3 questions Iain Duncan Smith must answer

We have three questions that we believe IDS ought to be asked by the committee.

At 4.30pm today the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith will appear before the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs to answer questions on his flagship Universal Credit project.

The appearence comes on the back on mounting criticism of his implementation of the government’s welfare reforms, led by IDS.

We have three questions of our own that we’d like to ask IDS about Universal Credit and the Work Programme.

1. How far is IDS prepared to go to keep the Universal Credit show on the road?

It was reported last week that Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit programme may not be complete by 2017 as originally planned. It was originally forecast that 1.7 million people would have switched to the new Universal Credit system by 2015, but this figure has now been rounded to zero, as George Eaton helpfully points out at the New Statesman.

£34 million has also been wasted on unnecessary IT systems, a result of IDS’s unrealistic timetable for delivering UC. A recent Public Accounts Committee report warned that the project has been so badly managed that £425m of money spent on UC will almost certainly be written off.

Just how much money is IDS prepared to spend to keep the Universal Credit show on the road?

2. What measures has IDS put in place to ensure the failures of the pilot scheme are not repeated nationally?

The pilot for Universal Credit was limited to five jobcentres and was roundly criticised by the Public Accounts Committee:

“It lacks the security components needed to prevent fraudulent claims and protect individuals’ personal information. It does not deal with the key issues that Universal Credit must address: the volume of claims; their complexity; change in claimants’ circumstances; and the need for claimants to meet conditions for continuing entitlement to benefit. The Department needs a revised pilot that is capable of properly informing the full roll-out of Universal Credit.”

Iain Duncan Smith has in the past claimed that these problems have been fixed. He should be grilled on the specifics this afternoon: what exactly has IDS put in place to ensure mistakes are not repeated and how does he know that these issues have been resolved?

Many security measures were also abandoned for the pilots, including online reporting of changes in claimants’ circumstances, the IRIS system for assessing fraud risks and the IDA system for checking claimants’ identities, meaning the pilots didn’t actually test what the government want to roll out nationally. Hardly confidence inspiring.

3. Why is IDS still giving public money to A4E?

A4E has received more than £200 million of public money since the start of the Work Programme, where private companies are paid to help the long-term unemployed find work. By all accounts the scheme has been a total failure, however, with just one in 10 people helped back to work.

13 people at the company are also facing charges related to defrauding the taxpayer. As Nick Cohen wrote yesterday:

“we already know that A4E gave its former chairman, a Cameron crony called Emma Harrison, a £1.3m dividend after the fraud scandal broke in 2012, and that the prime minister’s former families’ adviser had pocketed an £8.6m dividend the year before”.

Is it really wise to keep handing A4E taxpayers’ money?

Elsewhere on Left Foot Forward

Five things the government doesn’t want you to know about Universal Credit

Universal Credit shambles uncovered in new report

Universal credit: a good day for IDS to bury bad news

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