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Signing-on not so ‘simple’ anymore – DWP

Jobseekers will have to do more than simply ‘sign-on’ for benefits under new government rules coming into force at the end of this month.

Under the new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) procedures, jobseekers will have to take the first “basic steps” to make themselves employable before meeting with a Jobcentre Plus adviser, and then if necessary meet more regularly with their adviser so they get more support up front.

From 28 April, when a jobseeker has their first interview with Jobcentre Plus, the adviser will review what they have done to make themselves employable prior to claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance(JSA). If they haven’t done anything, they will be mandated to comply quickly and if they don’t they could face a sanction.

To prepare for their first interview with a Jobcentre Plus adviser, jobseekers will be asked to do things like preparing a CV, setting up an email address and registering for the government’s new jobs website. This change will mean people start their (JSA) claim ready to look for work and will show they are serious about finding a job as quickly as possible

Employment minister Esther McVey has hailed the new rules as a fundamental shift in expectations which helps put an “end to the one-way street to benefits” where people start claiming JSA by just signing-on without first taking steps to make themselves attractive to employers.

She said: “With the economy growing, unemployment falling and record numbers of people in work, now is the time to start expecting more of people if they want to claim benefits. It’s only right that we should ask people to take the first basic steps to getting a job before they start claiming JSA – it will show they are taking their search for work seriously.

“This is about treating people like adults and setting out clearly what is expected of them so they can hit the ground running.”

All new JSA claimants will also now have a quarterly review with their adviser where they will review their progress and job goals to identify what more they can do to move into work.

These new measures are being introduced as figures show the number of people claiming JSA fell by over 363,000 on the year, which is the largest annual fall since 1998, according to the DWP.

But Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, said: “This government is already making life intolerable for people who are out of work, with a massive increase in the number of benefits sanctions for even minor transgressions.

“Instead of dreaming up new ways to turn the screw, ministers should be doing something about consistently high unemployment, a drastic shortage of job vacancies and the fact so many new jobs are low paid and insecure.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the pensions secretary, yesterday defended his department’s raft of welfare reforms, which he said should save the taxpayer £50bn by the end of this Parliament.

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