Iain Duncan Smith. Photo credit: Brian Minkoff - London Pixels / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has confirmed that part-time workers could face benefit sanctions under Universal Credit.

Iain Duncan Smith told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that trials were being carried out in parts of the North-West of England, on removing benefits from part-time workers who refuse to take on extra hours.

“In work conditionality” within the Universal Credit system could encourage part-time workers and the low-paid to seek additional hours, said Mr Duncan Smith.

However,  Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said people were dying as a result of the having their benefits docked, a claim dismissed by Mr Duncan Smith.

Mr Duncan Smith told Debbie Abrahams that the benefit sanctions regime was “helping people focus” on finding work or additional hours, adding “a job doesn’t stay static at 16 hours – you want it to develop”.

Ms Abrahams asked the Work and Pensions Secretary: “Can you confirm that there is an intention to introduce in-work conditionality with Universal Credit and, if so, what sanctions could be applied, and under what conditions to the 3.5 million people in work on low pay and in receipt of tax credits?”

Iain Duncan Smith replied: “That is being investigated, as to whether we can now work to in-work sanctions – in other words, conditionality – so people get an opportunity to move up the hours if they can, and if they don’t wish to do that, we will see whether or not that system of conditionality works. We are trialling that.”

Ms Abrahams also accused Duncan Smith of a cover-up after he said no money had been lost during the botched introduction of Universal Credit. The DWP has already been forced to write-off £40 million in failed IT software, with an additional £91 million predicted to be lost over the next few years.

Universal Credit is replacing a number of existing benefits, including Housing benefit and Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, and rolling them into one single monthly payment. However, the government’s flagship welfare reform has been beset with delays and costly IT failures.

Up to a million households were originally expected to be in receipt of the new benefit by the end of 2014. But DWP figures show that less than 15,000 households or individuals were on Universal Credit by the end of September – mostly single people. The national rollout is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

Mr Duncan Smith said trials of Universal Credit in the North-West of England had resulted in claimants finding work more quickly or taking on extra hours, leading to “early savings to the Exchequer”.

He added that businesses were more willing to take on people claiming Universal Credit than Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, because those people could accept additional hours while keeping more of their benefit.

“Normally in a business, a job doesn’t stay static at 16 hours – you want it to develop”, he said.

“Businesses know that many people will not work more than 16 hours because they don’t think it is viable for them to do so because of all the withdrawals.

“What we are beginning to experience in areas of the North-West is they can now work to progress that individual and set training programmes around them, so it is worth investing in that individual to develop their own skills and their own productivity.

“In the North-West, many businesses are now asking to have people on Universal Credit to come and take interviews, because they know they can develop them all the way through.”

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Photo credit: Brian Minkoff – London Pixels / Foter / CC BY-SA

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  1. So, if someone has a 20 hour a week job, the employer is going to have to increase the number of hours that that person works and pay them for it or their benefits will be cut?

    I’m sorry, but employers are hard pushed to give people the wages they do pay! Again this shows that Mr Iain Duncan Smith is on a planet called “Conservative Heaven” and lives in “Ingland”! He certainly is not on this planet and in this country!

    • My boss would love to have full time workers but at the moment this is not viable. Just because DWP says so, doesn’t mean it is possible.

      • Not necessarily, what it means is that people are going to have to have 2 or 3 different jobs to make up the hours like many do in other countries such as the US. So back to the jobsearch!

    • Exactly. Employers are cutting hours, not increasing them. How is this even practicable in real terms? If you are working on minimum wage, as the vast majority of low paid workers are, and are working 16 hours a week there is a very good reason. No, you are not ‘feckless’, you either a) need to have child care cover, which the extra hours of work won’t pay for, or b) your employer hasn’t, or won’t give you the hours. In the NW where Duncan-smyth is piloting this scheme, there is no work, Period. Getting more hours out of employers is like getting blood out of a stone. Getting regular (non agency) full time work is harder than Chuck Norris. No employer has ever said ‘we will take on people on Universal Credit so we can develop them’. I used to work for ACAS in the NW, and getting employers to train and develop staff is nothing short of a Herculean task This is simply a way to cut Benefits – again. IDS, UK liar of the year 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013…

  2. Ian Duncan Smith is a complete idiot, (and we all know he is), if he thinks people are going to be able to force an employer to increase their hours, just because the DWP tell the claimant they must. The majority of part time workers are contracted to do specific hours a week or times a day. In such cases, are these people going to be sanctioned because they cannot get extra hours?
    Also, most claimants, who work part time, know that if they accept a second offer of employment or increase their hours past 16 per week, they will have their benefits stopped completely. So under this new proposal, they are screwed if they do, and screwed if they don’t!!

    This Government are a shambles, mind you most of the other parties are looking just as bad these days. Not one party is actually looking for ways to create the jobs, and the wages people need in order to get out of the benefits trap. And thats what they should be doing, not bullying people into the grave or onto the streets.
    Reduce immigration, increase taxation for those who can afford it, remove taxation from those who need benefit top ups – (reduces the need for claiming benefits), remove the despised Bedroom Tax, and start improving the funding for our schools, the NHS, emergency services, and military.

