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Rolling out Universal Credit

A recent report from the National Audit Office says here is no practical alternative to continuing with Universal Credit. It recognises the determination and single-mindedness with which the DWP has driven the programme forward to date, through many problems.

However, throughout the introduction of Universal Credit, local and national organisations that represent and support claimants have raised a number of issues about the way it works in practice.

The Department has responded to simple ideas to improve the digital system but defended itself from those that it viewed as being opposed to the policy in principle. It does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants, because it makes advances available, and believes that if claimants take up these opportunities hardship should not occur.

This has led it to often dismiss evidence of claimants' difficulties and hardship instead of working with these bodies to establish an evidence base for what is actually happening. The result has been a dialogue of claim and counter-claim and gives the unhelpful impression of a Department that is unsympathetic to claimants.

The DWP has now got a better grip of the programme in many areas. However, the NAO says it cannot judge the value for money on the current state of programme management alone. Both NAO and the Department doubt it will ever be possible for the DWP to measure whether the economic goal of increasing employment has been achieved. This, the extended timescales, and the cost of running Universal Credit compared to the benefits it replaces cause this report to conclude that the project is not offering value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven.

Read Department for Work & Pensions - Rolling out Universal Credit