The framework was launched last year, as the government attempted to move further towards the digital by default agenda by opening up the market to smaller businesses.
The UC Digital Transformation Project seeks to use digital services to overhaul the welfare system and unify six benefits into one.
It is meant to be one of Whitehall’s 25 “exemplar” services delivered digitally by default.
Originally, the Government Digital Service (GDS) was on-board with DWP to help it with a number of issues UC was facing, but their partnership ended in January this year, leaving the Department to tackle its issues on its own.
DWP now aims to release its new benefits programme as a private beta to a small number of claimants, without GDS help.
According to DWP, a Proof of Concept was developed with GDS, but the Department is now working separately to deliver a private version of the service which will eventually be rolled out to public online, supplemented by face to face and telephone interactions.
DWP hopes that the beta phase will allow for testing of core processes and feedback and learning that will inform the next stages of development.
After the private beta is complete, a public beta will be released that will focus on integration and ensure the Department is ready to move onto a live, public version.
“It will be important that the final UC service has the ability to successfully integrate with and work alongside other systems, particularly in the DWP IT legacy estate,” it said.
The UC project has not had a smooth running and the UK press has extensively reported the issues it has faced.
It was revealed in January that of the 50 IT staff employed by DWP, only three of these were assigned to the digital leg of UC.
The programme has also come under fire from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which suggested DWP might write off over £174m of the IT assets developed so far.
Besides this, confusion around the deadline has been created – Chancellor George Osbourne announced in last month’s Budget that the project would be rolled out across the country by 2016, despite the original 2017 deadline.
To further complicate things, DWP itself has claimed that the 2017 deadline is not achievable and the programme would be fully available after this, without specifying exactly when.