Universal credit given 'reset' status in annual assessment

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Posted by APM on 9th Jun 2014

Universal Credit
Image: Karen Bryan

Major Projects Authority (MPA) has listed the status of the Universal Credit scheme as ‘reset’ in its annual assessment of major infrastructure projects.

This follows the MPA’s publication of its second annual report which highlights the status of 199 schemes worth £488bn across Whitehall departments rating them on a five tier traffic light system from green to red.

The ‘reset’ means that the Universal Credit scheme is being judged as an entirely new project – this follows a number of delays and concerns about the project.

The project from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) began its implementation three years ago and has suffered from IT design faults.

Ministers have received huge criticism as they refused to publicly address the issues.

Universal Credit combines six benefits in a monthly payment, but problems have meant the DWP has been unable to extend the scheme past simple cases, such as unmarried, childless and unemployed people.

Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, said in a foreword to the MPA report: “We must not pretend problems don’t exist. Instead, we must identify and address them early on before they become an issue.

“By being open and realistic about the challenges we face, we can find solutions.”

However, a DWP spokesman told the Guardian newspaper that the reset does not mean things aren’t going to plan.

He said: “Universal Credit is on track. The reset is not new, but refers to the shift in the delivery plan and change in management back in early 2013.

“It’s already making work pay as we roll it out in a careful and controlled way. It’s operating in 10 areas and will start expanding to the rest of the north-west in June.

“Jobseekers in other areas are already benefitting from some of its positive impacts through help from a work coach, more digital facilities in job centres and a written agreement setting out what they will do to find work.”

Elsewhere the report actually highlighted a number of positives including the fact that of the 31 projects rated red or amber/red last year, more than half had done better this year.

The report says that analysis of the projects in the government's major project portfolio (GMPP) demonstrates that, on average, projects with higher total costs and a longer lifespan have a lower delivery confidence assessment (DCA) "which is unsurprising given the greater complexity of more costly and longer-lived projects."

It adds: "Furthermore, the number of projects that we rate green or amber/green decreases in the very early stages of planning, but increases as projects approach their planned completion dates. It is likely that this represents an initial recognition of the challenges that need to be addressed in a project, followed by increasing delivery confidence as solutions are identified."

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