Iain Duncan Smith is to be grilled by MPs over the scale of delays to the Government's flagship welfare reform - Universal Credit.
The Work and Pensions Secretary - who will appear before the Commons committee today - has admitted the 2017 target for the full introduction of Universal Credit is set to be missed - with around 700,000 claimants facing a longer wait.
But Labour said official figures showed that only a tiny fraction of the numbers due to be using the new system by the time of the next general election would be transferred on time.
Only a "handful" of the promised 1.7 million would be switched by 2014/15 and only 400,000 by the following year - less than 10% of the original target, the Opposition said.
Responding to the Government’s admission that Universal Credit behind schedule, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves MP labelled the Coalition as "out-of-touch".
Iain Duncan Smith has today admitted what everyone has known for months – that Universal Credit is massively behind schedule. But just a couple of weeks ago he was telling Parliament the Government would 'roll out Universal Credit on the plan and programme already set out'.
It’s clear that David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have completely failed to get to grips with their flagship welfare reform and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been written off as a result. Families facing a cost-of-living crisis deserve better than this.
Universal Credit, the new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income, will be rolled out throughout 2013 and will replace benefits such as:
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, the unemployment benefit paid by the government to people who are unemployed and seeking work.
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - for the ill or disabled, ESA offers financial support if you’re unable to work or personalised help so that you can work if you’re able to.
Income Support - for people with no income or a low income who are working less than 16 hours a week and haven’t signed on as unemployed.
Child Tax Credit - can be claimed for each child you’re responsible for if they’re under 16 or under 20 and in approved education or training.
Working Tax Credits - you could qualify if you’re aged 16 or over, work a certain number of hours a week, you get paid for the work you do (or expect to) but your income is below a certain level.
Housing Benefit - to help you pay your rent if you’re on a low income.
Universal Credit is now live in seven areas across the UK and will be growing to ten by spring 2014. By the end of next year, the scheme will expand to cover more of the north west.
But the Government has admitted that about 700,000 claimants of a disability benefit will not be transferred to the new Universal Credit before 2017.
The Universal Credit reforms are intended to help people back into work but the Department for Work and Pensions said its priority throughout had been the "safe and smooth" delivery of the new policy.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said the Government is going to get Universal Credit right by bringing it in "carefully and responsibly". His comments come after he admitted the scheme may not be fully rolled out until 2017.
This is a once in a generation reform. And we’re going to get it right by bringing it in carefully and responsibly.
Our approach will ensure that while we continue to enhance the IT for Universal Credit, we will learn from and expand the existing service, so that we fully under stand how people interact with it, and how we can best support them.
Early indications show that people are positive about the new benefit, and my Department is working hard to ensure this good progress continues.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has admitted the Government's controversial Universal Credit may not be fully rolled out until 2017, missing its original deadline.
The new benefit, which brings together six benefits and tax credits into one, started to be rolled out in Manchester in April.
Minister dismisses claims he attempted to pin the blame for "shocking" failures in his flagship welfare reform on his senior official.Read the full story ›
David Cameron's official spokesman sidestepped repeated questions from reporters whether the Prime Minister was "confident" that Universal Credit would be delivered on time and on budget.
He said: "The department is working to the 2017 timetable. That is the timetable that the department continues to work to."
Pressed on whether it was right for ministers, rather than senior officials, to take responsibility for failings in implementing major policies, the No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister had previously insisted that "everyone has to take their responsibility."
The chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said she had not been approached by the Work and Pensions Secretary over singling out the departments' chief civil servant in the report revealing the Universal Credit scheme "wasted £140 million."
The Times reported that Mr Duncan Smith and members of his parliamentary team approached Tory members of the PAC to ensure that the department's chief civil servant Robert Devereux was singled out for criticism.
Sidestepping the question over wider Tory lobbying, she told the BBC:
Iain Duncan Smith didn't approach me. Beyond that I can't comment.
She went on to criticise the "fortress culture" at the Department of Work and Pensions, which meant "only good news was reported and problems were denied".
Commons leader Andrew Lansley said there was "no truth" in allegations that Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith tried to blame "shocking" failures in his welfare reform programme on his most senior departmental official.
Mr Lansley said he had spoken to Mr Duncan Smith about allegations that he and members of his parliamentary team approached members of the Public Accounts Committee to ensure that his department's chief civil servant was blamed for the "alarmingly weak" handling of Universal Credit reform.
I have talked to Mr Duncan Smith and I can tell the House that there is no need for a statement.
I can tell you and the House now there is no truth in the allegations made about talking to members of the Public Accounts Committee because I talked to Mr Duncan Smith so I can tell the House.