Leaked memo says Universal Credit IT ‘completely unworkable’

A jobcentre employee has claimed that the IT system for Universal Credit is “completely unworkable, badly designed” and already “out of date”.

The whistleblower claimed that the IT is unable to handle complicated cases and so they have to be done manually, according to the Guardian.

In a Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation to be aired tonight, he said: “The IT works for single claimants, the straightforward cases. More complex claims have to be done manually. That’s slow and easy to get wrong.”

The government’s flagship welfare project to merge six benefits into a single monthly payment has been beset by problems right from the start, with millions of pounds wasted on unworkable IT. The scheme is on its seventh boss in two years

It was originally due to launch nationally in October last year with one million people on the scheme by April 2014.

However last week welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith admitted the original implementation dates have been abandoned.

Duncan Smith said he ‘hoped’ rollout would be complete by 2020, with all new claimants claiming the new benefit by 2017. However he said: “Arbitrary dates and deadlines are the enemy of secure delivery.”

The new benefit is available in 71 of 740 jobcentres in the UK but just 14,170 people are claiming it, according to the latest statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP is working on two systems for Universal Credit simultaneously – one that underpins the current rollout to pilot sites, and an ‘end-state’ digital solution which will replace the original system in 2017.

The enhanced digital service is due to start being tested in a limited postcode area in Sutton by the end of this year, according to the DWP. It will test the full scope of Universal Credit for all claimant types.

In response to the allegations to be aired in Dispatches, a DWP spokesperson insisted “there is absolutely no evidence that cases cannot be dealt with."

She added: “Universal Credit’s IT system is robust and effective and we have trained 26,300 work coaches who are successfully providing new support to claimants to help them better prepare for work.

“We are rolling UC out in a safe and controlled way to ensure we can make changes to the system if necessary.”

The National Audit Office is currently conducting a follow-up study into Universal Credit, due to be published next month.

It released a damning report into the early progress of the project last September, which revealed losses of at least £34 million, weak management and poor implementation.

Dispatches: Benefits Britain is due to be aired on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday 27 October.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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