The Government'​s flagship reform of Britain'​s welfare system, which is being piloted by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been placed on a Treasury list of projects in crisis, The Independent on Sunday has learned.

Despite assurances from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that universal credit will be rolled out on time and on budget, its national launch –​ scheduled for October next year –​ will now be limited to small regional projects. Sources within the DWP have told The IoS that a realistic national roll-out –​ regardless of the department'​s public assurances –​ is already a year behind schedule amid fears that "​technical issues over computer software"​ could push that back further.

Senior DWP staff working on the project are understood to have reported concerns to their Treasury counterparts. The issue was a factor in Mr Duncan Smith remaining at the DWP during the recent Cabinet reshuffle.
A government adviser on information technology said: "​IDS, like other ministers before him, has been hypnotised by promises of what an online system can deliver. Warnings were given to him more than a year ago. They were ignored."​

Universal credit has a development budget of £​2bn. It is supposed to be a paperless online IT system for claimants that would bridge the DWP'​s data with the Treasury. Six separate benefits are to be combined into one payment.

More from the Independent


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