The Department for Work and Pensions has announced a New Year jobs drive that is designed to get more people off benefits and back into work – or to secure better-paid jobs – on top of recent changes to Universal Credit.
The department says its Plan for Jobs is working and it is now aiming to support more people during the ongoing pandemic with 2022 jobs fairs for key industries in the care, hospitality and food sectors.
The increased emphasis on getting people back into employment began as a Universal Credit top-up of £20 a week was cut in October after 18 months. The Government said the benefits bonus was only ever a temporary intervention.
Subsequently, the Chancellor made changes in the Autumn Budget that will see working claimants on Universal Credit get extra money in moves that go some way to making up for the earlier cut.
Two million families on Universal Credit will already have seen more money in their accounts before Christmas, the Government confirmed.
The changes – which see an increase in the work allowance and a drop in the deductions of the taper rate – had been due to come in on December 1, but were brought in a week earlier, on November 24, as the DWP said it had worked around the clock to update its systems with the new rules.
The work allowance is the amount you can earn in wages before your Universal Credit is affected. This has gone up from £293 to £335 if your payout includes housing support and from £515 to £557 if it doesn’t.
Once you earn more than your work allowance your Universal Credit payments are reduced at a steady rate. This is known as the Universal Credit earnings taper.
This taper rate has gone down from 63p to 55p. This means that for every £1 of wages you earn over your work allowance, your Universal Credit will be reduced by 55p, which is 8p less in the £1 than before.
The overall effect is working claimants can keep more of their earned income and still get Universal Credit as a top-up. Rishi Sunak said a single mother-of-two renting and working full time on the national living wage would be better off by around £1,200.
And he said a couple with two children, renting their home with their two children, where one partner works full time and the other works part-time on minimum wage would gain £1,800.
Minister for Welfare Delivery David Rutley said: “More than a million people on Universal Credit are now benefiting from around £1,000 extra a year on average thanks to the rapid changes we have made before Christmas, proof of our promise to support low-income families.
“Matching this with our Plan for Jobs means we’re helping those out of work find rewarding roles, while £500m of support funding is available to assist the most vulnerable with the cost of essentials.”
Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said: “With the number of people on payrolls now above pre-pandemic levels across every region and age group, including the biggest monthly increase on record in November, it’s clear our Plan for Jobs is working.
“As we look ahead to next year, we remain wholeheartedly committed to helping employers recruit for the record number of opportunities out there and to giving people – at any age and any career stage – the support and skills they need to confidently land their next role.”
In the West Midlands, the DWP says Birmingham and Solihull jobcentres are supporting jobseekers and helping businesses to recruit.
Natalie Cartmell, Partnership Manager at the DWP, explained: “Over the last year our jobcentre network has stepped up to support local people and businesses affected by the pandemic.
“Through Plan for Jobs we’ve established additional temporary jobcentres in Chelmsley Wood Shopping centre, Aston Newtown Shopping Centre and Summer Hill with more soon to come.
“Extra work coaches have been offering jobseekers individual, tailored help. The Kickstart scheme has been a great success.”
“Good quality work with local employers” had been offered to young people worst affected by the pandemic through training providers The Future Melting Pot and Kickstart, she said.
“In the new year we’ll be concentrating on recruiting for the key industries in care, hospitality and food sectors with jobs fairs being planned,” she added.
Morgan Wild, head of policy at Citizens Advice, welcomed the changes made in the Budget, but said they didn’t cushion the blow of the £20-a-week cut for those still looking for work or the 1.7 million unable to work because of disability, health issues or caring responsibilities.
The Resolution Foundation said: “Three-quarters of families on UC will lose more from the £20 cut than they gain from the Budget changes.
“Even if we also take into account the impact of the faster-than-average-earnings increase to the National Living Wage, the poorest fifth of households will still be an average of £280 a year worse off overall.”
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