Government Must Learn From Welfare Reform Mistakes, Say Auditors

The Government must use the “hard lessons” it learnt from welfare reforms which caused “significant financial and human costs”, says the National Audit Office (NAO).

In a new report published today, the NAO criticised the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “important and high profile failings” in implementing an unprecedented number of welfare reforms and employment programmes.

The report says the Government “relied too heavily on uncertain and insufficiently challenged operating assumptions, and did not have a sufficient understanding of its portfolio of programmes or overall capacity.”

It adds that the DWP has a “high-level vision but needs to think more strategically when considering how reforms will work in practice.”

“The Department has thought too late about the management information and the leading indicators it needs to understand progress and performance”, says the NAO. “This meant the Department took several weeks to identify backlogs in Personal Independence Payment claims.”

Auditors credited the Government for responding well “to uncertainty”, but added that it “should be able to set out plans with specific timetables, costs and impacts and reflect where flexibility is needed.”

“They should also have clear processes for revising plans against changing circumstances or expectations”, says the NAO.

The NAO criticised the DWP’s initial handling of the Universal Credit. The NAO says the department “held too rigidly to fixed deadlines and now has adopted a more flexible approach. It will need to reconcile this approach with the requirement to monitor progress against milestones.”

In implementing a significant welfare reform programme, the DWP “relied too heavily on reacting to problems and has not been able to anticipate possible failings or establish the principal ways in which performance and progress can be measured”.

The NAO called on the Government to “plan more openly for the possibility of failure, and build an integrated view of portfolio risks and capacity”.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:

 “Any large portfolio of reforms will run into problems. The Department has shown a resolute approach to dealing with them. However, we think it has relied too much on dealing with difficulties as they emerge rather than anticipating what might go wrong.

“As a result it has had to learn some hard lessons with significant financial and human costs. It is important that the Department use these hard lessons to improve how it manages change and anticipates risk.”

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said the Government must learn from the mistakes of previous changes to welfare.

Citizens Advice has found that delays and problems with the delivery of reforms such as Employment and Support Allowance increased hardship and anxiety for many people.  Last year we helped people with almost two million benefit issues, more than any other type of problem.

“As Ministers look to make further savings from the welfare budget it is important they fully understand the impact proposed reforms have on people’s lives.

The Government must be certain that further cuts won’t just shift costs away from the welfare budget and into other areas such as health and social care.

Changes to benefits can have a far-ranging impact on people’s lives, so any reforms need to delivered at a safe and steady pace.”

Source – Welfare Weekly, 29 May 2015



  1. Chris

    It is odd that the Auditors say there are human costs to government’s welfare reforms, as if the Tories have ever cared less.

    The cuts coming now are the complete and utter end of the entire benefit system.

    You Work til you die or starve if you can’t forever onward into old age.

    But at least Tory voters will get hit by the stealth way to cut at least 55 per cent of new pensioners’ state pension with the flat rate that is anything but and ever shall be different money for different people.

    Because all those hard working Tories, working anything up to 50 years paying Naitonal Insurance contributions, are about to find a state pension as low as £8.39 per week fter 45 years in work, or even NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE.

    My BLOG:

    That man with the lowest forecast yet, lives in Scotland, whilst the SNP have sided with the Tories for austerity cuts for us down in England, whilst Devo Max means the Scots have escaped as their tax and welfare is devolved, as is their NHS.

    Wales will get more devolution including on welfare, and already has a devolved NHS.

    Ulster has rebelled on the welfare cuts there, and is not inflicted with the FLAT RATE PENSION CON at all.

  2. Sasson Hann

    ‘Hard Lessons’???!!!!

    The only ‘hard lessons’ have been for those at the mercy of the DWP, who have lived in fear for the last 5 years, and now have the foreseeable future mired in further uncertainty and psychological torture, never knowing if they’ll have a roof over their heads or food on the table.

    And it ‘took several weeks’ to respond to PIP problems: WEEKS???!!! Some people have waited over a year or more, many have DIED before they received the benefit.

    As usual, all these supposed ‘check and balances’, committee meetings one after another, do absolutely NOTHING to protect the vulnerable in this country.

  3. Pingback: Government Must Learn From Welfare Reform Mistakes, Say Auditors | Williamgh's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s