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Coalition’s welfare scheme at risk of wasting billions, warns watchdog

cpuusage

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IDS: the beginning of the end? | ilegal

Digital service to handle universal credit untried, already delayed and glitch could cost £2.8bn in staff costs, says audit office

Iain Duncan Smith has been forced to admit to parliament that the scheme will not be ready before the end of the decade. Photograph: Rex

The cost of the government’s flagship welfare programme could rise by billions of pounds if it fails to meet a challenging timetable to introduce a new IT system, Whitehall’s public spending watchdog has found.

A digital service to handle universal credit (UC) claims for 7m households has not yet been tested on anyone and has already been delayed by six months this year, the National Audit Office disclosed. If there is a glitch and the government is forced to rely on old technology, auditors believe it could cost taxpayers an extra £2.8bn in staff costs.

The report, issued on Wednesday, completes a miserable 24 hours for the welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, who was forced to admit to parliament that the scheme, which was supposed to be fully implemented by 2017, will not be ready before the end of the decade.

Ministers have privately expressed dismay at the way Duncan Smith has handled the rollout. He has repeatedly told parliament and Conservative activists that it is “on time and within budget” as the completion date has been pushed back. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee, said the scheme was in a precarious position and the Department for Work and Pensions was “throwing good money after bad”.

“The digital service is already delayed by six months and the department has just 18 months to get it up and running as planned,” she said. “The department’s unacceptably poor management of this programme has wasted time and taxpayers’ money, with a staggering £600m spent in four years just to get to the first stage of business case sign-off.”

Duncan Smith set out to transform the benefits system in 2010 by launching universal credit as a £2.4bn scheme to merge six benefits into one. The entire scheme was “reset” in early 2013 with £34m written off on the failed IT programme and the original deadline was put back two years.

He also introduced a “twin-track” system, which meant that a new online digital service has been developed while a “live” IT system has been in operation since 2013. The live systems have been implemented in 80 job centres so far.

If the new digital service is not established, the report estimates that using live systems without further investment could cost £2.8bn more in staff costs alone.

Auditors have also concluded that running two systems is costing £300m more than rolling out the programme at a slower pace. They say it is too early to tell if the plans will be value for money.

A table in the report shows the government’s ambitious 18-month programme to roll out its full digital service. Officials hope to test between 100 and 500 claimants this month; up to 5,000 by next summer whilst integrating five other systems; and up to 10,000 using 20 automated links to other systems; rising to 10 million claimants by May 2016. Ministers have also failed to put contingency plans in place to cope with setbacks in the digital service, the report said. So far, 17,850 claimants have received a UC payment.

Coalition
 
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supergreysmoke

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Expect the plan is to mess up and then use that as a excuse to slash benefits to a tenner below the bare minimum needed to stay alive. It'll be time to revolt like the Middle East then...if we want to stay alive.
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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It was a stupid idea to start with.
The fact that it's wasting so much money just proves that this whole idea has bugger all to do with money and more to do with making sure that people receiving benefits are made difficult.
 
NervyTwo

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Misguided, unworkable, and costing the public purse way too much money. But enough about Iain Duncan Smith...

UC was always a bad idea; the plan to crowbar six separate benefits together into one was never going to be easy, but worse still is the fact it ignores one fundamental truth about the Welfare State - there are numerous separate benefits precisely because there needs to be. The idea one can have a benefit that can change in real time to take into account people's earnings sounds cool in theory, but the reality is it needs a very sophisticated IT package to make it work, and the different databases in the DWP and HMRC will need to communicate in real time.

The government should admit UC is a bad idea, scrap the whole thing immediately and cut their losses, but IDS is so stubborn and ideologically driven it's obvious this whole sorry saga will roll on until May next year at least.
 
ScaredCat

ScaredCat

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Makes me so cross - Tring to change things just for the sake of it, to try and make himself look important. Wasting money - Is all very well its not his money he's wasting so he doesnt care. Will just come out of vulnerable people's pockets. Anyone would think gov had money to burn
 

cpuusage

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The Billions wasted could have gone into creating a more humane mental health system & better help for people - that's what gets to me. The people in power/control are willing to waste billions creating a crap hole society, but when it comes to actually genuinely improving the lives of people & helping them, that is an impossibility.

The lot of them are psychopaths.
 

cpuusage

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It says webpage not available... :(
Dunno why? works for me.

Here's the article -

Government welfare reforms and cuts in financial support for poor working families is putting the UK in breach of its United Nations (UN) obligations, says the Children’s Commissioner.

In a damning new report to be published ahead of George Osborne’s autumn statement, Dr Maggie Atkinson says government measures to reduce the deficit have disproportionately hurt children from poor families.

Single parents and poor families have been hit the hardest by government spending cuts, with incomes falling by an average of 10% since the coalition took office in 2010.

Rising inequality means the UK has failed in its duty to protect poor children from the worst of austerity, meaning the government could now be in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Speaking to the Independent newspaper Dr Atkinson acknowledged the need to reduce the deficit. But added: “Our issue is that at the moment, it is the poorest in society who have least to fall back on that are paying the greatest price for trying to close that deficit.

“It is patently unfair. It is patently against the rights of the child”, she said.

The report will be examined by the UN to investigate whether the UK is in compliance with the Convention. Dr Atkinson said unless the government changes its position of expecting the poorest to shoulder the greatest burden, the UN’s response would be “very, very damning”.

Dr Atkinson told the Independent: “The basic fact is that there are families living in the fifth-biggest economy in the Western world who are making choices about whether they can afford to heat their house or feed their children”.

“We need as a nation to decide whether we are in the business of making the poorest pay the highest penalty when there is a gap between what the country has in its coffers and what its expenses are.”

She added: “The difference in outcomes and life expectancy between children raised in low income and wealthy families is scandalous.”

The report also says tax breaks for married couples and other income tax measures do not reduce poverty or inequality and “discriminate against children of lone parents.”

“The most vulnerable, disabled children and those in single-parent families, have been hit hardest”, said Dr Atkinson.

Labour MP Cathy Jamieson said: “This is a damning report on David Cameron and George Osborne’s record.”

However, the Treasury dismissed the report as “misleading” and “selective”. A spokesperson said the government is “tackling the root causes of child poverty, by putting more people in work than ever before and reducing the number of children in workless families by around 390,000 since 2010″.

George Osborne is expected to pledge a further £12 billion in welfare spending cuts to fund a tax giveaway.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, George Osborne said: “We have got to make tough decisions on public expenditure, on our welfare budget. That is how we can afford these things”.
 
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Brainpan

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For the first time in years I feel good about how things are. Ian Dunked In S**t, in full retreat over the "U.C.", and The UN scratching it's head in disbelief at the activities of this elitist, incompetent, bullying hatchet man.
It all sounds sweet to me.
I only wish that Milliband would now grow a pair, rip these B******s a new a******e every week till next May, and win enough support to kick these people all the way back to Eton.
 
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