The Work and Pensions Committee has said that the government has not always provided accurate and timely information on changes to benefit reforms, whilst also warning that the single benefit is being rolled out at a “snail’s pace”.
The government, however, has said that it has given “regular updates” to MPs and its plans were being implemented in a “slow, controlled and safe” fashion, reports BBC.
In the latest report by the cross-party committee it says that there remains a “worrying uncertainty” over the computer systems being developed to implement the reforms.
Problems with IT systems underpinning the project came to light in a National Audit Office report last September, however the government had known about the issues for at least eighteen months, says MPs.
“It is concerning that it took so long for the government to acknowledge openly that there were problems with Universal Credit IT,” the report said “The government has hampered the committee’s scrutiny of Universal Credit implementation by not providing accurate, timely and detailed information. It is not acceptable for the government only to provide information about major policy changes when forced to do so by the imminent prospect of being held to account in a public evidence session.”
Dame Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South and chair of the committee has said: “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.”
“Ministers promised one million people would be on the scheme by April 2014 but the latest figures show under 4,000 are,” said shadow work and pension secretary Rachel Reeves. “David Cameron must urgently get a grip of this crisis-hit policy before any more taxpayers money is wasted.”
But a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit and its IT systems are very clearly working well, with claimants receiving the new benefit and moving into work. We deliberately started in a slow, controlled and safe way, which the committee itself has long recommended, so we can expand Universal Credit securely to more people. Universal Credit is on track and we will start expanding it to other Jobcentres from this summer.”
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