Universal Credit launch date already in jeopardy

Universal Credit HMRC

H.M.R.C. in hot water over 'unduly complacent' attitude towards Universal Credit roll out.

The RTI IT platform roll-out, crucial to the implementation of Universal Credit, has been given an amber warning by the Cabinet's Major Project Authority. Without this real-time software, projected launch dates could go out of the window as there is no plan b for HMRC.

When will Iain Duncan-Smith recognise that not even the gods and little fishes are in favour of the Universal Credit system? Not even the offer of a sideways move within government seems to be deterring IDS, though.

Those whose meager lifestyles are set to be jeopardised by the extremely unpopular cuts to welfare benefits in the Universal Credit program, planned for October 2013, may have a little more breathing space.

Quite simply, if the Real Time Information platform is not ready, the whole Universal Credit implementation will be stalled. The "unduly complacent" attitude for the current state of flux has earned HMRC a ticking off, to which it acknowledged that "it still has a lot of work to do". That's not putting too fine a point on it. I'll try to keep this as simple as possible. Almost any department whose name is an acronym that could be involved in the project is. I'm half expecting JLS to put their oar in some time later this week.

What is the next stage for the Universal Credit platform?

In the next four months, the main roll-out of the RTI platform is scheduled for actioning. Reading between the lines, this 'amber' status, based on concerns raised by PAC, is a second warning.

In mid-November, many senior figures left the DWP project. This included both the overall project manager and the head of business IT. The fact that, at £2.2bn, the project was considerably over budget may have had something to do with those departures. Supply chain problems were blamed for both the over-spending of the budget and falling behind of schedule.

Where is the RTI platform at now?

From October 2013, employers will be expected to upload real time PAYE (Pay as you Earn) figures so that HMRC can keep track of due taxes from the country's workforce. That amounts to 39 million records in total. As at the beginning of November 2012, only 2 million records had been successfully transferred.

As if that task wasn't bad enough in its own rite, the ICAEW has pointed out the real possibility of small businesses not being able to incorporate this within existing working practises, from either a man-hour or affordability aspect. This is another dilemma that HMRC has to consider. given that it has been accused of not deploying all of the technology it has to hand to analyse its current performance collating extra data of this ilk may be a straw for the camel's back.

Only when the existing 3,000 IT systems migrate to the "big 13 system" will exacting tests to determine how well the RTI platform is working be able to be carried out. No doubt the closer we get to April we'll be able to see if the Universal Credit is green for go or red for bugge-red.

I know where my money's going. That is, if I can get at it.

Have your say: What effects will welfare reform and Universal Credit changes have on your household? If you're unsure, you may just want to check what IDS has got up his sleeve in less than a year's time, here.