DWP brings in digital support for Universal Credit programme in £5m deal

Contract covers improvements to existing services and supporting migration for millions still claiming legacy benefits

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The Department for Work and Pensions has signed a £5m deal to access digital support for the ongoing rollout of the Universal Credit programme.

The contract, awarded to tech services giant Cognizant, covers improvements to existing services, as well as supporting the migration of 2.5 million people that still claim so-called legacy benefits but need to move to UC by the end of 2024.  The deal, which came into effect on 2 November and lasts for an initial term of two years, is also intended to assist in the DWP’s work to reduce fraud and error.

The contract says: “To achieve better outcomes for citizens, our objective is to design and deliver user-centric services which provide clear information and a consistent and joined up digital journey that also considers claimants needs across non-digital channels.

The DWP requires a supplier to “provide experienced, digital resources to work alongside DWP in agile rainbow teams… [in]: developing prioritised backlog agreed with UC senior management team”. 

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There are currently 16 digital teams working on the UC programme, the contract reveals, each of which has responsibility to “identify problem statements, design, develop, test and deploy features within their area of focus”.

Teams typically include “a product manager, delivery manager, business analysts, user researchers, interaction/UX designers, Java developers, test engineers supported by service designers, data scientists and others – for example frontend developers, [who] tend to work across multiple theme teams”.

The document adds: “Given the complexity of the UC service and the need to understand processes within DWP, we anticipate that supplier staff will be embedded within existing to aid knowledge transfer.”

Supported by staff from Cognizant, digital teams will work on services and tasks at various stages, including discovery-stage research, building and testing prototype products, and designing, delivering, and supporting live services.

The supplier is expected to provide the department with two user researchers, two interaction designers, seven Java developers, and four DevOps engineers.

The deal will be worth £4.1m over its initial 24-month term, plus a potential additional £1m if the DWP opts to extend it by a further six months.

After pausing the switchover during the pandemic, in May the department resumed the process of moving claimants of the six outgoing legacy benefits onto Universal Credit.

When the resumption was announced, DWP revealed that people will “gradually notified of when they will be asked to move to Universal Credit”, with all claimants moved by the end of 2024.

The department said that the six legacy benefits “all have complex and inefficient systems based on aging, inflexible IT”, while UC offered “a modern, digital system which stood up to the test of Covid-19”.


Sam Trendall

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