Kwasi Kwarteng has tightened rules around universal credit in a bid to “get Britain working again”.
As it stands, universal credit claimants working up to 12 hours a week at the National Living Wage are at risk of cuts if they don’t take steps to increase their earnings nor meet regularly with a work coach.
However, The Chancellor said this morning that this threshold would be raised to 15 hours a week at the National Living Wage, pushing 120,000 more people on Universal Credit to take steps to seek more work, or face cuts to their allowance.
Announcing the move in the mini-budget, he said: “One of the proudest achievements of our Conservative government is that unemployment is at the lowest level for nearly fifty years. But with more vacancies than unemployed people to fill them, we need to encourage people to join the labour force.”
Universal credit is measured by how much you earn rather than the hours you work. Work activities that claimants could be asked to take part in include making job applications, seeking references and registering with an employment agency.
Jobseekers over 50 will be given extra time with work coaches to help them return to job market in a bid to push more people back into the labour market.
Shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: “So Tory ministers think [the] reason we have over a million vacancies is because the low paid aren’t working hard enough and need to be threatened with sanctions but bankers needs bumper bonuses.
We need a serious plan to support people to return to work & increase labour supply.”
A petition has also been circulated around social media following the news, calling on the government to hold an emergency budget to boost universal credit.
The initiative is headed by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as anti-poverty groups and faith leaders, and has received 173,611 signatures.