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Computer Experts Cast Doubt on Universal Credit Targets as DWP Hides Behind “Agile Development”.

with 62 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon

Mark Steel writes today in the favourite daily of the unemployed, the ‘I’ – that is apart from the Mirror .

The Government’s record of strength and stability

Mark talks of this, which we all know all too well,

I expect they’ll also refer every day to their universal credit scheme, which is five years behind schedule and cost £16bn. You have to be strong to lose that amount and not care. Weak people would get to £3-4bn and think “Oh dear, maybe we should stop”, but not if you’re strong and stable.

How we laughed….

Not only is Universal Credit a failure, a cause of misery, and a huge waste of money, but it looks unlikely to get going on time.

But there is this:

Can DWP meet its revised 2022 target for completion of Universal Credit?

In the run-up to the last UK general election in 2015, the Labour Party’s then shadow employment minister Stephen Timms pointed out that the target completion date for the Universal Credit welfare reform programme had “slipped four years in four years”.

They continue,

In July last year, the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, moved the completion date back to 2022five years later than the original 2017 target set at project launch in 2011. That makes about seven timescale slippages in all.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still cautious when talking about future deadlines for the controversial benefits scheme – as shown by a recent freedom of information (FOI) request.

Independent IT programme manager and FOI campaigner John Slater has been a dogged thorn in the side of DWP for over five years, pushing the department through the courts to reveal unpublished documents in an effort to bring greater transparency to one of the highest-profile IT failures of the Coalition government.

Yet all seems to be going swimmingly – apart from those who’ve drowned in its snarl-ups that is,


Currently, Universal Credit seems to be going well – at least, compared to its troubled early stages. The “full service” version – formerly referred to as the “digital service” – is at last being rolled out country-wide. The previous version – the remnants of the system that was “reset” in 2013 at a cost of £130m – handled only the simplest of claims, whereas the full service covers the entire complexity of the scheme to replace six different in-work welfare benefits with a single payment.

Full-service roll-out is due to be completed by September 2018 – meaning that all new benefit claims will be handled through Universal Credit. A bigger challenge lies ahead – migrating about seven million claimants for the existing benefit schemes onto Universal Credit. The UK government – perhaps no government anywhere – has ever attempted such a large-scale data migration.




The DWP, however, claims that it no longer works with deadlines or targets, citing its use of agile development as the justification.

“The Universal Credit Programme deploys ‘agile’ techniques to ensure the system develops incrementally and this is how it is managed through its governance route. We work in short phases and, as explained before, ‘target dates’ are not features of agile programme management and are not how we run Universal Credit. We articulate the scale and structure of our delivery plans for Universal Credit in terms of phases of roll-out, to specific jobcentres and local authority areas,” said the DWP response to Slater’s FOI request.

Slater points out that this is perhaps stretching the definition of “agile” somewhat.

“The DWP is hiding behind this argument that agile means you don’t have a plan and this isn’t true,” he told Computer Weekly.

“At the programme level there should be some kind of high-level plan that sets expectations of when things need to be completed. Where agile has been applied to programmes rather than projects there is still a map/programme portfolio/goals/plan or whatever people want to call it that covers each of the projects or work-streams (depending on how the programme is structured) and when it needs to be completed.”

Given that the secretary of state has already told Parliament that Universal Credit has a 2022 target completion date, you can have some sympathy with Slater when he adds: “The response seems to confirm to me that the DWP is making it up as it goes along and doesn’t have any kind of credible plan showing how long it will take.”

Surely planning is socialist tyranny?

Prepare for some real obfuscation (word of the day) from the DWP:

DWP acknowledged to Slater that the 2021 target has been mentioned in documents supplied to the Universal Credit Programme Board, but stated the date has “yet to be confirmed”. It said:

“In line with agile methodology, the sooner the activity, the more detail there is.

These activity streams are called:

Governance and project management, which gives details of reviews and assessments that take place to review progress. This activity stream refers to a 2021 closure date, which is yet to be confirmed.

Transformation and planning, which looks at the interfaces and frameworks that need to be in place for Universal Credit to roll out. This looks at migration and refers to ESA/tax Credit claimant migration completed by 2021.

“UC product development, which describes the digital features Universal Credit will make use of. There is a reference to decommissioning legacy IT in 2021, which is yet to be confirmed.

We have not yet started to plan any activity around project closure or legacy decommissioning; nor have we started any significant planning for the ESA/tax credit stage of migration, which, as you may know, is now planned to complete in 2022.”

