiter) continues.
Background: a brief history of cock-ups with Universal Credit.
First, it was a whole set of problems about their computer systems.”Universal Credit has been dogged by IT problems. A DWP whistleblower told Channel 4’s Dispatches in 2014 that the computer system was “completely unworkable”, “badly designed” and “out of date”. A survey of Universal Credit staff found that 90% considered the IT system inadequate.” (Wikipedia)
…..experts say that the project was never truly agile in the first place. This was due to the way contracts with fixed features were set up with major IT suppliers such as IBM, Accenture, Atos and Hewlett-Packard, and the requirements for a “big bang” launch in October 2013 (a deadline which, of course, it missed).
Senior civil servants pitch the current total losses between £161m to almost the entire amount spent so far (which ranges from £312m to almost £700m depending on who you ask, and Labour says equates to just over £190,000 per claimant). During a Public Accounts Committee session in September, DWP finance director Mike Driver said £161m was his “best assessment” of likely total losses, while the Major Projects Authority director Dr Norma Wood said that much of the £303m invested in IT by that point was “not fit for purpose”.New Statesman)
Then there was the merry tale of on-line applications which led to MP Ronnie Campbell, tabling this motion, “That this House notes that since only fifteen per cent of people in deprived areas have used a Government website in the last year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may find that more Universal Credit customers than expected will turn to face-to-face and telephone help from their local authority, DWP helplines, Government-funded welfare organisations, councillors and their Hon. Member as they find that the automated system is not able to deal with their individual questions, particular concerns and unique set of circumstances”.
Next it was the five-week delay between making a claim and receiving money.
Then it was direct payment of housing benefit to tenants when it used to go (for example for social tenants) directly to the landlords. This has already led to people getting into arrears, as they, not unexp[ecrtably., spend the money on luxuries like gas and electricity bills, not to mention food, before paying the rent.
Next was the complicated system’s impact on work. “A House of Commons Library briefing note raises the concern that Universal Credit might make people reluctant to take more hours at work:
There is concern that families transferring to Universal Credit as part of the managed migration whose entitlement to UC is substantially lower than their existing benefits and tax credits might be reluctant to move into work or increase their hours if this would trigger a loss of transitional protection, thereby undermining the UC incentives structure.
Finally we learnt (Guardian. July 2016)
The government’s universal credit scheme has once again slipped behind schedule and will now not be completed until 2022, five years behind its original projected finish date, officials have admitted.
Critics said the latest rescheduling – which adds 12 months to the last published planned completion date and is the seventh reset since 2013 – raised the question of whether the much-criticised welfare programme was fit for purpose.
Ironically, the delay will have the effect of providing temporary respite for millions of claimants who stood to lose thousands of pounds a year when they were removed across to universal credit from the tax credits system after July 2018.
Now there is this…..
An MP has blamed the DWP for creating homelessness over its “incompetent” processing of Universal Credit claims.
It emerged last week in a Glasgow City Council report into the impact the scheme was having on its services that homeless people in the city has been placed on the new scheme in error by the DWP.
Now Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, is demanding answers from the DWP as to how many more homeless people across the UK have been placed on the controversial scheme in error.
The report, published by the Glasgow City Joint Integration Board, found that 73 homeless people have been put on Universal Credit, despite DWP guidance instructing homeless people being exempt from the new scheme.
Thewliss said: “The experience of the 73 homeless claimants in Glasgow, who have been added to Universal Credit in error, show that homelessness services across the UK are likely to take a serious financial hit once Universal Credit is fully rolled out.
“The suggestion from the Minister that Discretionary Housing Payment is used to top this up completely misses the point. With local authorities forced to cover the arrears of their tenants, which means less money to provide vital services which people rely on in times of need.
“The UK government needs to wake up to the reality that DWP actions are cutting the safety net of Council homelessness services, deeply undermining their stated aim of helping people into work.
“They can take the first step to head off this problem by halting the deeply flawed implementation of Universal Credit.”
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Welfare reform has already had a significant impact on our budget for homelessness services.