DWP’s new law to force more benefit sanctions on Brits is steamrollered by watchdog

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ‘Way to Work’ crackdown on jobseekers has been blasted as vague by peers – who questioned why it was passed as an ’emergency’ law with no scrutiny

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A DWP crackdown that will issue more sanctions to jobseekers has been blasted by a key committee.

A new law on February 8 – passed without any scrutiny or a vote – slashed the amount of time before Brits are forced to accept a job outside their “preferred sector”.

Jobseekers can now be sanctioned if they refuse to take a job four weeks after starting their claim, down from three months.

The law was part of a new ‘Way to Work’ target to help 500,000 Universal Credit claimants into work by June.

It was passed as an emergency law – meaning it did not have to be approved first by the Social Security Advisory Committee watchdog, and there was no vote by MPs.







Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has trumpeted the move
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Image:

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

But the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said the use of emergency powers to bring in the move was “unjustified”.

It added the target is “arbitrary” with “no clear means of measuring success”.

The Committee brought the law to the “special attention” of the Lords in a rare move, and called on the DWP to report to Parliament on whether if it’s hit the target.

The committee blasted: “Extensive additional evidence still left us with the view that the target is aspirational, its delivery not yet fully thought through, and the Department’s ability to say whether its target has been achieved somewhat uncertain.”






The law was part of a new ‘Way to Work’ target to help 500,000 Universal Credit claimants into work by June

It said the DWP was unable to explain how it will meet the target or how it will measure it – including whether people taking part-time jobs will still count as an entire job.

The new rules have been branded “ridiculous” as they could force people to stage hasty career changes with commutes of up to three hours a day.

The DWP said a claimant would have to take up a job offer even if it was a 90 minute commute each way to work, or be sanctioned.

SNP MP David Linden said last month: “Norman Tebbit callously told people to ‘get on their bike’ to look for work when there was mass unemployment under the Tories in the 1980s.

“This ridiculous rule is taking up the Tebbit mantra and forcing people to go miles further or face having their benefits cut.”







Norman Tebbit told jobseekers to get ‘on their bike’
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Image:

DailyMirror)

A DWP spokesperson previously said the 90-minute rule has not changed with the introduction of Way to Work.

They added: “Work coaches take an individual’s circumstances and capability into consideration when setting commitments, ensuring they are realistic and achievable.”

Charities have warned the “forceful approach” could “create huge amounts of anxiety and stress”.

There are also questions about the exact nature of the target.

When Boris Johnson announced the scheme he said: “We are launching a plan to get half a million people off welfare and into work.”

But despite the PM’s boast, it’s thought the plan is only to get 500,000 people into jobs – not off Universal Credit.

Millions of Universal Credit claimants also have a job, but it doesn’t pay enough for them to come fully out of the welfare system.

Labor peer Lord Rowlands, a member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said: “We remain unconvinced that emergency legislation was necessary which, as a consequence, curtailed proper parliamentary scrutiny of a measure that affects the rights of hundreds of thousands of claimants.

“We also remain concerned that the implementation of the plan did not take into account the regional differences in job vacancies.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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