Reported in both the Guardian and the Independent today, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit reform faces withering criticism from MPs over “shocking” mistakes that have squandered at least £140m of taxpayers’ money.{jcomments on}

In a new report on the Universal Credit scheme, the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge, denounced the “extraordinarily poor” implementation of the system and “alarmingly weak” management of the programme.

The escalating costs of the IT project were outlined by two witnesses who gave evidence to the committee. Mike Driver, the finance director general of the DWP, said as much as £161m could have been wasted, while Norma Wood, the head of the Major Projects Authority, agreed that the system would have to write off at least £140m.

Hodge also claimed that the pilot programme is not a proper pilot. "It does not deal with the key issues that universal credit must address: the volume of claims; their complexity; change in claimants' circumstances; and the need for claimants to meet conditions for continuing entitlement to benefit," she said.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Universal Credit is a vital reform that rewards work instead of trapping people on benefits. It will ultimately bring a £38bn economic benefit to society.

“This report doesn’t take into account our new leadership team, or our progress on delivery.”

Here at Benefits and Work, we have been asking why that relevant “progress on delivery” information has yet to be made publicly available.

The DWP has responded to the report.


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