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Need reminding how troubled Universal Credit is? MPA puts it in special 'reset' category

Mega IT benefits reform system not even worthy of red alert status

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Iain Duncan Smith's massively troubled Universal Credit system is so deep in the toilet - according to the government's Major Projects Authority - that it's not even worthy of being flagged with a "red" warning anymore.

The Department for Work and Pensions has made such a hash of the huge benefits' reform scheme – which has been riddled with IT problems from the outset – that the MPA is now acknowledging that failure in an official report. The report only briefly discusses UC's special status in an easily missed but withering footnote on page 12 (PDF).

It says:

The "reset" category has been applied to the Universal Credit project. We have undertaken significant work to develop a "reset plan" to place the roll-out of Universal Credit on a more secure footing, and the "reset" DCA [delivery confidence assessment] reflects this new status of the project.

Up to February this year, the Universal Credit system was being used by just 6,000 unemployed and single people claiming simple benefits in 10 job centres around the UK, a DWP spokeswoman told The Register this morning.

"We are progressing with the rollout," she said. Apparently, Universal Credit is "very much on track".

How so?

The reset - the spokeswoman pointed out - referred to IDS finally admitting that the entire project had been delayed late last year. His confession came after months of blunders with Universal Credit that led to millions of pounds being written off, countless IT woes and MPs ridiculing the cabinet minister for failing to successfully steer the project.

We were told today that the MPA's "future report" - which won't come until May next year - will give Universal Credit a red, amber or green rating. So that's alright then.

Fight is on to keep 'imaginative pessimism' quiet

Meanwhile, the DWP is reportedly locked in a row over releasing publications that show yet more failings with the Universal Credit system, which is currently being overseen by Howard Shiplee - whose job will be vacated next year.

The department has appealed against a series of information tribunal rulings, Politics.co.uk reported on Wednesday. The blog said that the DWP is stopping risk register, issues register, milestone schedule and project assessment review documents from being published, because, it has claimed, such a move would apparently have a "chilling effect" on the IDS department.

In its latest appeal, the DWP argued that the reports contained "candid" and "imaginative pessimism" about Universal Credit. When quizzed about the rulings, the department's spokeswoman declined to comment. Perhaps Duncan Smith would be less secretive, however, had the documents been full of, er, realistic optimism. ®

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