Peers want universal credit IT reassurance
Peers have asked for reassurances that a new IT system which will underpin the implementation of the new universal credit will be monitored to prevent it failing.
The Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs are currently working on IT systems which will use automatically updated tax information to allow claimants to apply for, and monitor their benefit online.
The Welfare Reform Bill, which will amalgamate a host of benefits, including jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit, into one payment, is currently being debated in the House of Lords.
On Monday, Labour peer Lord Jim Knight of Weymouth, tabled an amendment to the bill, calling for the secretary of state to publish a report to parliament demonstrating that the IT systems have been fully tested before being implemented.
Lord Knight said: ‘The successful transition to universal credit, for example, will depend heavily on the development of a new IT system with HM Revenue and Customs to a very tight timetable.
‘We have often seen problems with delivering new IT to time, budget and specification. The department should allocate clear responsibility for scrutinising progress of the welfare reforms alongside cost reductions, develop a clear understanding of the risks to each and how they will be managed and encourage staff to report any emerging problems early”.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Michael German said: ‘The universal credit depends on a substantial, reliable, appropriate and functioning IT system.’
Lord Freud said: ‘Prior to the main go-live date in October 2013, there will be significant levels of testing specifically focused on ensuring that the various components work effectively together, including realistic business testing.’
Lord Freud said the Major Projects Authority, run by the Cabinet Office and Treasury, is looking at the system’s development and select committees of MPs can also monitor it.
He said: ‘All the structures are in place to ensure that the introduction of universal credit is properly scrutinised.’
Lord Knight withdrew the amendment following Lord Freud’s comments.
See Inside Housing this Friday for an analysis piece on the proposed IT system.