Universal Credit to simplify benefits

The Department of Work and Pensions this week set out plans for a new Universal Credit system to replace the basket of benefits and credits currently in operation.

In detailed proposals released on Thrusday 11 November, the DWP claimed the Universal Credit would radically simplify the benefits system, deliver the government’s promise to “make work pay” and combat and poverty.

The Universal Credit would replace existing state payments including Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and the income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

The DWP paper estimated the new IT required for Universal Credit is on a similar scale to the Employment and Support Allowance which was “successfully delivered on time and within budget”. According to PublicTechnology.net, a written Parliamentary answer in March acknowledged the project was a big factor in DWP 32.7% IT budget increase to £330m in 2008-09.
 
The DWP’s timetable and commitment to proceed with the Universal Credit sheds new light on HMRC’s plans for real-time information. The consultation that took place over the summer appears to have been an academic exercise as the government has clearly decided to proceed whatever responses it received. The DWP’s executive summary of its proposals mentions that HMRC will be consulting further on this topic.

A quick review of HMRC’s own business plan for 2011-15 (153kb PDF), meanwhile, confirms that work has already begun on a high level specification for the new “RTI” system and that consultation will be taking place this month on the detailed proposals. The infrastructure is already in place, the plan states and following testing between April and November 2011, the real-time information system is scheduled to go live in April 2012 to be ready to synch in with the Universal Credit plan.

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