The time that unemployed people spend with “job coaches” when applying for universal credit (UC) has been almost halved as unemployment rises, government ministers have admitted.
The shortening of the first, crucial interview on the applicant’s commitment from a 50-minute face-to-face session, just 30 minutes by phone, is evidence of the tension exerted on the system by Covid-19.
The first interview is when candidates explain their circumstances and learn what they need to do in terms of job search.
Recently ministers announced that they were reintroducing sanctions – financial penalties suspended during the blockade – for people who do not meet the agreed conditions.
Now, in response to a parliamentary question by shadow labor minister Seema Malhotra, undersecretary for work Mims Davies has revealed that the interviews have been shortened, despite the concern that they were already too short. Responding to Malhotra, the minister said: “While reintroducing the applicants’ commitments, we are initially conducting these interviews by phone and testing a 30-minute engagement appointment.”
In a report from last year, the Social Security Advisory Committee said that many stakeholders believe that the 50 minutes allotted are not enough for some.
The report says, “Several stakeholders believe that job coaches don’t have time to explore all the potential elements of an applicant’s situation if it is complex.”
Malhotra said: “The belief that the DWP is reintroducing sanctions at a time when they have almost halved the time for the interview on the applicant’s engagement – the first opportunity for an applicant to raise their often complex personal circumstances, is a beggar. and difficult.
“We are also seeing on average one vacancy advertised for eight jobseekers, moving to one vacancy for every 20 jobseekers in some parts of the country. With the bus workload also expected to double, this raises serious questions about the quality of the support job seekers are receiving and the stress in the workplace that could be put under pressure on new buses. “
Separately, Labor’s analysis suggests that each job coach will have almost double the number of job seekers – 228 on average – to be supported by October this year than before the pandemic.
Nonetheless, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced this month that the number of work buses would increase from around 13,500 to 27,000 early next year.