The Guardian has reported today that ministers are in disarray as leaked documents reveal two options for saving the project to merge benefits and tax credits.{jcomments on}

Ministers attempting to put the troubled universal credit welfare reform programme back on track have been presented with a radical plan to restart the scheme and write off £119m of work over the past three years.
The proposals would be putting the whole scheme back to "phase one".

The plan is detailed in more than 150 pages of leaked documents that present two options for rescuing the huge project to merge six major benefits and tax credits into one payment. The other plan would attempt to improve the existing system and build on the investment already made. Both plans were drawn up by civil servants at the direction of Department for Work and Pensions ministers.

The scheme has suffered management and computer problems since work began in 2010, causing Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, at the start of the year to push back the timetable for rollout. Labour says the scheme is in "total chaos".

Duncan Smith has repeatedly maintained that universal credit will be delivered on time and on budget but, according to sources close to the project, senior civil servants have raised concerns in the past few weeks that the 2017 deadline for getting millions of people on to the programme is now unrealistic because IT systems are not working as expected and design flaws are too numerous.

Last month a damning National Audit Office (NAO) report catalogued failures of leadership and project management and identified £34m in wasted expenditure.

Fixing the existing system would cost £226m and the completed design would still be vulnerable to security flaws. While this option offers a chance for reputational recovery, a smaller write-off cost of £21m and less disruption, the report warns it may ultimately not prove value for money. Asked about the findings of the report, the DWP said its plans remained on track and would ultimately save the country £38bn.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said "At a time when budgets are being cut across government, this is scandalous mismanagement of taxpayers' money. And instead of getting a grip, the government are in complete disarray over what to do about it."

Read more on the Guardian website

Thanks to Jim Allison for spotting this article for us.


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