Universal Credit - weekly-sign ons for tax credits?
THE LATEST bad news on Universal Credit (UC) is that "in-work conditionality pilots" are being rolled out in ten Jobcentres, including Hammersmith. For the moment, these pilots will affect only Job Seekers' Allowance claimants. Self-employed people who have their income topped up by benefits such as Working Tax Credit will remain largely left alone by the Jobcentres, for now.
But "in-work conditionality" is likely to eventually be extended as part of the full-blown national UC roll-out planned to start in October. This raises the spectre of much more Jobcentre intervention in the lives of the millions of Workers on Benefits (WoBs), with the aim of encouraging "claimants to progress in work." This "progression" would presumably include compelling freelance WoBs to give up their unpredictable underemployment in irregularly-paid journalism work in favour of badly-paid, unskilled salaried work with regular hours.
There have also been noises from the Department of Work and Pensions suggesting that some types of benefit will move from the current requirement of fortnightly signing-on at the Jobcentre to weekly sign-ons. As everyone who's been there knows, nothing quite knocks on the head your attempts to solicit and carry out work like having to drop whatever you're doing and race across town to sign on.
The Guardian reported in June that software problems could mean delays to the October 2013 launch of UC. Faced with these glitches, the DWP could meanwhile resort to tweaking Working Tax Credits instead. Watch this space.