Housing: PM announces changes to Universal Credit rules
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Ministers have opted to extend the Intensive Work Search policy, meaning hundreds of thousands of claimants will be required to more actively look for work. At present, if a single person earns £355 a month or below they fall in the IWS category, and have to make regular contact with Jobcentres and a work coach, to continue receiving benefits.
From September 26, the threshold is to be increased by £139 to £494, affecting thousands of claimants.
Under the new rules, couples will have to follow the work-related requirements if they earn £782, a £215 increase from the current £567 threshold.
People who earn over these amounts fall into the Light Touch labour market category and only have to contact the Jobcentre for Work Search interviews on day one and week eight of the scheme.
The Government has said the changes will affect 114,000 claimants who will move from the Light Touch initiative to the IWS regime.
Officials have said the changes will bring the monthly earnings thresholds, known as the AET (Administration Earnings Threshold), in line with the National Living Wage.
A DWP document states: “Since its introduction in 2013, the AET has not kept pace with the increases in the National Living Wage, with the result that the number of hours needed to work to earn the AET has fallen over time.
“The adjustment will bring the AET back to its original ‘parity’ with the National Living Wage.”
Ministers said the IWS requirement is intended to help claimants do “all you can to find a job or earn more”, through job hunting, sending applications and going for interviews.
These requirements are set out in a claimant commitment, and people who fail to follow the rules set out by their Jobcentre are at risk of sanctions.
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These sanctions include reducing the amount a person receives for a set period, for the reasoning set out by their supervisor.
The change has been criticised by the opposition, with Labour saying the policy has been “sneaked” out during the summer recess of Parliament.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, said the fresh policy was “more Tory threats and sanctions”.
He said: “Therese Coffey needs to explain why she sneaked out this far-reaching change that will impact thousands of people.
“We need a credible plan to help people find quality work not more Tory threats and sanctions.”
A Universal Credit spokesperson said the change would bring “more claimants into scope for intensive support”.
Officials can then help “low-earning households” to increase their incomes while the cost of living increases, the spokesman added.
People on Universal Credit can access many free support schemes to help them with their daily costs.
Parents may be able to get a £150 Back to School grant to help with the cost of school uniform depending on where they live in the UK.
Britons can check if they qualify by entering their postcode using a tool on the Government website.
Other help for claimants includes reduced council tax bills, capped water bills, half price bus fares and discounts on gym memberships.
People on the benefit also get free NHS prescriptions and discounts on eye tests and glasses, and free wigs and fabric support from the NHS.
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