Increasing the length of time people who lose their jobs will have to wait before they can claim benefits will not help them find work, and risks pushing unemployed people into the arms of loan sharks, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warns.
From Autumn 2014 anyone who is unlucky enough to lose their job will have to wait seven days before they can make a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), according to a consultation published by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC). The SSAC advises the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on benefits issues.
TUC say that according to the Government’s own impact assessment the change means that people will lose £40 in benefits they would have received under the current system. That system asks that people who lose their jobs wait three days before becoming eligible to claim unemployment benefits, rather than the seven days waiting period being proposed by the coalition government.
It’s worse news for anyone forced to give up work due to illness or disability who face losing out on £50 in benefit. The TUC say that the Government’s own impact assessment shows that disabled people will be severely disadvantaged by the changes and that under Universal Credit “the potential hardship is much greater”.
The impact assessment, which forms part of the consultation published by the SSAC, suggests that the change in the waiting period for benefits will affect as many as 1.3 million people a year.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Forcing people to wait for job support will not help anyone find work. Instead it will make them easy prey for loan sharks. This has nothing to do with making work pay. It is simply a mean attack on the welfare safety net and could affect any one of us.
“It won’t matter how long anyone has had a job or how much they have contributed to the system, they will all suffer the same penalty. The vast majority of people who lose a job thankfully find another one within a few months, but this is when they need help to tide them over between jobs. That is why we have a national insurance system to which we contribute when we are in work – a system that is now under attack.”
Paul Gray, Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), said:
“This proposal has history. An identical change was put forward by the Government in 1998 but subsequently dropped. Then, as now, an understandable desire to ensure limited public resources are used most effectively was the main driver for the proposal. However, as benefits are now being paid fortnightly in arrears, it is important that we understand the full impact of this change – particularly on the most vulnerable. We are keen to hear from anyone who is able to provide information about the consequences of this change”.
The change is expected to come into force from October and anyone wishing to have their say are asked to submit evidence to the SSAC (pdf) by 13 June 2014.