Latest Public Sector News

20.10.11

Universal credit to be launched online

Plans to claim the new universal credit online have been announced, integrating tax credits and out-of-work benefits through an app. This forms part of the move towards a ‘digital culture’, the Government says, but some are concerned about the prospects of another large centrally-run IT programme.

The programme is due to go live from April 2013, with plans to prepare real-time information on employers’ payrolls and wages from 2014 when claimants who are in work are due to join the scheme.

Universal Credit will integrate in-work tax credits and out-of work benefits, with the aim to provide a smooth transition to work. It will be possible to update claimants’ credit entitlement regularly without relying on their own reports. It should also help to reduce fraud and error by £1bn each year.

Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform, said: “This is the most radical redesign of the welfare system since its creation and we are taking an equally radical approach to the design and build of technology to deliver it. It is one thing to have policy, but delivery is equally important. The current welfare system is broken.”

Half of all claimants should be online by 2013-14, Freud said, and 80% will be using the online system by 2017. He acknowledged the issues with security, but is confident that close monitoring will ensure any disasters are avoided.

Freud continued: “We are getting a lot of help from the banking community. They have got security systems we are looking at very closely. The fundamental is to know who is on the system, and one of the things we are looking at is piggy-backing on those systems.

“So rather than us having to ID assure, one of the things we can do is get customers to click through their bank account to us.”

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