The Government welcomes the fifth report of the Work
and Pensions Select Committee 2013-14, which considered the progress
with Universal Credit implementation in 2012-13.
Universal Credit is the biggest transformation of
the benefits system in the last 60 years. It aims to make work
pay and is part of the Government's long term plan to get more
people into work and off benefits. Universal Credit provides a
new single system of means-tested support for working-age people
who are in or out of work. It aims to reduce the number of workless
households by reducing the financial and administrative barriers
to work that exist in the current system of benefits and tax credits.
From June, Universal Credit will expand in the North-West
of England, with more sites coming on-line each week. During the
summer the new benefit will also be available for new claims from
couples in a number of Jobcentres that already deliver Universal
Credit, expanding to all the current live sites over time. When
fully rolled out, Universal Credit will bring £35 billion
of benefits to the economyhelping hundreds of thousands
of people into work.
The Committee's report is supportive of the principles
of Universal Credit but highlights some areas where the Committee
have concerns. This response addresses those concerns.
Progress with Universal Credit implementation
DWP told us that it intended to clarify the
impact of the changes to the implementation timetable on the overall
costs and savings of the programme in the revised Business Case
for Universal Credit, which it has now presented to the Treasury.
We recommend that DWP makes its revised Business Case available
to this Committee. We further recommend that, in its response
to this Report, DWP set out: revised estimates of UC caseloads
and costs for each year to 2017-18; and the future programme management
and governance arrangements for UC. (Paragraph
As the Committee recognise in their report, it is
not normal practice for the Government to share Business Cases
and we would not do so in this instance.
However, given the importance of the Universal Credit
Programme and the Committee's key role in providing effective
scrutiny and challenge, on this occasion we would be happy for
DWP officials to meet with the Committee, to discuss Universal
We would also like to offer the opportunity for members
to visit a Universal Credit live service site. This would allow
members to meet with staff who will give further insight into
the delivery of Universal Credit.
With these proposals in mind, we have sent an invitation
to the Committee to visit our live service in Hammersmith.
In regard to revised estimates and management and
governance arrangements, some of this information is already in
the public domain, and in line with the Government's transparency
agenda, will continue to be updated publicly. Additional discussion
can take place at the proposed meeting between the Committee and
Local authorities need greater clarity on the
implications for them of being required to continue to administer
Housing Benefit for longer than anticipated, due to the delays
to Universal Credit. We recommend that, in response to this Report,
DWP sets out the details of the financial support which will be
provided to local authorities in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to cover
the additional costs of continuing to administer Housing Benefit.
DWP has already notified local authorities of their
2014-15 Housing Benefit Allocation.
With regard to Housing Benefit administration subsidy
funding for 2015/16, DWP is engaged with representatives from
the local authority associations to ensure that this Department
is in a position to inform local authorities of their individual
allocations, in sufficient time before the start of the 2015/16
Universal Credit implementation and IT development
We recommend that, in response to this report,
DWP provide more details about what the end-state solution for
UC IT means in practical terms. It should also set out its latest
- the costs of developing the end-state solution
beyond November 2014, including the separate costs of employing
additional in-house IT specialists; and of contracts with external
consultants and IT providers; and
- when the end-state solution will be ready
to test on the first 100 claimant households; when and how it
will be extended to a more representative number of claimants;
and when it is expected to be fully implemented.
We also recommend that, in light of the small
number of claimants currently receiving Universal Credit and the
slow progress, DWP consider again whether it would not be more
effective, and represent better value for money, to focus solely
on the end-state solution and abandon the twin-track approach.
Much has been achieved since April 2013 to deliver
a live service and prepare claimants and staff for the cultural
change that Universal Credit will bring. The Universal Credit
service is now available to people living in 10 areas of England,
Scotland and Wales providing stronger incentives and support to
get into work and to earn more.
- The Claimant Commitment, an agreement each claimant
makes recognising the steps they must take in return for the support
they receive. We have also successfully introduced the Claimant
Commitment for new claims to Jobseeker's Allowance in every one
of the 714 Jobcentres across Great Britain between October 2013
and April 2014.
- A new, more challenging and supportive relationship
between claimants and their work services coaches. 26,300 staff
have been trained to support the Claimant Commitment, and some
600,000 claimants have signed new agreements setting out what
they will do to find work in return for their benefits. This new
regime has empowered jobcentre staff to challenge claimantsensuring
they fulfil their responsibilities to find work. In return claimants
are receiving expert help and advice from their work coach encouraging
and motivating them in their search for work. Our initial evaluation
of Universal Credit (Nov 2013) shows that this is working. People
claiming Universal Credit reported looking for work for over 27
hours a week, as compared to 14 hours a week for a comparable
group under the JSA regime.
- Transforming digital services for claimants,
working alongside our online Universal Jobmatch service and helping
thousands of people find work. The Universal Credit Pathfinder
has already been offering more online services with interim pathfinder
evaluation showing that the vast majority of Universal Credit
claimants are already making their claim online (90%).
The next step is to open the new benefit to claimants
across the North Westas part of our safe, secure roll out.
This will enable us to learn from the live running of Universal
Credit at scale and for more claimant types, including the more
vulnerable and complex.
We are now working to enhance the future service
as we roll outmaking the best use of the latest technology,
the substantial IT we already have in place and the lessons learned
from understanding of how our claimants use Universal Credit.
The future service for Universal Credit will deliver
the policy through the provision of a multi-channel service that
makes greater use of modern technology to ensure the system is
as effective, simple and transparent as possible.
