Managing my money
Managing my money

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Managing my money

2.2.6 Government minister and benefits reform

Listen to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith speaking to the Today programme presenter James Naughtie (9 December 2013). The interview focuses on the difficulties that are being encountered in rolling out this massive change to the benefits system – a change made even more challenging by problems with the supporting IT systems.

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JAMES NAUGHTIE
The refrain of the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith about his Universal Credit reform has been pretty consistent - on time and on budget. But it's getting more difficult by the day - the Public Accounts Committee says his department has wasted 140 million in trying to get the system up and running, the department itself has already written off 34 million, Mr Duncan Smith had to call in an outside executive to try to rescue the timetable and the plan. The opposition said it wants all-party talks to try to save Universal Credit, which it accepts in principal, Mr Duncan Smith has said no to that. Well he'll be putting his case to the Commons' Work and Pensions committee today and he joins us now - Mr Duncan Smith, good morning.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Good morning Jim.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Do you still say that it's going to be on time and on budget?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yeah the plan that we-
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Yes?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
- the plan that we put together, which we actually put out at the end of last week, demonstrated really that in essence by the end of 2017 the vast vast majority of people will be on it, there's one group that we won't have taken into Universal Credit, which is those who are on ESA support, some on the workplace-
JAMES NAUGHTIE
About 3-quarters of a million people
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
- Well there's about 700 thousand, but that depends, that shrinks-
JAMES NAUGHTIE
So when you say in essence-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Can I just finish, it's quite important? The reason for that is we quite easily could've tried to rush those people in, but we decided not to. That was what Howard Shipley, the new leader of this has said to me, he'd like to take time because they're the people who don't have any work requirement on them and they've had the biggest change going through the work capability assessment, and therefore they need time to get through and I think it's only fair to give them longer because they're not in the same position as all the others, some 6-and-a-half million people that will be on by 2017, and that's the plan.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
So you're saying the fact that it isn't going to be on time and on budget is because-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
It's on budget! No, no, no, it's on budget-
JAMES NAUGHTIE
- because you're being fair to people?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No, no, it's on budget, and as I said earlier on some 6-and-a-half million people will be on the system by the end of 2017.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Alright, the plan was-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Now what we're talking about is a real reason for why we want to roll those people in the ESA crowd, the people who are on sickness benefits because they've had the greatest change and they are the most vulnerable, and we've been urged to do this by the way by the commitee and by a number of others who have all said "Look, you know, it's fair get the most vulnerable, more slowly, not to fix them in just for a timetable" and I agree with that, that's fine, that's what they've been asked to do. Otherwise, everybody else will be on the system by the period at the end of 2017.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Alright, you say it's on time and on budget-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
And the ABR figures show it is on budget as well.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Well, 20-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
-spending some 2 billion will have- JAMES NAUGHTIE: 2015/16, 4-and-a-half million people were supposed to be on it. The figure that is now said to be the real figure for those who will be is 10% of that-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes, Well, hold on a second-
JAMES NAUGHTIE
- how can that be described as efficiency?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No, no, no, no, you're getting confused with what's on budget. The figures that we were given - 2 billion pounds to do this, and we will have spent under that by the time we get to the end of this program, so the budget figure that you have doubted is correct - the ABR shows that we will be within budget. The second thing is that we've never actually been specific about saying that there would be these, the original plan was the reason I put the red team report in a year-and-a-half ago because I was concerned that the relationship between the security and the online aspects wasn't going to work, and the people that came into the red team, the outside people, said that they agreed with me, and what we actually did was we reset the programme so that we do the volumes later in the roll-out, not so early, and I think that's fair because the lesson we learned from the rollout under the last government for example of Tax Credits where they put out huge volumes through very early on and the whole system crashed, costing-
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Alright, so just to-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
- 30 billion in fraud, that's a lesson I was very certain that we needed to learn, and not repeat, and we won't be repeating that this time.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
Ok so you said you were on time but you're not. Look, on the-
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I'm sorry, I disagree with you, some 6-and-a-half million people, all of those who have a job requirement on them, which is the key to Universal Credit, all the benefits that are relevant to Universal Credit will be on, the system will be the only benefit, all the others will be closed down by 2016, so in essence the decision about the sickest people is for the very good reason that they are actually going to take longer to do because we've got to be very careful that they don't have a work requirement, so that was our plan. Universal Credit will have a huge effect on peoples' lives - it will improve, as we've seen with the latest figures, the amount of time they spend looking for work, the chances they have of going to work and those who are on it at the moment - and we've already rolled out on the pathfinder areas - are all telling us this is a much better system and they approve of it.
JAMES NAUGHTIE
We've got to stop there, Iain Duncan Smith, thank you.
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In the interview Iain Duncan Smith refers to a figure of £30 billion when talking about benefits fraud. Please note that this figure has not been verified and has been challenged by other commentators.

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