The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is making some major changes to Universal Credit in the next few months. The changes will see it subject around 700,000 people to stricter rules to get their benefits. Of course, the new policies were already flawed. However, research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has just further exposed the DWP’s calamitous agenda.
DWP: more Universal Credit chaos
As the Canary previously reported, the DWP is forcing through changes to parents’ and guardians’ obligations under Universal Credit. This will affect 700,000 people. The new rules will see parents with children aged one having to see the DWP every three months for a work-focused meeting. The DWP previously made them do this every six months. For parents with children aged two, they will have to do this every month. Previously, it was every three months.
Then, for parents with kids aged from three to 12, the DWP will expect them to be able to work for up to 30 hours a week. It will also force them to do more work preparation and job searches.
Meanwhile, the DWP is also increasing the amount of childcare costs parents can claim back under Universal Credit. As we previously wrote:
On average, parents see a 23% shortfall in the costs they can claim back under Universal Credit. As we previously wrote, DWP secretary Mel Stride’s:
“claim of the DWP ‘helping parents re-enter’ work is based on parents effectively being worse off in work”.
So, overall the DWP is forcing parents to go back to work, and potentially making some of them poorer in the process.
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Now, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has presented even more evidence that the DWP’s policy is flawed.
Childcare sector under pressure
The trade union body has said that childcare providers across England are “struggling to recruit childcare workers”. The TUC’s research used children’s charity Coram‘s family and childcare data. It said in a press release that it found:
Nearly all (95%) of English councils who responded to a survey told Coram that childcare providers in their area were having difficulty recruiting childcare workers with the right skills and experience to do the job – and eight in 10 (80%) local authorities described it as “very difficult”.
The analysis suggests childcare recruitment is most difficult in the East of England, the West Midlands and the North East – where 100% of councils said childcare providers found it “very difficult” to recruit sufficient staff the with the right skills and experience.
And every single one of the local authorities responding in the East of England, the North East, the North West, the South West, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside described recruitment of childcare workers as “difficult”.
Specifically, the TUC found that:
- Bosses pay 62% of childcare assistants and practitioners less than the real Living Wage (£10.90 an hour).
- Overall, they pay childcare practitioners just 56% of the “median salary for all employees (£18,400)” and childcare assistants earn 58% of this (£19,000).
So, not only is the DWP forcing parents back into work, while forcing many of them into poverty, it also also relying on a sector that is understaffed and underpaid to pick up the pieces.
Benefits and a system not fit for purpose
Dr Patrick Roach is general secretary of the NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union. He said:
There is a wealth of research stretching back many years which demonstrates the extent to which the quality of care children receive in their first few years is a key factor in whether they go on to live healthy, confident and fulfilling lives in future.
Investment in highly qualified and well remunerated early years teachers and carers is one of the best investments we can make as a society in improving health and skills outcomes for young people, whilst raising the status and esteem for the early years sector and its dedicated staff.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the DWP hasn’t thought these policies through at all. However, there is a clear agenda here – forcing as many people into work as possible, with no concern for the impact on those affected.
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