Benefit crackdown aims to get half a million people into work by summer

Ministers will today launch a new benefits crackdown designed to get half a million unemployed people back to work by the end of June.

Ministers will today launch a new benefits crackdown designed to get half a million unemployed people back to work by the end of June.

As Boris Johnson battles to get on the front foot amid the Partygate row, the Government will unveil new rules to force benefits claimants to take a job more quickly.

Under the Way to Work campaign, those deemed capable of work will be expected to take jobs in any sector much sooner than they are at the moment.

Currently, people are allowed to look for jobs only in the sector where they used to work for three months, before they have to search more widely if they want to hold on to their benefits.

That period will be reduced to four weeks. In addition, jobless people will get more face-to-face time with work coaches.

The crackdown will be seen as an example of a ‘red meat’ policy designed to make the Prime Minister more popular with Tory backbenchers and voters.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: ‘Helping people get any job now means they can get a better job and progress into a career. Way to Work is a step change in our offer to claimants and employers, making sure our job centre network and excellent work coaches can deliver opportunities, jobs and prosperity to all areas of the country.

‘As we emerge from Covid, we are going to tackle supply challenges and support the continued economic recovery by getting people into work.

‘Our new approach will help claimants get quickly back into the world of work while helping ensure employers get the people they and the economy needs.’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘It’s important that everyone has the opportunity and support to find a good job to help them get on in life.

‘That’s why we’re doubling down on our Plan for Jobs with this new campaign to harness the talent of jobseekers and support employers to fill vacancies, find work and create new opportunities. Together we will boost this country’s jobs-led recovery.’

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there is great demand for workers, with a record 1.2million vacancies to fill, 59 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The crackdown will be targeted predominantly at those in the intensive work search group on Universal Credit – people who are able to work, but are either not working or are in work but earning low amounts. The requirement for people to search more widely for jobs from four weeks after their claim rather than after three months is designed to ensure that, if they are not able to find work in their previous occupation or sector, they will look for work in another sector.

This will be part of their requirements for continuing to receive their benefits payment.

Officials say that for the vast majority of people who are already engaging fully with Jobcentre Plus, this could be enough to help them secure a job.

But for the small minority who do not engage, the benefits sanctions regime will operate as usual.

The Department for Work and Pensions will engage with a wider range of employers to cement positive relationships and show them the good quality of candidates coming through job centres.

This includes direct engagement with employers across booming sectors such as construction, haulage and logistics and social care, and at 350 jobs fairs taking place in the coming months.

Major employers including Balfour Beatty, Whitbread Group, TalkTalk, Bourne Leisure, Ocado and Kier are already throwing their weight behind the campaign.

Reacting to the launch Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Connecting job-ready people to vacancies is a welcome move. Our research shows that four out of five firms are struggling to find staff to fill jobs across a wide range of sectors and skill levels.

“So many brilliant firms across the country are crying out for people to join their teams and employers will help candidates succeed in the great jobs on offer.

“The world of work is changing rapidly, and everyone needs to be prepared to retrain, update their skills and move to new sectors as jobs evolve.

“But job seekers must have access to careers advice, and support with rapid training and reskilling, to be well prepared for the employment opportunities available in their local area.”