There are currently 1.2 million vacancies available which is 59% higher than before the pandemic began and this new strategy is aimed at targeting those who are able to work but either do not have a job or are earning low amounts.
Under the existing rules claimants had 3 months to find a job in their preferred field before facing the prospect of sanctions, however, under these new rules claimants will have to widen their job search outside of their preferred sector after just 4 weeks or face financial sanctions to their benefits if they are deemed to not be making a reasonable effort to secure a role or if they turn down a job offer.
Many critics are viewing this as people being forced into taking up a job in any sector, as ministers announced their desire to fill hundreds of thousands of vacancies in sectors from social care to construction, however, Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has said: “Helping people get any job now means they can get a better job and progress into a career, Way to Work is a step-change in our offer to claimants and employers, making sure our jobcentre network and excellent work coaches can deliver opportunities, jobs and prosperity to all areas of the country. This also promises more tailored support from, and face-to-face time with, job coaches to help claimants find work. Our new approach will help claimants get back into the world of work quickly, while helping ensure that employers get the people they and the economy need.”
Welfare experts have responded to these claims by stating the tightening of benefit sanctions could be counterproductive and could force people into worse jobs and damage careers. They have also said ministers are out of touch with the realities of life on a low income and ignored the evidence about how best to get people into secure, decently paid work. The UK’s foremost academic expert on benefit sanctions, David Webster, said “It is simply wasteful to force people quickly into roles that can lead to bad job matches, and push people into worse jobs, often with lasting ill-effects for their career and earning prospects. You can’t force square pegs into round holes.”