Labour MP Clive Betts has expressed concern that the ICT behind the Universal Credit system are not up to scratch – and that that he has heard evidence that fraud detection is still at an early stage in development.
In a report from the Communities and Local Government Committee, Betts said the Department for Work and Pensions has to “provide swift assurance that the transition to Universal Credit will not leave the benefit system vulnerable to fraud”. This could prove particularly embarrassing for the Coalition as Conservative politicians have claimed the reforms are partly to prevent fraud.
The first trial will begin late this month in Greater Manchester, the BBC reports..
Director of cybersecurity at Thales UK, Ross Parsell, warned that MPs are “absolutely right” to flag their concerns.
“Although the Public Sector Network (PSN) will provide a secure back-end communications infrastructure, a question mark still remains over whether the government will be able to verify, manage and protect the identity of claimants is still under question,” Parsell said.
Parsell said that although it is possible to apply for a passport or a new driving licence online, the citizen is paying cash to the government – to date we haven’t seen a system that works the other way round, and this “is where the risk likes”.
“If a high percentage of transactions are fradulent, the government could come under severe pressure,” Parsell said. “With 1.56 million people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance at a minimum of £56.25 a week, just that element of welfare presents a £4.56 billion fraud risk over the course of a year”.
Parsell suggested a possible answer would be using a chip & pin system for authentication.