It is entirely possible that if you are on Universal Credit, your Work Coach may be asking you to do more job searching than the regulations say you need to do.
Universal Credit is well known for it's intensive mandatory requirements for it's job seekers and how the DWP are pushing everyone into work.
Most claimants put trust in the DWP and their work coach to ensure that the Universal Credit rules are applied fairly to their claim and they will not be asked to do more than the rules say they should do.
However, there are a lot of people who are incorrectly being told to job search and being threatened with sanctions when they are already working and earning a wage. When we speak to our group members about what they are being asked to do by their work coaches, we are uncovering an alarming number of cases where they are not having their work searching commitments adjusted to reflect their current earnings levels and the revised claimant commitments that the regulations say they should have.
It appears that although claimants and group members are earning a wage that brings a more relaxed work search requirement, work coaches are not acknowledging this and leaving claimants with the incorrect work search requirements
Why this is, we are not sure. Whether it's a by product of main stream media putting out a constant message of "all people on Universal Credit will have to look for work 35 hours a week" having some sort of brain washing, work coaches who cannot be bothered to review claimant commitments or is it simply a lack of training? We think its one of the last two reasons.
Whatever the reason - some people are doing more than they have to in return for their Universal Credit payment.
What people aren't being told is that they can still receive their benefit by working LESS than their 35 hours or prescribed hours and not taking part in the work search requirement.
So how much is "enough"?
If a claimant has monthly earnings of more than £338 then they should not be required to carry out any mandatory requirements.
If someone is part of a joint claim and they earn more than £548 per month combined then they should not be required to carry out any mandatory requirements.
The figures used above are called Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) and reflect how much a claimant would earn on the old benefits before losing entitlement to JSA.
So what does this really mean for people?
It means that you don't have to find a job that is actually 35 hours per week to get rid of that job search.
You could be working 11 hours at £7.50 an hour and be left in peace.
It means that if you have a partner that is out working and earning more than £548 per month, then you could choose to stay at home and look after the children.
Lots of you will be sitting wondering why you are being asked to job search if you are earning this much and thinking I'm going to stop looking for a job.
DO NOT STOP JOB SEARCH WITHOUT GETTING YOUR COMMITMENTS CHANGED.
First step is to make sure that Universal Credit service centre are aware that you earn more than £338 per month (or £548 if applicable). You can check what details you gave in your journal. Call for an appointment for a commitments review.
At the job centre inform your work coach that you are aware of "light touch regime" and that you meet the requirements.
Quote the following if necessary, maybe even tell them about our website!
DWP Advice for Decision Makers
J3231 The work search or work availability requirement must not be imposed where;
The claimant has monthly earnings, or if the claimant is a member of a couple, the couple combined monthly earnings, that are equal to or more than the following amount multiplied by 52 and divided by 12
The key phrases to remember are;
If you are going to talk to a Work Coach about the Light Touch Regime, you may want to print this page and give it to the Work Coach to ensure that the Work Coach understands how to apply the Universal Credit Regulations.
The BASE adviser team will be happy to answer any questions you have on this article or any other benefits questions that you need help and support with.
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