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Universal Credit Pathfinder details emerge – ‘prove before we move’ principle for IT implementation

January 28, 2013

Breaking news: March 8th, 2013: Hilary Reynolds no longer Programme Director for Universal Credit Click here

Hilary Reynolds, newly appointed Programme Director for Universal Credit, recently clarified that the new Universal Credit process will be rolled out from April 2013 but that the impact of UC will be limited until 2014. She told union PCSU that the IT would be ready for the gradual expansion of the Universal Credit pathfinder from October.

Update: February 18th, 2013: “David Pitchford, chief executive of the Major Projects Authority, will spend three months working on the complex universal credit policy” – but does three months deliver the continuity of leadership that is required?

Update: March 7th, 2013: Accenture, Atos Origin, Oracle, Red Hat, CACI and IBM UK have all been asked to stop work on UC, according to shadow minister Liam Byrne MP. Minister Mark Hoban did not rebut this statement, but did confirm that Hewlett-Packard was committed to carrying on with the project.(Source) It should be noted that the responsibilities that Hewlett-Packard (HPES) have are just for deployment of a solution, not for development (Source).


Wigan Town Hall: to be responsible for IT support
for Universal Credit claimants from April 2013

Little detail on the Pathfinder implementation has been forthcoming directly from the Department for Work and Pensions press office website nor on a recent article that the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, wrote for ‘Inside Housing‘.

However, a recently released letter from the DWP to Local Authorities explains that “For the majority of local authorities, the impact of UC during the financial year 2013/14 will be limited.” And that payments of Universal Credit from April will only apply to claimants with very simple cases in a very specific area of Manchester. The roll-out across the country will start from October and will be ‘gradually expanded’.

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More information emerged this week in a message from the PSCU trade union to its members that “Unfortunately, consultation with the UC trade union side has stalled during this period of internal management reorganisation. UC management has recognised this and apologised to TUS for this. The Universal Credit Trade Union Side met the new Programme Director on 10 January 2013”.

The exact start date for the Pathfinder is now known to be the 29th April, and will be for “a small number of simple Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claims in a limited geographical area.” To be followed by a second phase running from 28 October 2013 to 31 March 2014. “intended to extend the number and type of UC claims across the country.” Detailed plans are not yet available for future phases.

DWP is still holding to the line that “the IT development is on track” but admits that Management have also assured PCS that the IT will only be rolled out on a “prove before we move” principle.

“The Pathfinder will be run from two Benefit Centres (Bolton and Glasgow) supported by 4 Job Centres in the North West (Ashton under Lyne, Oldham, Warrington and Wigan). The Pathfinder will be restricted to the most straightforward new claims to JSA only, in a very limited geographical area. This will create a situation where some claimants will receive UC and others will remain on legacy benefits.”

Critically, local authorities will be expected to provide support to claimants who may have difficulty claiming on line.

DWP told the PSCU that the IT would not be ready for the Pathfinder, but would be available to support Phase 2. Implementation of IT would be constrained by a ‘prove before we move’ principle.

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© Brian Wernham 2013 CC BY-NC-ND

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