The Financial Times suggests today that Universal Credit may not survive the next election. In October there were 2720 people receiving the benefit; there were supposed to be 1.7 million. The computer programmes to do the job do not exist. I’ve had a paper in Computer Weekly this week arguing that the problems are down to flaws in the design, not the delivery of the IT.
If Anne Begg is right, everything is now supposed to hang on a pilot of 100 households in November: if the system works perfectly it can be rolled out at speed. The point of pilots is surely that you can’t expect them to work perfectly; they’re used to trap the errors. Remember, this scheme is supposed to be giving a “personalised” response to nearly eight million people. There’s a principle in engineering, Murphy’s Law, that tells us that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It’s not a joke. Run any process a few million times, and remote possibilities become a certainty. It’s inconceivable that any scheme could roll out from 100 claims to a million without needing reconsideration at some point.