The DWP is scaling up the rollout of its latest Universal Credit benefits crackdown

The DWP and Universal Credit logos in reference to a benefits crackdown
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said it is already moving on to the next phase of a controversial new plan. It’s for jobseekers who claim Universal Credit. The DWP’s latest pilot scheme will see claimants sanctioned if they don’t commit to intensive job search activities. However, it will also reward staff who force the most claimants back into work and off benefits.

Universal Credit: another benefits crackdown

The Canary previously reported on the new scheme. As secretary of state for work and pensions Mel Stride said in a written statement to parliament:

The current pilot will continue to test how enhanced daily work focused support, across two weeks, can further support eligible Universal Credit claimants

This is for people who have been claiming Universal Credit, and that the DWP is making look for work. Stride is dressing the scheme up as “support” for claimants. He told parliament that the plan:

will increase a claimant’s employability through provision of additional one to one work search conversations with work coaches and through work search support sessions to help claimants overcome any challenges they may be experiencing.

Within this, the DWP will also give bonuses to staff who get the most people into work. It will give staff at the top-performing centres £250 in shopping vouchers. ‘Runners-up’ will get £125.

Locations across Scotland and England

At first, the DWP tried the new scheme in a few Jobcentres. However, on Wednesday 8 March minister Guy Opperman revealed that the department was rolling the plan out further. It will be happening at 60 Jobcentres in “Central Scotland, Surrey and Sussex, West Yorkshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire”. You can check what locations the DWP has chosen for the scheme here.

Read on...

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The DWP won’t make all claimants participate in the scheme. It is excluding people:

  • Awaiting a Work Capability Assessment;
  • Required to undertake less than 20 hours a week of work search activity;
  • Who are Gainfully Self-Employed;
  • Who have no work related requirements;
  • With an easement in place; and
  • On a full-time provision offer.

However, this still leaves countless people who will get caught up in it. Moreover, the DWP’s increased trial of the scheme is not as straightforward as it may seem.

DWP: more horror for claimants

Stride said the DWP isn’t just rolling out the intensive daily regime and the bonus scheme out together. Instead, it’s splitting the expanded trial up. Stride noted that as well as a “control group” of Jobcentres:

  • 30 sites will test enhanced daily support only;
  • 30 sites will test enhanced daily support and the rewards scheme; and
  • 30 sites will test the rewards scheme only.

In other words, what the DWP is actually testing is whether or not bunging more money at its staff means they’ll force more people into work. This target-driven approach was a disaster in the 2010s. However, it seems the DWP has not learned from this.

What the department also seems to be ignoring is that the mismatch between how many people are out of work, and the number of vacancies there are. The latest available figures show that there were 1.43 million people looking for work in August 2022. At the same time, the number of job vacancies was 1.22m. In other words, there were more people looking for jobs than there were vacancies.

None of this includes people classed as “economically inactive” – people who are too ill to work, retired, or not looking for work and not claiming benefits. The DWP is planning on targeting these people, too. Stride is currently doing a review on how to force some of these people into work. All of this reeks of a department and government desperately trying to prop up a failing welfare system as well a failing economy.

Featured image via VideoBlogg Productions/the Canary and Wikimedia 

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