Universal Credit IT and Systems – Update

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This is a summary of the DWPs approach to the IT and systems behind Universal Credit based on briefings given by the DWP to stakeholders at the end of 2011.  It outlines where the DWP have got to, and how they plan to take things forward.

IT Approach – AGILE

  •  An agile approach to development means that each part of the system can be built independently and tested earlier, with faster feedback loop to improve the design.
  • The DWP plan to re-use 60% of the existing IT infrastructure, primarily the Customer Information System (CIS) and the existing Payments System.
  • Universal Credit requires two new systems:
    • Real Time Information (RTI), delivered by HMRC
    • Universal Credit System (UC), including the rules engine delivered by DWP

Project Governance

  • The project is being closely monitored, with ministers and key people from DWP and HMRC leading the programme board and representatives from the LGA, DCLG and Work Programme providers forming part of the governance process going forward.

Delivery Timelines

  • October 2013 – New Claims online (50%)
  • 2013 – 2017 – Natural Migration based on a change in circumstances (80%)
  • 2017 – Managed migration, to get (100%)

Online Delivery: ‘Digital by Default’

  • 62% of claimants already use online services
  • The DWP will provide access points with an emphasis on usability
  • Those without online capability (access or skills) will have access to assistance, including face to face support
  • The DWP user Interface is already partially built and was demonstrated at the presentation (7/10 – see below)
The Rules Engine is being developed in stages

These stages use over 162 different detailed customer profiles.  The agile process of development means that when other aspects of policy are announced, such as the process for managing passported benefits, these can be built into the customer profiles and added onto the development.

  • Leap 1: Single Person, No Housing Costs (complete)
  • Leap 2: Couple, No children (complete)
  • Leap 3: Families, housings costs, migrants, changes in circumstances (ready in Feb 2010)
  • Leap 4: Disability (ready in July 2012)
  • Leap 5: Appeals, workflows, advisor support, management information

There was no news as to when the rules engine would be made available, however we can assume that it won’t be until late 2012 at the earliest.

HMRC will be testing their live stream of real time information (RTI) between April and October 2012, with large employers being migrated to the new system in April 2013 ready for the launch in October.


  • The demonstration assumed monthly payments, and showed the date that payment would be made
  • There will be an end to sixty page forms (only relevant questions need be answered, and only once)
  • The claimant will have the option to view detailed information about how the award was calculated
  • There will be access to a better off calculator, focused on take home income (not the costs of work)
  • Documents and supporting evidence will be scanned, then uploaded to the users account
  • Notifications of a change in circumstances could be made online
How will the system work with Local Authorities?
The system will be compatible with the ATLAS system, Automated transfer to Local Authorities to support the administration of CTB and passported benefits.
How will the system support users unable to use the internet, either because of access (rural areas, home does not own a computer), or capability (don’t have experience of using online service)?
There will be support through telephone contact centres and face to face support will also be available, the details of which are being worked out.
How will the system manage changes in circumstances?
80 per cent of change in circumstance notifications are earnings related, RTI will make this unnecessary.  Half the remaining (10 per cent) of a change in circumstances will raise entitlement, claimants will actively choose to notify the department.  Many of the remaining ten per cent will re-emerge elsewhere in the system, the department are looking into the checks and balances that can be introduced to identify where they have not been notified of a change in circumstance.

What about RTI, how can we be re-assured that this will be on time and on schedule?
The real concern is over the RTI system being delivered by HMRC, is there any news on this?
There will be a separate and similar briefing for stakeholders on the HMRC side in a couple of months.  The software is being re-written by payroll providers to support RTI.  The cleanliness of data in testing has been at 98.3%, the aim is to raise this before the launch of UC.
Are monthly payments appropriate, will there need to be an end of year reconciliation?

Direct monthly payments meet the three core goals of Universal Credit: Simplicity, Pro-work, Personal responsibility.  However, there will be a residue of users for whom direct monthly payments are not appropriate, for example at the extreme, some claimants have an official guardian.  We are undergoing end-user testing to see where monthly payments may not be appropriate.  Universal Credit should can be viewed as a system to help households manage their cash flow from month to month, other services such as payment arrangements can be made outside of UC.

There is unlikely to be a need to reconcile payments at year end for the vast majority of claimants.

Will there be a link into the advice community?
Yes, this will form part of discussions before Universal Credit is launched in October 2012.

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