The new government service to support the flagship benefit reform is apparently only supported by 3 employees.  The public has ascertained this information through an annual report, despite assurances from the Department of Work and Pensions that their new IT system is able to handle Universal Credit. The DWP’s annual report reveals that the project to build the system is staffed by only 3 employees.

Universal Credit is part of the major overhaul of Britain’s benefits system.  It combines several existing benefits and services into one.

According to a report by IDG, the project appears to be fairly understaffed and is now in danger of losing its political backing, despite announcing it plans to spend up to £32 million on developing the system before a national rollout in 2017.  This is  part of the dramatic overhaul to the system costing £2.4 billion.

UC IT Issues

The delays to the system are proving to be both a major expenditure and source of worry for the current government. The DWP have called for more support from the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service (GDS), which is being developed by companies including BT, IBM, HP and Accenture.  The service was criticised for not being flexible, scalable or even secure enough!

The GDS is now withdrawing from the project.  This leaves the DWP to get on with the problem on their own.  GDS will, however keep five of its employees on the Universal Credit digital project due to its involvement with developing the background infrastructure, this is a so called ‘digital spine’ which will replace the existing Universal Credit system when the benefit is eventually rolled out across the nation.

Reports that the project was in trouble were denied recently by a DWP spokesperson, who informed TechWeekEurope that “we have been very clear that DWP would take over development of the new digital service following the initial GDS work…Our current plans will see all new benefit claimants claiming Universal Credit by 2016, with most existing benefit claimants moving onto Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017.”  But it appears as though the DWP is now aiming to combat this human resource issue, through a recruitment drive, which wants to employ up to 50 new IT specialists for the digital Universal Credit service.

Chris Bryant MP, Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, told IDG that the situation was deeply troubling.  “It’s worrying to discover that after the spat with Francis Maude and the Government Digital Service, DWP currently only has 3 IT specialists working on the digital solution to Iain Duncan Smith’s delayed and over-budget Universal Credit project…We know that DWP itself estimates that 50 IT specialists will be required to continue this work – quite the deficit. IDS should start focusing on delivering a policy that works, rather than fighting colleagues and blaming officials.” he said.

[Image via thisismoney]