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Top IT bods bail out of new Universal Credit online dole system

'As you would expect, with 6 months until go', says gov

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The Department for Work and Pensions has strenuously denied that its Universal Credit project will be derailed by the departure of key IT employees.

Universal Credit aims to overhaul Blighty's benefits system by merging six government handouts into one regular payment that can be claimed and managed online. It is due to go fully live by October 2013 after rounds of testing next April.

But this week the project's director Malcolm Whitehouse, a British Computer Society fellow, has been replaced by Hilary Reynolds. When asked about her IT credentials, a department spokesman simply told The Reg:

She is a senior civil servant with over 25 years experience in the public sector here and in New Zealand. She is currently responsible for benefits delivery in DWP [Department for Work and Pensions].

Steve Dover, who headed up the DWP's big IT projects, has also moved on. On his LinkedIn page, Dover described his now axed role as "corporate director responsible for the detailed design and delivery of all business & IT products for the Universal Credit Programme".

He was involved in the development of the government scheme for six years, and boasted he has worked on projects that exceeded a total value of £3bn.

However, the DWP admitted there is no key IT individual now solely steering the implementation of the Universal Credit system. Instead, the department's recently installed CIO Philip Langsdale "takes an overarching look" at the project, we were told.

Here's the official word from the department, headed by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith:

With the early roll out of Universal Credit starting in less than six months time, the programme is moving from system design to delivery. As you would expect, there have been some staff changes to reflect this shift in focus onto implementation.

Meanwhile, senior civil servant Terry Moran - who has been instrumental in the implementation of Universal Credit - is on sick leave.

A DWP spokesman told us that "the first part of the project is done" and added that, as with the private sector, different people are needed at different stages of an IT programme.

As well as the new handout system, the DWP has been tasked with overseeing the £30m procurement of technology to process and store the identities of citizens for departments across the government. Universal Credit, which will juggle 21 million claimants in the UK, is due to be the first project to rely on the identity services farmed out to the private sector. ®

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