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MPs: 'Hard to see' Universal Credit delivered on time

MPs have expressed scepticism about the Government's ability to deliver wide-ranging benefit reforms on time.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee said Iain Duncan-Smith's department had worked at "a snail's pace" and failed to be open and transparent with their investigation.

Whilst it is right to ensure that the system works properly before extending it, there is a difference between cautious progress and a snail's pace.

Given the excruciatingly slow pace of roll-out to date, it is hard to see how the most recent implementation timetable can be met.

Effective select committee scrutiny depends on the provision of accurate, timely and detailed information by government departments.

DWP has not always provided this to the committee in the case of Universal Credit.

– The Work and Pensions Select Committee

Government 'hampering' inquiry into Universal Credit

The Government has been accused of "hampering" an inquiry which found tens of millions of pounds had been wasted on flagship Universal Credit reforms.

Iain Duncan-Smith's flagship Universal Credit reforms have run into problems with their IT programme. Credit: PA

The Work and Pensions Select Committee said there remained "worrying uncertainty" about the computer system being used to usher in the new single payment for unemployed or low income families.

The committee suggested the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had not been cooperative during the investigation and urged them to be "clear and frank" about implications of delays.

Computer problems meant that £40 million spent on software has had to be written off because it is of no further use, and a further £90 million has been spent on IT with a useful life of only five years, said the committee.

Universal Credit will replace six benefits, including jobseeker's allowance, income support, child tax credit and housing benefit, but a national roll out has been delayed.

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DWP: IDS has 'not shied away from tough decisions'

In response to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude's admission that the implementation of the Universal Credit system has been "pretty lamentable", the Department for Work and Pensions has told ITV News Iain Duncan Smith has "not shied away from any tough decisions" over the policy:

Labour: 'When will IDS get a grip on Universal Credit?'

Labour's shadow work and pension secretary Rachel Reeves has asked "when will the PM and IDS [Iain Duncan Smith] get a grip" on Universal Credit, after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude admitted to ITV News that its implementation had been "pretty lamentable" so far:

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DWP confirm £40m write-off for Universal Credit IT

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that £40.1 million had been written off on software and computing costs during the introduction of the new Universal Credit system.

Iain Duncan Smith: Benefit reform not a debacle

The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has denied claims that his welfare reform programme is a "debacle".

Speaking in front of MPs today, Mr Duncan Smith admitted the introduction of the new system was running late, but revealed the IT problems that initially disrupted the programme were now fixed.

Duncan Smith insists benefit reform on track

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has insisted his flagship welfare reforms remain on track, despite further delays to the programme.

Mr Duncan Smith disclosed last week that his 2017 target for the full introduction of Universal Credit is set to be missed - with around 700,000 claimants facing a longer wait.

Iain Duncan Smith will today be questioned by MPs about the delay to reforms. Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Speaking ahead of his appearance before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, he said the delay was to allow the most vulnerable claimants more time to adjust to the change.

"We could easily have tried to rush those people in but we have decided not to. I think it is only fair to give them longer," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I do accept, of course, that this plan is different from the original plan."

Howard Shiplee to be quizzed alongside Duncan Smith

Giving evidence alongside Iain Duncan Smith at the work and pensions select committee will be Howard Shiplee, the former London Olympics executive drafted in earlier this year to "reset" the Universal Credit programme amid growing concerns over delays and IT issues.

Howard Shiplee is also expected to give evidence before MPs today over Universal Credit. Credit: Press Association

The Secretary of State may also be questioned about reports - which he denies - that he sought to have MPs pin blame for the failures on the DWP's chief civil servant Robert Devereux.

In his reply to the Autumn Statement, shadow chancellor Ed Balls taunted Mr Duncan Smith, commonly known as "IDS", over the reforms, suggesting it stood instead for "In Deep Shambles".

In written evidence to the committee, the DWP said it was "confident that it has taken, and continues to take, the right remedial steps to address past issues in the Universal Credit programme."

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