We expect the future service will start to be tested
with a small number of claimants by the end of this calendar year
to learn about the core service. Following this, and based on
the learning, the future service will be tested with a progressively
greater number of claimants. The first such extension is currently
planned for six months after the first test.
Our plan is to make the full transition to Universal
Credit in a safe and managed way. The transition from the current
system of benefits and tax credits to Universal Credit will be
gradual. Progressive national rollout started in October 2013
and will be fully available in each part of Great Britain during
2016, having closed down new claims to the legacy benefits it
replaced; with the majority of the remaining legacy case load
moving to Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017.
As we have said earlier, DWP officials would be happy
to cover these aspects as part of the proposals to meet with the
Committee in the Hammersmith live service site.
Support for vulnerable claimants
The Government has acknowledged that vulnerable
people will need support to adjust to Universal Credit. It has
set out in its Local Support Services Framework (LSSF) how it
envisages this support being provided in partnership with local
authorities, housing providers and the voluntary sector. However,
the initial version of the LSSF published in 2013 lacked detail
on how it would operate in practice, including the funding arrangements.
We regret DWP's lack of progress in giving its LSSF partners
a clear indication of the additional responsibilities they will
be expected to take on under this new arrangement and, crucially,
the central government funding they can expect to receive. The
Government has acknowledged that the LSSF is "almost as important
as Universal Credit itself". We recommend that it therefore
ensures that detailed information about its operation and funding
is set out when the final version of the LSSF is published in
autumn 2014. (Paragraph 60)
The Government is committed to providing as much
detail as possible to ensure that all delivery partners have a
clear understanding of activities required and funding availability.
We intend to trial elements of the framework with Jobcentre Plus
and Local Authority partners this year; this will enable us to
test key assumptions, including how finance models support LSSF
delivery, and gather intelligence to understand how the LSSF approach
will work in practice ahead of full Universal Credit roll out.
This activity will contribute to the next definitive
version of the LSSF which will be published in autumn 2015. This
will allow us to take account of this valuable learning and evidence,
and will assist with Local Authority resource planning for 2016,
by the end of which we intend that all areas of Great Britain
will go live with new claims for Universal Credit from all claimant
groups. However, this information will not be our only communication
on LSSF. We will share a further update of information in October
2014 and we plan to share examples of good practice from partnerships
across England, Scotland and Wales on a regular basis ahead of
the final publication of the LSSF.
Local Support Services communications were launched
during week commencing 27 April at a series of webinars with all
LAs and DWP District Managers. Expressions of Interest in trialling
will be received in June with successful bids announced later
that month, with trials up and running by September 2014.
DWP's co-operation with the scrutiny process
Effective scrutiny by select committees relies
on government departments providing them with accurate, timely
and detailed information. This has not always happened to date
in relation to our scrutiny of the problems with Universal Credit
implementation. It is not acceptable for Ministers to provide
information about changes to major policy implementation to this
Committee, and indeed to Parliament and the public more broadly,
only when forced to do so by the imminent prospect of being held
to account in a public oral evidence session. We recommend that,
in response to this Report, DWP sets out how it will improve the
frankness, accuracy and timeliness of the information it provides
to us, to ensure that it meets the required levels of transparency
between the Government and select committees, and that we are
not hampered in trying to carry out our formal scrutiny role effectively.
The Department does not accept the premise behind
this recommendation. Ministers have consistently provided the
Committee with information as soon as decisions have been made,
with Ministers then appearing promptly to explain these decisions
in person. A good example of that is the three hour evidence
session on 5 December to explain decisions that had just been
made. The Government does not regard it as necessary to provide
a running commentary on the day to day management of the many
large and complex programmes currently underway.
We will continue to be open, accurate and timely
in sharing information and have offered the additional opportunity
for DWP officials to meet with the Committee to discuss Universal
A vast amount of information on the development of
Universal Credit has also been published and debates have taken
place in the public domain, including:
a. A great deal of information through the Government's
consultation process, and White Paper "Universal Credit:
welfare that works", published in November 2010.
b. The Welfare Reform Bill, published on 16 February
c. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 which received
Royal Assent on 8 March 2012 and was accompanied by a 94 page
d. The Major Projects Authority's Annual Report
includes a set of combined data relating to the Government's major
projects, including Universal Credit.
e. National Audit Office Report"Universal
Credit: early progress"published on 5 September 2013,
and the Public Accounts Committee Report of the same name that
was published on 7 November 2013, and the subsequent PAC hearing
which assessed the implications for value for money of the Department's
progress against its plans, and reviewed the Department's management
of the Programme. The Treasury Minute of January 2014 updated
Parliament on progress against these recommendations.
f. The published evaluation framework for Universal
Credit: "Universal Credit: how we will evaluate it"
is also publicly available. "Universal Credit Pathfinder
Evaluation: Interim Results From The Universal Credit Claimant
Survey, Wave 1" published on 29 November 2013, details
the first actual results from the Pathfinder, providing evidence
on a broad range of factors, including, attitudes, experiences,
behaviours and outcomes of the first Universal Credit claimants.
g. There has been regular Parliamentary challenge
and accountability, including lengthy discussions at the Work
and Pensions Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee,
Ministerial Statements and Parliamentary Questions. This includes
both formal and informal appearances before the Work and Pensions
Select Committee specifically on UC on eight occasions over the
past 3 years.
h. The key information aimed at keeping claimants
and stakeholders informed about UC is published on Gov.uk.
This includes a partner toolkit and a UC Video explaining how
Universal Credit works.
1 See: Housing Benefit Circulars available at
See https://www.gov.uk/search?q=universal+credit Back
Universal Credit toolkit for partner organisations available at