Government costcutting plans will mean stricter measures for benefit claimants

The unemployed may have to sign on twice as often

All unemployed people might have to “sign on” at the Jobcentre twice as often if they want to continue receiving benefits, under cost-cutting plans being considered by the Government.

Research by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), published last week, concluded that people who were compelled to sign on every week found a job almost six days faster than those who only had to appear at the Jobcentre once a fortnight.

A source familiar with the pilot projects said the Government was taking the results “very seriously” and that all of the UK’s 1.91 million job-seekers could “potentially” have to sign on once a week in the long term.

In 2013, George Osborne announced that weekly meetings with Jobcentre staff would become mandatory for those deemed not to be doing enough to secure employment – “about half” of the total number. But under the new plans, all unemployed people would be affected. Further trials will be conducted before any decision is taken, the DWP said.

Unions reacted with anger to the plans last night, accusing ministers of “punishing the jobless”, who they said would have to spend large amounts of time travelling to and from appointments.

Under normal rules, people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance are required to appear in person at their local Jobcentre once a fortnight. The weekly signing-on trials took place in east London and the west of Scotland. In their report for the DWP, researchers said job-seekers who signed weekly “spent at least an average of 2.6 fewer days on benefits than fortnightly signers”.

A spokesman for the PCS union added: “Weekly signing would require a massive investment in Jobcentres and staff, which runs counter to what the department and ministers are doing, so this doesn’t appear to be designed to help claimants, it’s just another way for the Government to turn the screw.”

A DWP spokesman said: "As we announced early last year, simply 'signing-on' to receive benefits has become a thing of the past and we’ve introduced a range of ways to help claimants move off benefits and into work.

"We’re also trialling more tailored support, such as asking claimants to meet with their work coaches on a weekly basis to go through their job search.  These trials are ongoing."

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