Derbyshire Unemployed Worker's Centre

Expert view: ‘Spring Budget sends wrong messages to benefit claimants’

Posted by: Laura Hammond

Thu 16th March 2023

Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres (DUWC) provides support and advice to people who claim benefits in Derbyshire – and provide drop-in support sessions in Alfreton as part of this.

They have written a piece giving their expert opinion on part of the Spring Budget – delivered on Wednesday, March 15 – during which the Chancellor unveiled a range of measures designed to help people return to work.

As part of this, the Chancellor announced employment reforms for people receiving Universal Credit without a health condition. He said: “There are more than two million jobseekers in this group, more than enough to fill every single vacancy in the economy.

“Independence is always better than dependence, which is why we believe who can work, should. So sanctions will be applied more rigorously to those who fail to meet strict work-search requirements or choose not to take up a reasonable job offer.

“And for those working low hours, we will increase the Administrative Earnings Threshold from the equivalent of 15 hours to 18 hours at National Living Wage for an individual claimant, meaning that anyone working below this level will receive more work coach support alongside a more intensive conditionality regime.”

Here, the DUWC share their thoughts on the decision:

DUWC are furious at yesterday’s Budget from Jeremy Hunt, which sent all the wrong messages to benefit claimants.

Matt Hunt, DUWC’s assistant co-ordinator, said that ‘Jeremy Hunt’s mission statement was clear from the get-go: the Government believes that there are thousands of people who are not working that should be, and just as many who are working, but should be working more hours’. In order to change this, the Government is reforming the welfare system in two fundamental ways.

First, they are scrapping the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), replacing it with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment in an effort to bring more disabled people into the workforce. The WCA has caused incredible distress to so many of our clients over the years, so this move is, on the face of it, a positive one.

However, because of the high rate of refusal of PIP applications, there will be thousands of people who have conditions that prevent them working, but who don’t receive PIP, who will face a significant cut in their benefits.

At the same time, the Government are ramping up their use of sanctions for everyone. All claimants – in and out of work – will have sanctions applied ‘more rigorously’, in the words of the Chancellor. Those who currently work and receive Universal Credit will now have to work at least 18 hours a week (up from 15 hours) – otherwise they’ll need to meet regularly to meet with their work coach to discuss increasing their hours.

Matt Hunt stated: “Let’s be very clear on this point – sanctions do not work. They do not get people back into work. They do not improve the lives of claimants. They do not make the benefits system fair. There is no body of evidence that shows sanctions are an effective tool – and a wealth of evidence shows that the opposite is true.”

Matt went on: “Years of cuts to welfare, public services, and health services means that there are thousands of people in this country who are simply unable to re-enter the job market, forcing them to do so under the threat of sanctions will only worsen this. Funding better support services to allow disabled people to return to work – such as better mental health services, better access to GP surgeries and specialist health professionals – would be a more productive approach, rather than simply weaponising welfare to punish our most vulnerable.”

Finally, the DUWC want to emphasise that these changes will not be coming into effect for a number of years. It’s very likely that we will not see large-scale implementation of these changes before 2027 – so if you care currently in receipt of disability benefits, please do not worry. Your entitlement will not be changing any time soon as a result of the Budget.

As always, if you are unsure about your benefits, you can call us on 01246 231441, or visit any of our multiple locations across Chesterfield, Amber Valley, Bolsover, and North-East Derbyshire.


You can read the Chancellor’s full Budget speech, which also announced changes to childcare funding and plans for Investment Zones across the country, here.