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Universal Credit Claimants Expected to Work 18 Hours

A Job Centre Plus sign outside a brick building alongside a security camera
Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: May 22, 2024
3 minutes read

Thanks to new welfare changes that started last Monday, anyone claiming Universal Credit who works less than 18 hours a week is expected to look for more work. The previous threshold was 15 hours, but now it’s increased by 3 hours to make people less reliant on the state. However, finances already negatively affect mental health, and this will have a massive impact.

Wider Reforms

As part of broader reforms to the welfare system, the government has introduced an increase to the number of hours people need to work in order to claim Universal Credit. Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the government was radically expanding the support available to help people transition off benefits.

Thanks to the additional hours, it’s expected that 180,000 people will have to work more. This is all in a push to help the UK’s economic output recover, while under the guise of helping people help themselves.

Criticism

Turn2Us is a charity designed to help those in poverty. It urged the government to reconsider introducing the policy as it doesn’t take into account those on the financial edge. The welfare system is supposed to offer support instead of penalising those who need it.

“These changes severely challenge those managing jobs with irregular or fluctuating incomes and carefully balanced responsibilities like childcare. The system, seemingly designed for consistently regular incomes, fails to accommodate the reality of those on the financial edge.”

Michael Clarke – Turn2Us

Earnings Threshold

The 18 hours figure is around half a full-time working week, which applies to anyone on the minimum wage. Anyone who earns more than this will be able to work fewer hours, as long as it meets the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET).

As of last Monday, the AET is now £892, which is the monthly earnings you’d take home if you worked 18 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage. Anyone earning less than this will be asked to look for more work, or something that’s better paid. Similarly, couples earning less than £1,427 will be expected to increase their earnings.

Additional Support

Any Universal Credit claimants earning less than the threshold will be given more significant support at the Jobcentre. This will also include more frequent meetings with a work coach. Anyone not engaging with the process or not taking up available work will lose some of their benefits.

Further Reforms After the Election

As outlined by Rishi Sunak, if the Conservatives win the general election, the welfare system will be completely reformed. Not only would anyone not taking work lose their benefits after a year, but there will be an overhaul on payments to people too ill to work from long-term physical or mental illness or disability.

Naturally, these views have been widely condemned by disability charities, calling it a full-on assault on disabled people.

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