DWP insists Universal Credit rollout is on track
Department denies report that project is a year behind schedule and facing a £100m overrun
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has again denied that there are delivery problems with its flagship Universal Credit programme.
It follows a weekend report in the Independent on Sunday which suggested that the major 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 project watch-list.
Despite assurances from 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, the Independent on Sunday said.
Sources within the DWP are reported to have told the newspaper 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 said to have reported their concerns to their Treasury counterparts.
However, a DWP spokesperson today told Government Computing: "Universal Credit will be rolled out nationally from October 2013 as planned, and we've been clear that people will come onto the new benefit gradually. We are bound by the budget we have been set, and remain on track to deliver Universal Credit within that budget."
The project, according to the report, is already suffering a £100m overrun. There are also concerns that a further £300m is being hidden by rising costs reallocated to child support payments.
The project has recently seen the departure of two senior staff. Steve Dover's role as corporate director of the Universal Credit programme business is now being taken up by head of service delivery Janice Hartley and by Sue Moore, the head of fraud and error strategy. The two have been appointed to director posts for the delivery of Universal Credit, reporting to Hilary Reynolds as programme director. Reynolds has taken over from Malcolm Whitehouse who has also left his role.