MPs are to examine Iain Duncan Smith’s plans for “in work conditionality” within the Universal Credit system, it has been announced today.
The Work and Pensions Committee has opened an inquiry into controversial government proposals, which would see Universal Credit claimants on low earnings required to increase their pay or hours to continue receiving benefits.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to begin “in-work progression” pilots in 2015/16, where benefit payments may be stopped if claimants fail to take action as required by the DWP.
A range of pilot schemes will test different approaches to in-work conditionality within Universal Credit, but the Work and Pensions Committee says there is very little detail available about the schemes.
MPs will also look at which organisations are best-placed to deliver the in-work service, including JobCentre Plus and providers from the private, public or voluntary sectors.
The Committee’s inquiry will ask which claimants should be included in the pilot schemes and which should be exempt, as well as asking under what circumstances it be appropriate to sanction a Universal Credit claimant who is in work.
Most importantly, MPs will investigate whether any international evidence exists on effective ways of encouraging in-work progression, and whether employers can be encouraged to help workers increase their hours.
The Committee is calling for individuals and organisations to submit evidence addressing the following issues:
- DWP’s plans for in-work progression pilots in 2015/16, and how they should be evaluated
- Which organisations are best-placed to deliver the in-work service for DWP e.g. Jobcentre Plus/other providers from the private, public or voluntary sectors?
- What should in-work progression support entail and how should it be delivered (e.g. regularity and nature of contact with claimants)?
- Which groups of claimants should be included and which should be exempt?
- How should employers be encouraged to facilitate progression?
- In what circumstances would it be appropriate to sanction a Universal Credit claimant who is in work?
- Is there any UK or international evidence on effective ways of encouraging in-work progression?
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “The welfare-to-work strategy of successive governments has begun to crack the dependency on out-of-work benefits that had appeared to be an almost intractable problem.
“Efforts now also need to be focused on a welfare-to-work strategy that not only moves claimants off out-of-work benefit, but more importantly helps them move up the pay ladder and out of poverty.
“Too many people on low benefit incomes have been encouraged into low-paid jobs whose rewards are only brought up to a more acceptable income level by tax credits and other in-work benefits.
“I hope our Committee therefore will examine the available evidence and carefully develop an approach to in-work support which is effective, and which people accept as fair.”