That’s answered him!


MPs have repeatedly criticised DWP for a “veil of secrecy” and lack of transparency over Universal Credit, and Slater’s experience suggests the department continues to take a highly cautious approach to what it reveals about project development and timescales.

Amazingly, given the programme has been going since 2011, the full business case for Universal Credit has still not been submitted or signed off by the Treasury – that’s due to take place in September this year.

At that time, perhaps DWP will finally reveal more detail about how it will avoid further delays during a three-year migration period that will present significant risks to Universal Credit roll-out.




Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm

62 Responses

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  1. What’s the deal with the animated gif? Animated gifs won’t exist for another 500 years at least!

    Fuck Dodgers in the 25th Century

    April 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm

  2. Theres one thing the DWP aren’t short of headlines from all directions.

    Victory for bedroom tax couple as DWP defeated in court again

    The government’s attempt to block a legal route which is used by many people to appeal against benefits decisions has been defeated at the Upper Tribunal.


    DWP tell stroke victim to use food banks after being left with no DLA payments


    It all makes depressing reading in todays Britain.


    April 28, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    • DLA payments are not for food though. This claimant would be receiving other payments meant for food.


      April 29, 2017 at 7:16 am

    • Saying that, it is still scary how you can go from being active one day to being bed-ridden the next. You never know what is around the corner. Therefore but for the Grace of God/Allah go we!


      April 29, 2017 at 7:19 am

    • “successful businessman, who had run his own company and travelled the world”, wonder what his views on ‘welfare’ were before he suffered his strokes…


      April 29, 2017 at 7:23 am

      • People are waliking into Jobcentres banging tables kicking chairs shouting I don’t belong here.I was a career woman shouted one in tears while signers’ looked on.

        Anyone working can get suddenly get caught in this situation and find themselves subject to this regime.


        April 29, 2017 at 2:53 pm

  3. Agile development only makes the possible happen more quickly and responsively under certain circumstances – it doesn’t make the impossible possible. My bet is that the DWP will NEVER be able to successfully migrate every legacy benefit claimant onto Universal Credit, or that the so-called “full digital service” will ever work properly in the interests of claimants.


    April 29, 2017 at 6:44 am

  4. Britain should stop giving the state pension to the rich and instead spend the money on benefits for the poor, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

    The Paris-based thinktank said that ending payments to the wealthiest 5% to 10% would allow the government to give more to people in greater need of support.

    Mark Pearson, deputy director of employment, labour and social affairs with the OECD said Britain’s pension system was among the least generous of the OECD’s 35 member countries.



    April 29, 2017 at 8:43 am

  5. general strike in Brazil. – the worst recession in its history.

    The trade unions say the poorest in Brazil will bear the cost of the changes, which include raising retirement age and reducing benefits.



    April 29, 2017 at 8:53 am

  6. Government admits failing to record actions after benefit suicide inquiries

    DNS – April 27th 2017

    The government failed for more than three years to keep a record of what actions it took – if any – after carrying out secret reviews into the suicides of benefit claimants, Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal.

    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted to the information commissioner that from February 2012 until September 2015 it kept no records of what happened to recommendations made by internal reviews into cases in which the department’s own actions may have contributed to suicides and other deaths of claimants.

    The department failed to record how it responded to the recommendations, even though it started managing the internal “peer reviews” centrally from February 2012.

    DWP has now told the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that it accepts that the peer review process lacked “robust governance” during this period.

    Read More:

    Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

    April 29, 2017 at 9:24 am

  7. They say Labour is financially inept. Yet just look at Tory welfare spending

    One of the greatest falsehoods of modern politics is that the public purse is safe in Conservative hands.

    The Trussell Trust found this week that universal credit’s much-criticised six-week waiting period has led to mass emergency food parcels



    April 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm

  8. Choosing a government is not an easy job. But a voter’s task is made tougher when political parties promise one thing, then deliver something else entirely. And based on the gap between Conservative promises in 2015 and the reality that came after, it might be wise to reconsider gifting them our vote.

    Here is every key promise the Conservative Party has broken since the last general election [VIDEO]



    April 29, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    • The Labour Party has brought forward plans to strengthen rights at work and “end the race to the bottom in pay, conditions and job security”, accusing the Conservatives of building an economy based on low-paid and insecure employment.

      The next Labour Government will invest in the jobs and industries of the future, whilst introducing measures to stamp out zero-hours contracts, increase the minimum wage, and guarantee equal rights for all working people – among other policies.

