View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
9 December 2013updated 26 Sep 2015 10:16am

Duncan Smith tries to run away from failure on Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Secretary says he "never wanted to dwell on figures" after the OBR forecasts less than 10% of his original target will be met.

By George Eaton

After trying, with some success, to bury bad news about Universal Credit under coverage of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement last week, Iain Duncan Smith will find it harder to avoid scrutiny of his failures today. He will appear before the work and pensions select committee at 4:30pm to answers questions about the problems with the programme and Labour is highlighting new OBR figures showing just how few claimants will be on the benefit by the time of the election. 

As recently as March 2013, it was forecast that 1.7 million people would be claiming Universal Credit by 2015 but as the table below shows, that figure has now been rounded down to zero. As I reported last week, there were just 2,150 people on the benefit at the end of September, 997,850 claimants short of Duncan Smith’s original April 2014 target of one million. By 2015-16, the OBR expects 400,000 people to be claiming Universal Credit, less than 10% of the original target of 4.5 million. Nearly three million (2.9 million) are forecast to be on the system by 2017 but the OBR warns that “given the delays to date, and the scale of migration required in 2016 and 2017, there is clearly a risk that the eventual profile differs significantly from this new assumption”. It notes that the government’s new migration timetable “has yet to be subjected to full business case approval”. 

Universal Credit: from 1.7 million to zero

Interviewed on the Today programme this morning, Duncan Smith defended his record on the basis that, unlike in the case of previous government failures over tax credits and the NHS IT system, “no one has been affected”. But this defence relies on him accepting that he has failed to deliver the “welfare revolution” he so confidently promised in 2010 in favour of damage limitation. After regularly boasting that more than a million people would be on the system by 2014, he unconvincingly claimed that he “never wanted to dwell on figures”, before eventually conceding: “I do accept, of course, that this plan is different from the original plan.” 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

It was in September, in an an excoriating report, that the National Audit Office warned that “throughout the programme the Department has lacked a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work”, that the 2017 national roll-out date was in serious doubt, that the department “has not achieved value for money”, with £34m of IT programmes written off, that the current IT system “lacks the ability to identify potentially fraudulent claims” and that the DWP repeatedly ignored warnings about the viability of the project. Duncan Smith recenty told the work and pensions select committee that he was merely following advice from MPs “not to go too fast” but as Labour chair Anne Begg replied, “There’s rushing it and there’s a snail pace”.

Also appearing on Today, Rachel Reeves described the programme as “a shambles” and declared that “the whole project is now in disarray”. But the shadow work and pensions secretary again affirmed that Labour still believes in “the principle of Universal Credit”, a position that contrasts with that taken by the SNP, which has pledged to scrap the scheme if Scotland votes for independence next year. While Reeves is rightly using Duncan Smith’s failures to gain the political edge over her opponent, the longer they continue, the more urgent the question becomes of just how Labour will get the project back on track if it wins in 2015. 

Content from our partners
Individually rare, collectively common – how do we transform the lives of people with rare diseases in the UK?
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU