Universal credit, the government’s recasting of the welfare benefits system, has had to be reorganised so fundamentally that the government watchdog responsible for grading its implementation has judged that it is now an entirely new project.
In its annual assessment of the implementation of nearly 200 major infrastructure projects, the Major Projects Authority (MPA) has listed universal credit as “reset”, the only one to be listed as going back to the drawing board. The scheme has been dogged with IT design faults, leading to successive delays.
Universal credit is the flagship project of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Ministers started implementing it three years ago, and have been criticised by successive watchdogs for failing to come clean about the problems the DWP has experienced with the technology.
The department said the classification of reset was simply reflecting the changes the DWP has already announced to make the scheme viable, including spreading the programme more slowly than previously planned. But it is the first time the MPA has had to use this classification, and suggests the universal credits scheme has been particularly dogged by problems among big government projects.