Universal Credit: are you affected by the rule change?

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced changes to Universal Credit (UC) requirements. The changes mean the DWP can now make claimants start to look for any job after four weeks of receiving benefits, instead of the current three months.

Previously claimants had been permitted to limit their search to their chosen field for up to three months. This may impact people in creative industries doing freelance work or on commission.

We urgently want to know how many of our members might be impacted by the new rule now or in the future, as there is limited time for judicial review to challenge the decision.

Please email us at derek@theaoi.com if you:

  • are currently being asked by DWP to find work in any field within four weeks of making a UC claim
  • have previously benefited from the ability to limit your job search for three months while claiming UC, and think the new four-week rule would cause you problems if you had to rely on UC again in the future
  • have any other concerns about the rule change

What is the rule change?

On 27 January 2022 the DWP announced that claimants who have agreed to search work commitments in order to receive UC will be required to search more widely for available jobs from the fourth week of their claim, rather than after the current three months – or risk being sanctioned if they don’t.

This is part of a drive to get half a million people into work by the end of June 2022, which the government calls the ‘Way to Work’ campaign. The changes came into force on 8 February 2022.

Benefit sanctions include having payments reduced or stopped for a period of time. This can cause real financial difficulties for many UC claimants and their families, including illustrators and those in the creative industries who rely on UC temporarily between contracts or commissions. 

Questions about the impact that this rule change will have on performing arts practitioners have already been raised in Parliament, but the DWP’s position has been that individuals in the creative industries who are temporarily out of work should have to find any suitable job that pays the national minimum wage, and that they can use this income to support themselves ‘while they pursue any longer-term career options’.

We are concerned that this change will force our members to accept inappropriate work or risk being sanctioned, at the expense of them having time to find work that is more appropriate to their skillset and aligned with their chosen career.

We are concerned that the regulations have been implemented without consulting the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC). The SSAC is an advisory body that the DWP is usually obliged to consult on welfare benefit changes. In this case, however, the DWP has said it does not need to consult the SSAC because the change is too urgent for consultation, but it has not explained why it is so urgent, beyond saying that there is an aim to get more people into work by the end of June. 

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the SSAC have questioned whether this change is truly urgent, and DWP may not have followed proper procedures by failing to consult the SSAC. 

#PayTheCreator

Creators’ work is the foundation of the largest sector within the UK economy. Yet their needs are repeatedly ignored when policy, economic and support decisions are being made. 

We are a member of the Creator’s Rights Alliance (CRA) #PayTheCreator campaign, which brings together the campaigning work of member organisations to collectively call for creators of all types to be paid properly for the work they do, and the rights they grant, and to be given the same considerations enjoyed by other workers in the areas of pay, business support and policy making. 


4th April 2022
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