Welfare reform jeopardised by IT failure, MPs told

The success of the government’s planned Universal Credit (UC) welfare system may be undermined by IT, charities and public bodies have told the Communities and Local Government Committee (CGLC).

During a review by the CLGC into the potential impact of the new system, which the government says will simplfiy benefits payments and "combat worklessness and poverty", several groups said the public sector’s poor track record of large IT projects made scheme’s success doubtful.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) was particularly concerned about the timescale for the deployment of UC, which is due for delivery in just 18 months. "HMRC continues to reassure stakeholders that the IT system will be ready, but the history of government IT systems—especially tax credits—does not foster optimism," CAB wrote.

The CAB also said that the plan to co-ordinate information systems between local authorities and the Department for Work and Pensions "clearly adds another layer of risk".

The National Housing Federation (NHF) said when it comes to benefits payments, technical glitches could be espcially damaging. "The potential consequences," the NHF wrote, "of a household’s entire income going unpaid due to technical errors could be very serious indeed."

Family Action said that the reforms are being introduced at "a very poor time" and said that "the introduction of new IT and administration mechanisms must undoubtedly risk causing some level of payment problems".

The Chartered Institute of Housing recommended that existing administrative structures ought to be preserved in order to reduce the risk of failure involved in introducing a whole new system.

In the report, the CLGC said: "There is widespread awareness of the fact that new IT and administration systems could take some time to bed in, and that failures or delays in any of these systems could leave some households in a very precarious position."

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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