The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has told a parliamentary select committee that the Universal Credit benefit reform, along with its supporting IT infrastructure, could be completed by 2018 as part of plans for a gradual roll-out across the UK.
Universal Credit, designed to merge employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit, and housing benefit into a single payment, had been scheduled for 2020 as recently as a few months ago.
However, during questioning by the cross-party Work and Pensions select committee, Duncan Smith said, “we do envisage the Universal Credit being complete by the end of 2018“.
“We are now committed to rolling out [Universal Credit] from February of next year and start with [single claiments]. It’s almost exactly the same as we have done in the north west, which is you go singles, then couples and eventually families,” he explained.
“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.”
The work and pensions secretary said that the gradual implementation and launching of a live service is necessary to ensure a smooth introduction of the new policy when ready for national release and at present the system is being used mainly for processing single claims in trial areas, before the system is modified to process complex joint or family claims.