      1 Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent – so that all workers have the same rights and protections whatever kind of job they have

      2 Ban zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week


      The scandal of six million people earning less than the living wage, and four million children growing up in poverty are not inevitable. It only takes a change of government to bring these outrages to an end



      April 30, 2017 at 8:43 am

  9. Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved.
    Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.

    — St. Augustine on the DWP

    St. Augustine

    April 30, 2017 at 7:53 am

  10. Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved.
    Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.

    — St. Augustine discussing the fate of ex-DWP ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud

    St. Augustine

    April 30, 2017 at 7:58 am

    • Amen to that, Augie. But why not shove a live rat up their backsides in any case, just to be sure?

      Sister Wendy

      April 30, 2017 at 1:59 pm

  11. Is welfare reform working? the big questions, BBC1,

    Working for whom


    April 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

    • Don’t watch anything with Nicky Campbell in it. The man is insufferable. He comes across as insincere, not remotely interested in the subject matter, his guests or the audience, and always looks eager to clock off and collect his paycheck. Anyway, what man in his 50s still calls himself ‘Nicky’?

      Nick Abbot

      April 30, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      • He weren’t bad on the Wheel of Fortune but shouldn’t be paid to present “serious” shows.

        Sister Wendy

        April 30, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      • Wheel of Fortune was the pinnacle Nicky Campbell’s career and cheap game shows are all that he is good for. Nicky Campbell is way out of his depth trying to hold a serious discussion. It is hard to believe that Nicky Campbell and Andrew Marr are both Scotch. Campbell distinctly lacks the gravitas of Marr and other “serious” commentators. Campbell is so lightweight he is in danger of blowing away.


        May 1, 2017 at 8:40 am

      • And putting Campbell on directly after Marr just shows Campbell up even more. It is like chalk and cheese.


        May 1, 2017 at 8:42 am

  12. Tory illusion that they are meeting people on the streets.


    April 30, 2017 at 9:35 am

  13. Andrew Coates

    April 30, 2017 at 10:47 am

    • I watched that this morning, food banks – complex reasons, the norm as in DWP’s answer. as if everyone
      is stupid, well as every day goes by ……


      April 30, 2017 at 11:12 am

      • Bed-ridden stroke victim told to use food banks after DWP admin error leaves him without benefits

        So the reason for using a food bank here is because of a so called DWP error



        April 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

      • Hungry, needs food.

        Terribly complex.

        Andrew Coates

        April 30, 2017 at 11:32 am

      • Newly Qualified (Band 5) Nurses are currently paid £21,909 a year or £11.20 per hour. Why are they going to food banks? I could live like a king on that.

        Jacky Durgie

        April 30, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      • The DWP are talking crap. It’s not complex at all. People can’t afford food be they unemployed unable to work or on work!!


        May 1, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      • True kat. As a serving police officer I can tell you that if it wasn’t for the generous help given to me and my colleagues by the foodbanks we shudder to think how we would be able to survive. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, civil servants doctors and all public sector workers we are all being paid a pittance. It is sorry state of affairs indeed. We desperately need large-scale, sweeping pay increases across the public sector.

        A Police Officer

        May 1, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      • True kat. As a serving police officer I can tell you that if it wasn’t for the generous help given to me and my colleagues by the foodbanks we shudder to think how we would be able to survive. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, civil servants doctors and all public sector workers, we are all being paid a pittance. It is sorry state of affairs indeed. We desperately need large-scale, sweeping pay increases across the public sector.

        A Police Officer

        May 1, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    • A staff nurse is on at least £21,692. Unless they mean auxiliary nurses who are lowered paid and are the ones who do all the work. Staff nurses just sit on their fat arses in their “station” all day long and pop out to mark a few charts. There is no way a staff nurse should need to use a foodbank. They are nowt but greedy fuckers after more hard=working taxpayers cash.

      Who next are we to feel sorry for? Those over-paid fuckers known as police officers? They they don’t want to do the job let someone else do it.


      April 30, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      • Apologies Jacky Durgie, should have read the comments before posting. I could live like a Queen on that too 😉


        April 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      • Flora & Jacky Durgie

        If your unemployed and without dependents i would imagine £21’000 sounds like a lot of money but the truth is its not. You have to take away repayments for the Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans you took out for over 3 years while gaining a nursing degree. While as a student nurse, you still have to pay back 3% on the loan per year despite being unpaid on an internship so that’s another debt that carries over to your first year as a paid nurse. Then there’s tax and NI contributions, pension and insurances and union fees.

