Universal credit (UC) claimants are to be faced with a new sanction trap disguised as help to move into work. The scheme has been condemned by the DWP staff union who say the government is “hellbent on making it more difficult for people to claim benefits”, even though jobcentre workers stand to gain from a £250 ‘incentive’ if their office tops a league table.

UC sanctions are already at a record high. Over 98% of all sanctions are for failure to attend an interview, with over half a million claimants being sanctioned for this reason last year.

Yet, under the new Additional Jobcentre Support scheme claimants are being forced to attend  a jobcentre 10 times over a two week period.  In these obligatory sessions they will have “work search conversations” and “support sessions”. Missing a single session is likely to lead to a sanction.

The scheme has been tested in 4 jobcentres is now to be rolled out to a further 60 across England and Scotland.

According to DWP secretary of state Mel Stride, the DWP will also be offering a bonus “to recognise and reward jobcentre teams who furthest exceed their aspirational targets.”

The reward is a £250 voucher for each member of staff in the best performing jobcentres.

No explanation of what “aspirational targets” consist of or whether they include getting people off benefits, sanctioning claimants or solely getting claimants into work. 

The PCS union, which represents DWP staff has no doubt, however, that the main purpose of the Additional Jobcentre Support pilot scheme is to make life harder for claimants and “the incentivisation of placing others into a more vulnerable situation.”.

Martin Cavanagh, PCS DWP Group President, said:

“Our members will see through this pilot for what it is – a government hellbent on making it more difficult for people to claim benefits and which will increase the risk of poverty for those customers who fall foul of this pilot. Asking more customers to travel more often into jobcentres does nothing to help our staff or their workloads and does nothing to help the customers find the work that they need.”

The PCS also revealed that there are no additional staff to deliver the extra work, which is likely to mean poorer service for all jobcentre users.

The pilot is aimed at claimants who have been in receipt of UC for more than 13 weeks.  It will not include claimants who are:

  • Awaiting a Work Capability Assessment;
  • Required to undertake less than 20 hours a week of work search activity;
  • Who are Gainfully Self-Employed;
  • Who have no work related requirements;
  • With an easement in place; and
  • On a full-time provision offer.

The scheme has already been running in Coalville, Crawley, Partick and Pontefract Jobcentres.  The new pilot began on 27 February in 60 jobcentres across Central Scotland, Surrey & Sussex, West Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

Benefits and Work would be happy to hear from anyone involved in this scheme.

You can read Mel Stride’s statement on the Additional Jobcentre Support pilot here

You can read the PCS union’s statement here.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    J · 23 days ago
    Not true people waiting health assessments are still being target with this bs I am one of those peole
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    Fiona MacMillan · 4 months ago
    So I've been attending the jobcentre everyday this week and the same again will happen next week. I am at week 6 now? Why has this 'scheme' been forced upon me so early in my job hunt? I've had 2 interviews so far with another one at the end of next week too. Feels like a cynical and punitive move to get me sanctioned. Has anyone got any advice? It's stressful as hell and I'm finding my work coach extremely corrosive.
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    Elle · 4 months ago
    I was part of the pilot in Northamptonshire. Had to attend a session at the jobcentre the day before an interview, and had to take a call from a Work Coach whilst on the way to said interview. All this was a distraction when I should have been able to concentrate on preparing. Needless to say, I didn't get the job. The session I had to attend had no relevance to me as it was focused on applications rather than interviews, and it's quite difficult to get to the jobcentre reliably because Northants is quite rural in parts, and bus services are a lottery. I got to another jobcentre session after having to take a taxi thanks to my bus not turning up, only to find that the session was not running as the staff member hadn't made it in due to transport issues of their own. I had made every effort not to get sanctioned, but I don't suppose the staff member faced anything like the same consequences. A complete and utter shambles.
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    Jae. · 11 months ago
    After graduation, my son, on being unemployed for 1year, sadly, had to claim UC.  He had lived off his meagre savings thus far and did not wish to join the system.  On being offered a min 15hrs bar job at our local Wetherspoons, he accepted it: he just wanted to begin working.  His meagre wages were topped up with UC - but he sleeps on my floor, not earning enough to move out.  January, this year, he noticed his UC account had been CLOSED - YES CLOSED: he had worked silly hours, all over the holiday period, his laptop needed repair - no smart phone (money?) but he was confident that should there be any messages from UC over the holiday, they had always sent a text alongside  any email.  BUT NO!  In January, while his laptop was in the shop, an email was sent, but NO TEXT: email had stated: ''Please sign your new commitments, by 14the January, or your account will be closed.''  He got his laptop back on 16th January, checked his account to find the closed account.  He did not realised, that his working 15 hours a week, meant ''new circumstances''.  Having spoken with his jobcoach at Christmas time, signed off, etc and his Jobcoach, having told him ''he need ''do nothing more'' now working except, update his 'online journal' which, he did religiously.  He immediately raised a Mandatory Reconsideration on 16th January but hasn't recieved any UC since January as his account wasn't ''sanctioned'' but CLOSED.  Now he waits.  And waits.  It is fortunate for him that I would not see him hungry or worse - homeless but this ''MR'' is no doubt designed to put off the most desperate claimants from appealling!  Many cannot wait for an MR to be processed.  And if my son, lived alone, or had Housing Benefit to pay to a Landlord - then he would be destitute - and once again, UNEMPLOYED, as a result of his claim being CLOSED.  The treatment of many honest, and working, UC claimants is inhumane.  It is shameful.  It is dishonest. And it does NOTHING to encourage working. It does NOTHING to support working. I may be naive, but feel horrified by the department's behaviour/policy.  It is vile.  I shall be contacting my MP on my son's behalf as by now, he has waited for 2 months for his Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) to be heard.  I honestly doubt that it will ever be heard.  It sickens me.
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    clearwater · 1 years ago
    Does this also apply to ESA?
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    SWilson · 1 years ago
    I and others have received several messages in our UC Journals trying to trap us into this despicable scheme, despite being disabled and having no work related requirements.  UC breaking the law and their own procedures as per usual, with total impunity, and the possibility of a £250 bonus for crooked staff. UC and UC trying to implement this system will never wash the blood off their hands.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    MrFibro · 1 years ago
    >>>Martin Cavanagh, PCS DWP Group President, said:

