‘It’s absurd!’ Universal Credit claimants call out plan to introduce tougher DWP sanctions

Universal Credit: Expert discusses benefits of claiming

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Under new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rules, jobseekers will only have four weeks to find a job in their preferred field of work. Failure to make “reasonable efforts” to secure employment within this timeframe will result in part of their Universal Credit payment being reduced or taken away. This is part of the Government’s Way to Work campaign which is designed to help fill thousands of job vacancies across the UK.

However, this rule change will give claimants even less time than they currently have to find their dream job.

Currently, claimants have three months to find their preferred job before being encouraged to take alternative employment by the DWP at risk of sanctions.

Following this revelation, former Universal Credit claimants are sharing their opinion on the Government’s decision and what else should be done to assist young claimants who are struggling to get on the job market during the pandemic.

Chloe Buck from Liverpool is one such claimant who believes the DWP rule change is “absurd” and not sufficient enough to tackle the country’s wider employment issues.

Ms Buck said: “Personally, I think this will increase temporary employment because if you put someone in a job that they hate, the reality is they’re not gonna stay.

“They’re just going to go in and out of jobs, and on and off benefits. What we do is we invest time into people: pulling up their skills, building their confidence so they can be employed long-term.

“This is just going to completely escalate temporary employment and a decline in mental health for some. People don’t enjoy being in jobs they are forced to be in.

“It’s absurd to charge over £40,000 in student loans, and have someone study up to six years in their chosen profession to tell them you’ve got four weeks to find a job. That’s absolutely absurd.”

Now working as Vacancy Coordinator who helps young Universal Credit claimants get jobs through the Government’s Kickstart scheme, Ms Buck has first-hand experience of finding work and being on benefits during Covid.

She explained: “I was a Covid graduate, I graduated in 2020, when we were at the height of a pandemic, and I got my degree in acting.

“Obviously, the creative sector is hard to break into anyway but in that climate it was just absolutely impossible.

“I found myself having to sign on to Universal Credit and felt like I’d built those six years of training for absolutely nothing.

“I wasn’t gonna break into that career and it felt like I’d have to give up to be honest. It was a bad time.

“So I know what it’s like to be a recent graduate or to be someone who’s got your heart set on a particular sector and has that ripped away from you.

“I know how disheartening it can be to have trained for so long and be told you’re not going to have those opportunities.”

Through the Kickstart scheme, Universal Credit claimants between the ages of 16 to 24 have the opportunity to take part in work placements in one of their desired fields while continuing to get paid.

However, the Government has confirmed it will roll back many of its pandemic-era support measures, including the Kickstart programme.

“They need to continue to fund and create similar schemes to Kickstart,” said Ms Buck.

“Unfortunately, they are going to pull the Kickstart scheme but that doesn’t mean they can’t create similar ones.

“We need investment in employability skills courses and training, and actually help people who are unemployed reach their potential, rather than just shoehorn them into roles that they won’t fit into.”

Express.co.uk has contacted the DWP asking for comment.

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