Last month saw the DWP launch a new campaign labelled ‘Way to Work.’  This campaign is a new partnership between government and employers to get 500,000 jobseekers into work by the end of June 2022, which would in theory help claimants then progress further into a career.

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.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said “Its important that everyone has the opportunity and support to find a good job to help them get on in life. That is why we’re doubling down on our plan for jobs with this new campaign to harness the talents of jobseekers and support employers to fill vacancies, find work and create new opportunities. Together we will boost this countries jobs led-recovery.”

Some of the UK’s most vital industries are being threatened by growing skills shortages as poor reputations and concerns about low pay can turn off potential new recruits. Skills development organisation City & Guilds recently conducted a survey of 10,000 workers and found only 17% would want to work in construction, of which a mere 9% of women said they would consider working in this sector, it will need to attract a more diverse workforce to help fill vacant roles!

Rethink – a well-known Mental Illness charity in the UK has started a petition asking the government to end benefits sanctions for people living with mental illness’, however, a job that matches people’s health needs can also be brilliant, particularly when your employer is supportive, but when that’s not the case, and the role requires you to do tasks that your mental health finds difficult, the consequences can be severe. Making sure the benefits system supports people’s mental health is more important now than ever, struggling financially can take a toll on your mental health and with energy prices and other key outgoings becoming more expensive, people relying on Universal Credit that need to meet these costs are likely to already be struggling. Putting people with mental health problems in a difficult position of having to apply for jobs they know will not match their health needs – or face sanctions – risks worsening the vicious cycle of mental health problems and financial difficulties.

There are a wide range of jobs available within the construction industry, it’s not all hard hats and steel toe capped boots! Whilst there is good pay to be earned through the route into the construction sector one cannot expect to start with no previous experience on a higher rate of pay, but you do not always need a university degree to start on a new journey towards success! Jobs such as hazardous waste management, construction managers, civil engineers, surveyors, demolition, HR roles and Highway Maintenance all have the potential to earn over £30k per year, even if it is not under you preferred sector, finding work under this new ‘Way to Work’ campaign may help people to discover talents and a passion for something they did not think they could have and excel in.

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