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Slashing benefits for part-time workers if they do not work longer hours during the cost of living is ‘incoherent and damaging’, experts warn.
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to introduce the measure tomorrow as part of a mini emergency budget to ‘get Britain working again’.
All National Living Wage claimants will have their benefits gutted unless they take ‘active steps’ to work more under the new rule.
This includes clocking at least 15 hours of work per week (up from 12 hours), applying for jobs, attending interviews and seeing a ‘work coach’.
The move, expected to come into force from January 2023, will impact around 120,000 people.
Mr Kwarteng described his plan as a ‘win-win’ that ‘boosts incomes for families and helps businesses get the domestic workers they need’.
He said: ‘We must get Britain working again.
‘These gradual changes focus on getting people back into work and maximising the hours people take on to help grow the economy and raise living standards for all.’
But experts told Metro.co.uk that toughing job-seeking rules will be a blow to people already struggling amid eye-watering inflation, a recession and a deepening energy crisis.
Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: ‘Punishing people for not working full time is an incoherent and dangerous policy.
‘While it might make for a catchy headline, it’s another unnecessary pitfall for people to navigate and completely ignores why people on benefits – particularly those experiencing homelessness – may not be working full-time.’
‘It’s not enough to demand that these people simply find better-paid work or work more hours.
‘The government needs to take a more holistic look at the wider issues at play here – which are leaving more and more people unable to afford a stable home – instead of jumping to cutting benefits for some of the poorest in our society.’
Equity, a trade union for performers and creative practitioners, said this policy shows little understanding of the labour market.
‘The group affected are already in work – just low or part-time [Pay as You Earn] work, which could be for many reasons beyond their control such as caring responsibilities, ill-health or lack of available work,’ the union said.
‘The current structure of Universal Credit is already broken for the self-employed.’
Mr Kwarteng’s plan also focuses on claimants aged over 50 to help with the ‘rising economic activity in the age group’ which, the Treasury said, is ‘driving up inflation and limiting growth’.
Kim Chaplain, a specialist work advisor for the non-profit Centre for Ageing Better,said: ‘We want to see government pursuing evidence-based solutions and there is no evidence that sanctions improve employment outcomes.
‘Indeed, research into this area shows a punitive approach has damaging effects on employment.’
Ms Chaplain said there are 350,000 more workers aged 50-64 who are economically inactive since the pandemic — but Mr Kwarteng’s approach isn’t the answer.
‘These workers are not currently engaging with public employment services and the added pressure of sanctions is not likely to encourage them to seek such support,’ she said, adding that flexible hours would be far more enticing.
There are now more people aged 50 and older in work or looking for work than since just before the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Rather than working for longer, researchers say the cost of living crisis is driving retired older people back into work.
Mr Kwarteng tightening benefit rules comes as an increasing number of low-income households are seeing their benefits capped.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 65% increase in the number of households having their benefits capped, according to Department for Work and Pensions data.
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Over 100,000 people to have benefits cut if they don't try and get better pay
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