Universal Credit claimants will soon have to work longer hours or attend meetings with “work coaches” to keep receiving payments, new rules state.
The current system says that anyone claiming the benefit and working a minimum of nine hours does not need to attend regular appointments at the Job Centre.
However, this will soon rise to 12 hours according to comments made by Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey.
What did Therese Coffey say?
In an interview with the Telegraph, Ms Coffey said the change would come in “very soon” although she did not give a specific date.
She said: “Once you get a job if you’re working fewer than the equivalent of nine hours a week, we still expect you to be coming in and looking for work.
“We’re going to be raising that, I hope, very soon.”
Ms Coffey believes “we can go further than that” in the second stage of changes if the Treasury were to pay for more work coaches.
Ministers have also spoken of increasing the cut-off point of working hours for benefit claimants to not attend appointments with “work coaches” to at least 12 hours.
Universal Credit is a benefit claimed by almost six million people in the UK and payments are often cut or stopped altogether if claimants fail to turn up to meetings.
Why is the change being made?
Ms Coffey’s confirmation of the change is part of the government’s push to fill vacancies and bring down the number of people on out-of-work benefits.
The move comes as the UK reports high levels of job vacancies, which rose to a record 1.3 million unfilled roles in May. This marked an increase of 20,000 from the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, the number of people on out-of-work benefits reached 5.3 million in November of last year.
Hitting back at claims that 12 hours’ work a week should not be enough to relieve claimants of the responsibility to find more work, Ms Coffey expressed her desire to “get on with the initial bit”.
She said: “That in itself would bring about 120,000 people [into the work coach system]. If we could start and kind of roll that in, then that would be a good stepping point”.