Universal credit sanction system to be tightened in Jeremy Hunt’s “back-to-work” budget
The universal credit sanctions regime is set to be tightened to get hundreds of thousands of people into work in a new push by Jeremy Hunt, sparking concern among activists.
The job search of benefit recipients who look after the children who are their main carers is to be strengthened, as the chancellor announced this week in her so-called “back-to-work budget”.
An overhaul the government has described as “the biggest welfare system reform in a decade” is also set to scrap the work ability assessment – which campaigners say is flawed.
The Government will also start paying childcare costs on Universal Credit upfront rather than afterwards, while increasing the maximum amount beneficiaries can claim for childcare by several hundred pounds.
While proposals to increase the use of sanctions were branded “worrying” by General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress Paul Novak, he hailed increased support for childcare as “long overdue”.
“The abolition of the work ability assessment is to be welcomed if it means an end to the assessments that cause anxiety instead of helping people achieve their goals,” he added, calling for greater investment in public services to get people off waiting lists of the NHS and remove barriers to training.
James Taylor, of disability equality charity Scope, said removing the rating was “the minimal change required to even begin improving a welfare system that regularly fails disabled people”, stressing the need a “more person-centric system” that provides “specialised, tailored and flexible” support.
“Anyone who wants to work should be supported. But for some, that’s not an option and people with disabilities shouldn’t be forced into unsuitable work,” he said. “The government has a lot to do to restore confidence in our benefits system.”
Under the plans, employment agency staff will receive additional training “to ensure they use sanctions effectively,” while administrative elements of the sanctions process will be automated, including notifications to applicants who miss meetings, to “reduce the error rate,” it said called the government.
Hundreds of thousands of applicants are being urged to attend meetings with work coaches more regularly, with skills bootcamps set to expand by 8,000 places a year by 2025, up from 56,000, the government said.
The minimum amount a person can earn without having to attend regular job center meetings will be raised from 15 to 18 hours of national living wage earnings, while regulations allowing those with a working partner not to attend meetings be abolished .
There are currently more than 1 million job vacancies in the UK economy, with a fifth of the working population unemployed and not looking for work, the Government said.
While unemployment is near a record low of 3.7 percent, data from the Office for National Statistics shows the number of people unemployed due to a long-term illness has hit an all-time high of around 2.3 million following the emergence of Covid -19
“Those who can work should work because independence is always better than dependency,” Mr Hunt said, adding: “For many people there are barriers that prevent them from getting a job – a lack of skills, a disability or a health condition or illness have been absent from the labor market for a long period of time.
“We must close the skills gap and give people the skills, support and incentives they need to enter the workforce,” continued the Chancellor. “Through this plan we can address labor shortages, bring down inflation and put Britain back on the growth path.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Labor Secretary for Shadow Work and Pensions, said “the Tories are following our lead”, adding that families “are struggling after 13 years of Tory economic failure”.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/universal-credit-sanctions-hunt-budget-b2298836.html Universal credit sanction system to be tightened in Jeremy Hunt’s “back-to-work” budget