        Nurses like other workers have families to and dependent on where you work could easily find yourself paying for cabs to get home because there’s no night service or a day service that starts early enough.

        Its bank holiday so i cant be bothered to explain how it all works but what i can assure you is it does not work how you are imagining it does.


        May 1, 2017 at 8:11 am

      • Doug

        But if a nurse had dependents they would also be claiming benefits such as working tax credit, family tax credit, child tax credit, child benefit. These benefits add up to a huge chunk of cash. FYI child tax credit is £60 per child, family tax credit is another £500 a year.

        Taxis? You are having a laff, doug. Nurses all have their own private car.

        It does not work the way you are imagining it does.

        Enjoy your Bank Holiday and everyone else too especially Comrade Coates.

        Compy or Die

        May 1, 2017 at 8:28 am

      • PS If you are signing on don’t forget to log on to universal jobmatch 😉

        Comply or Die

        May 1, 2017 at 8:30 am

      • Doug

        FYI – For your information, save you having to gugle it 😉

        Comply or Die

        May 1, 2017 at 8:32 am

      • Compy or die

        I take it your aware of the taper rate and how it removes all those benefits you just mentioned except for child benefit which is £20.70 a week (£1076.40 a year).

        Now they pay almost £4’000 in tax and NI contributions in that year for £21’692 so are effectively paying themselves that £20.70 a week.


        May 2, 2017 at 8:16 pm

  14. It is tantamount to fraud if people on nearly £22,000 a year are stealing resources from foodbanks. Foodbanks are predominately for claimants who are without a penny to their name and are on the brink of starvation, not having eaten for days. It is worrying if foodbanks are handing out food to nurses. Why does no-one ask the question: Why does someone earning almost £21,909 need to go to a foodbank? Why?


    April 30, 2017 at 2:40 pm

  15. And £21,909 puts nurses on around about the average wage in the UK. What about all the other workers, who earn much, much less, minimum wage. Why are they not all queuing at foodbanks?


    April 30, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    • The other workers are queuing up though Flora, I see many of them in the local food bank.


      May 1, 2017 at 9:24 am

  16. Glasgow homeless charity fear collapse as universal credit reform threatens £4.4million benefit shortfall



    April 30, 2017 at 6:02 pm

  17. Solving serious concerns with Universal Credit an ‘urgent priority’

    Work and Pensions Committee Chair Frank Field has written to Damian Green, highlighting serious concerns with Universal Credit.

    “We are aware that while UC full service is currently rolling out at just five Jobcentres each month, the Department plans to significantly ·accelerate the rollout rate to 30 Jobcentres a month from July 2017, then to 55 a month from October 2017 and 65 a month from February 2018. We heard concerns that this planned timetable risked exacerbating any problems in the limited current rollout that are not resolved.



    May 1, 2017 at 9:36 am

  18. Some fun.


    May 1, 2017 at 5:28 pm

  19. Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

    May 1, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    • Everyones has gone into hiding for Theresa May`s visit.

      Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

      May 1, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    • enigma

      May 1, 2017 at 5:55 pm

  20. Theresa May can`t control her anti depressants. I & we have me & my Anti Depressants are strong & stable.

    Stepping Razor Sound Plate System

    May 1, 2017 at 5:50 pm

  21. Universal credit doesn’t reward hard work. It makes the most vulnerable pay



    May 1, 2017 at 7:42 pm

  22. Andrew Coates

    May 2, 2017 at 9:19 am

    • The many ways of doing it.


      May 2, 2017 at 12:22 pm

  23. Self-employment and the gig economy.

    Conclusions and recommendations

    The welfare safety net

    2.Companies relying on self-employed workforces frequently promote the idea that flexible employment is contingent on self-employed status. But this is a fiction. Self-employment is genuinely flexible and rewarding for many, but people on employment contracts can and do work flexibly; flexibility is not the preserve of poorly paid, unstable contractors. Profit, not flexibility, is the motive for using self-employed labour in these cases. Businesses should of course be expected to seek out opportunities and exploit them. It is incumbent on government to close loopholes that incentivise exploitative behaviour by a minority of companies, not least because bogus self-employment passes the burden of safety net support to the welfare state at the same time as reducing tax revenue. (Paragraph 19)



    May 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

  24. […] Computer Experts Cast Doubt on Universal Credit Targets as its Hides Behind “Agile Development”. […]

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