There is a strong focus in this issue on universal credit and welfare reform – not surprising when, at the time of writing, we’re only six weeks away from the first Pathfinder trials in Manchester and around Cheshire, although the full roll-out isn’t expected to be completed until 2017, according to the DWP.
However, little news is forthcoming from the DWP or its five main contractors working on universal credit (Accenture, BT, Capgemini, IBM and HP) and the project is now on its third CIO within a year. Furthermore, there have been reports that the DWP had asked its contractors to suspend work on the project; while this was denied by the government, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was recently unable to confirm that the project would be delivered on time and on budget.
Computerworld UK has reported that when the Pathfinder trials start at the end of April, most of the benefit calculations will be done manually using spreadsheets and that the only part of the final £500 million system that will be used will be to book appointments at job centres.
Referring to the implementation of the universal credit systems, a spokesman for the analyst company Ovum recently said, “Everyone knows the project is in difficulties. They should do less rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic and be more honest about what the difficulties are and how they intend to move the project forward.”