“We do envisage UC being complete by the end of 2018,” Duncan Smith claimed, despite a previous estimate that the programme would be finished in 2020.
As the topic of the Committee meeting was the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14, the Secretary also took the opportunity to claim that the benefits reform would be delivered at a cheaper cost than originally envisaged.
“The delivery cost is actually expected to be below what was the original prediction of £2.4bn and the delivery cost is now projected to be around £1.8bn,” he claimed.
However, there are those who will be sceptical of Duncan’s Smith’s claims after it was revealed only a few thousand people are currently using UC when there should be one million people receiving the benefit.
UC is currently being piloted across North West England and Duncan Smith claims it will be rolled out across the UK from February next year, starting with singles, moving onto couples and eventually families.
“In the meantime, we are working closely on the development of the end-state digital process, which in itself delivers increased benefits both to the recipient and the department through running costs and all the rest of it,” he claimed.
The technology behind the project has encountered many struggles along the way, including earning a brand new “reset” status in Major Projects Authority (MPA) report.
Duncan Smith claimed that the slow rollout of UC was essential for ensuring the IT behind it offers a correctly implemented digital service.
On several occasions, the Secretary failed to answer how many of the claimants currently using the new benefits system were doing so entirely online, rather than having their cases handled manually.