The National Audit Office’s progress report on Universal Credit raises a number of doubts about the business case. The language is guarded, but from the report it’s possible to glean several insights about the process which, to date, have been concealed or denied by the DWP. We learn, in particular, that:
- The Treasury had major concerns about the draft business case submitted in Winter 2013:
- “Little progress made on the later stages of the plan to transfer legacy benefit claimants on to Universal Credit.
- No single coherent integrated plan or clear target operating model.
- Considerable work needed to prove the viability and affordability of the new digital approach.” (p 16)
- What has been approved is only an outline business case, with more detail to follow. (p.18)
- “Not all legacy benefit claimants will have moved to Universal Credit by the end
of 2019.”; there will be more than half a million remaining. (p 18)
- Although the DWP published a report on 30th October claiming £35.9bn benefit by 2023-2024, the business case approved in September actually identifies £27.2 bn, and £20.7bn at net present value. (p 21) The NAO expresses doubt as to whether this figure will be realised.
- The error rates in calculating benefits have been extraordinarily high, and errors have had to be trapped by manual procedures. Errors started at over 25% in the first couple of months of operation; in 2014 they have been over 10% in three months. (p 42)