    Heres an idea for politicians to actually think about, and parents too.
    What about increasing the school-leaving age to 18? Hear me out please. Those two years can be spent as a vocational period, half of it in college, and the other half in work placements – two or three months in a variety of occupations tailored around what they study in college. Those who can afford to, should ”contribute” to the college fees, which would include the placements.
    Allow the military to have 16-18 year olds ”conscripted” and taught a trade – non conbat related obviously.

    Anyways just a few thoughts for the thoughtless who have the temerity to think they are running this country, but are in fact ruining it.

  3. The sanctions regime doesn’t ‘help people focus’ on finding work. That’s absurd – just crude propaganda, as there is no real reasonable rationale to be had for applying sanctions. So he has to scrape the barrel for a reason to impose his will, as that’s what he’s doing. Similarly the idea that employers somehow positively want to eliminate part time work for all workers is no reflection of reality by any standards – if anything they would prefer to keep labour hours as flexible as possible which is why they tend to favour zero hours contracts and a deregulated labour market. The idea that people ‘have the opportunity’ to ‘move up their hours’ is equally absurd – we all know the logic of business works the other way – that employers prefer to keep labour hours to a minimum to maximise profit.

    Also, the benefits system pays barely enough survive without any sanction being applied and that’s ‘focus’ enough for anyone. He still seems to be suffering from the misapprehension that people would rather stay on benefits, which is patently untrue. Applying a sanction doesn’t ‘focus’ people. Instead it demoralises them, removes what slender financial means they have to be successful in finding work and worse still, in may cases, drives them to despair and even some to suicide, to which Mr. Smith chooses to remain deliberately and steadfastly obtuse. In reality, applying a sanction invariably means people have to start to take steps to merely survive instead of being able to focus on worksearch – and that’s only possible for those equipped with the survival/life skills to do so. Mr. Smith is obviously oblivious to the proven and long established concept underpinning Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Need – that people need basic stability, food, a roof over their head, before they can move to the next stage of progression – in this case before they can think about securing a job.

    On top of this, the sanctions regime is now being applied almost indiscriminately – for every single ‘misdemeanour’ one is under threat of a sanction under a bogusly constructed conditionality system. On that last point it’s worth pointing out that the conditionality created by people paying into the system when working has now been withdrawn, leaving many to question why are they paying if they get nothing back in times of unemployment? I digress, just leaving aside the sheer misery and stress this causes to all those many sanctioned. The introduction of a hugely complex UC system that plainly isn’t working is now hampered by an additional layer of operation in the strict policing of everyone on benefit. The sheer amount in cost to pay staff for looking for an excuse to sanction, applying a sanction, then fighting any appeal raised by individuals sanctioned – this process alone must cost more than the money they save from actually sanctioning people. Madness! Sheer cruel, unthinking insanity!

    Smith is uniquely dispossessed of the faculties needed to recognise what people need in order to defeat their own poverty. His beliefs would automatically disqualify him from working in any post where care is needed especially from posts that involve working with vulnerable people. Imagine if he turned up for an interview for a job working with disabled people. When asked how he think he would best get them into work? He’d most likely say ‘Well, first I’d tell them their disability is a nonsense, then I’d tell them I’m not allowing them to eat till they started to look for work, as that will focus them!’ If he did do that he’d be out of the door quicker than a jumping jack flash!

    The irony is, is that he is in charge. But not just of a few people, but millions, and to make matters worse, that’s just the modus operandi he enjoys employing. The only difference is, is that such is his arrogance and hubris that he’s convinced he’s right. It’s plain that the man is a menace and needs to be removed. But more alarmingly is that the Conservative leadership allows him to continue and with their apparent blessing – and that’s the most worrying aspect of them all.

  4. A majority of people in my work are disabled we got our hours cut from 21 to 16 to avoid redundancies there is no way they can afford to give people extra hours.

    • You’ll be surprised at how much work employers can find for people if they don’t have to pay them for it.

  5. You can see where this is heading. People working part time hours usually do so because that’s all there is, anyone who usually works part time because it fits in probably doesn’t need any state help.
    There is little or no work available in many areas but you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be plenty available when people get sanctioned as one of the criteria will no doubt be work 20 hours for your money and 20 hours free for the advantage of the employer and the government.

    This government is totally devaluing work and people and when this has a foothold there will be no turning back as employers won’t advertise paid jobs when Ian Drunken-Smurf provides them employees for free.

  6. cameron an the rest of the dicks in goverment are no better than any other dictator might aswell just kill us now get it over an done with stuck up rich fucks

  7. Ah yes, those part-timers. Always popping in for a few hours of work before dashing off to the country club for a few mimosas at lunch. Throwing the kids in the back of the landrover and taking them to tennis lessons and moaning about how ‘busy’ they are! Perhaps if we offered an incentive by cutting thier benefit…hm…
    —–flash to reality—
    Ah yes, those part-timers. Working unpredictable zero contract minimum wage jobs. Replacable at the drop of a hat and struggling to find childcare to cover odd work hours. Taking parents and children to GP appoinments on public transport that is so expensive one trip will cost an entire weeks wages. Hand washing clothing because the washer broke and they can’t afford a new one, and standing in the grocery aisle looking for the cheapest meat because they have to pay for electricity out of the meager food budget. <—as if living like THAT isn't incentive enough!?!?!?! People work limited hourse because they HAVE to for one reason or another. No able bodied person lives in destitution as a lifestyle choice!!!! It boggles the mind how deluded this guy is!

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