The government is toughening conditions for jobseekers again as it introduces the new ‘Claimant Commitment’ from October.
The Commitment will replace the existing Jobseeker’s Agreement which already sets out conditions for receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, and will be active in all UK jobcentres within a year.
It is unclear why the change in title has been made; the government has been keen to link benefits to work previously, and the move from ‘jobseeker’ to ‘claimant’ could be seen as breaking that link.
The Commitment will be based on a personal statement setting out what jobseekers will do to prepare for and find work and will be based on discussion between them and their advisers, although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has not said how much influence claimants are likely to have.
The Commitment will be renewed on a regular basis, and will set out a range of conditions for receiving benefits. Any jobseeker not meeting these conditions will be at risk of losing their benefits.
There has been a huge increase in the number of benefit sanctions since the coalition came to power, and the new Agreement may be a way of setting traps so that this number can be increased.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:
“This is about redefining the relationship between benefit claimants and the state. The welfare state will support people when they fall on hard times, but in return they need to meet some contracted responsibilities agreed with a Jobcentre Plus adviser.”
The responsibilities of jobseekers are already set out in the current Agreement so it is not clear from Smith’s words why the change is required.
“For those people on Jobseeker’s Allowance, looking for work should be a full time job. It is fair and reasonable for the taxpayer to expect that claimants should do everything within their power to get into work.”
There have been indications that the DWP intends to make all jobseekers look for work for a minimum 35 hours per week, and the new Claimant Commitment may be a way of introducing this by stealth.