UK's Universal Credit IT may go downhill soon, warns think tank report

'Serious design flaws and veering off track' claims Resolution Foundation

The IT underpinning Blighty's troubled Universal Credit programme could soon begin to creak as the programme takes on more complex claimant cases, a think tank report from the left-wing Resolution Foundation has found.

The report, Making a success of Universal Credit, noted that from today, Universal Credit looks very different from its original inception.

The programme now has "serious design flaws" and has "veered off track", it noted.

"The latest series of cuts – announced at last year’s Summer Budget – risk leaving Universal Credit as little more than a vehicle for rationalising benefit administration and cutting costs to the exchequer," said the report.

The £16bn programme is expected to roll six current benefits into one single payment. It started in 2011 but in 2012, the Major Projects Authority stepped in to reset the programme after finding "serious concerns about the department having no detailed 'blueprint' and transition plan".

Since then the programme has taken a “twin track” approach, using the old IT from the original project while developing a digital front end.

The report said the system is "not just a new IT system being put into place." It said: "UC brings with it a new, untried and untested system of in-work conditionality, aiming to boost earnings of those entering the labour market – but no further than a full-time job at the wage floor."

Until now UC has largely covered simple cases equivalent to Job Seekers' Allowance claimants. Such cases tend not to encompass the mass of complex characteristics and changing circumstances that are a feature of other types of working age benefits. "It is these latter cases that present such a design challenge from an IT perspective," said the report.

However, the report noted that a more “iterative approach” of the programme has merit because it takes political pressure out of "what have so far been large, visible and ultimately unachievable aims". ®

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