    “Our members will see through this pilot for what it is – a government hellbent on making it more difficult for people to claim benefits and which will increase the risk of poverty for those customers who fall foul of this pilot. Asking more customers to travel more often into jobcentres does nothing to help our staff or their workloads and does nothing to help the customers find the work that they need.”  

    Mr Cavanagh can bleet as much as he likes, the tossers in the"lets make people poverty sticken" cabinet wont listen to him.  They have an agenda to make claimants pay for the goverment's political /financial cockups.

    These oxygen wasting MP's are all self-serving parasitical rats, all hell bent on causing misery, and suffering to the less fortunate people in our society.  And will go to any, and great lengths to keep on doing it, no matter the cost to human life.

    You just could't make it up if you tried with this shower of greedy muppets ol.  
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    Andrew.belcher · 1 years ago
    How can they get people with disabilities back to work wen firms not take lability and not take them on . 
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    Tracy Greenaway · 1 years ago
    This is an absolute disgrace..hammered in all directions. Getting a bonus for doing a poor job. Money shouldn't be a motivation for good work.ethics..On a personal level they havent helped me at all.  I sit in the office and can hear everything as they can my information. People.cant often help.the situation they find themselves in and can see this a s just making matters worse. 
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    Steve · 1 years ago
    My wife and I had some strange messages pre-Christmas on our UC account.  The Jobcentre wanted to discuss with us any way they could "help us".  What puzzled us is that we are both in highest category's of PIP, ESA and UC for support and it wasn't the DWP but the local Job centre.

    We assume it was a disguised way of seeing if we could be put back into the workplace which we would dearly love to happen but sadly not reliable enough to be employable.

    Frustratingly there are so many obvious things they could do to help people return to the workplace but always go for the incentivise staff and penalise claimants rather than incentivise the claimants. Why not offer claimants the £250 as a bonus if they pass an approved training course e.g. start a course in September and get the payment in time for Christmas. Do the same Jan to Mar (by Easter) Apr to July  (by Summer) and soon you will have a better educated, trained pool and motivated pool of people.

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      ClaireLO · 11 months ago
      @Steve This happened to us last year- again, from the local JC. I raised hell about it with our CM and armed forces champion 
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      MrFibro · 1 years ago
      @Steve Well said Steve.
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    denby · 1 years ago
    I notice the initial four and many of the main pilot are areas with a great deal of disadvantage in already. Least likely to be able to shout???
    Admit not had time to read the detail, are claimants being offered provision of travel costs by any chance? Or are they in a postcode lottery of never mind heat-or-eat, but get-to-your-compulsory-appointment or do anything else human?
    I would like to know how many of the sanctioned thousands missed their 'appointments' because they could not read a text message summons on a phone with no credit or no charge due to poverty?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      They work 5 days a week · 10 months ago
      @denby Are you aware that DWP employees have had an increase in April due to the national minimum wage increase but they are expected to travel up to 90 mins a day can be moved from any office within this travel time and don’t get any help with travel 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      MrFibro · 1 years ago
      @denby Nicely put Denby.
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