DWP gets 100,000 benefit claimants back into work as Universal Credit changes begin

Staff speak to benefit claimants at Hull Jobcentre
Benefit claimants meeting their work coaches in a jobcentre as the DWP steps up efforts to get more people off welfare and into employment -Credit:Jerome Ellerby

The Department for Work and Pensions says it has helped 100,000 benefit claimants to get on the path to work in a "significant milestone" as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out welfare reforms to "jumpstart" the UK labour market. It has announced a record number of workplace training schemes have been delivered, exceeding the Government's annual target of 80,000.

The DWP is ramping up its national jobs push, with key Universal Credit changes just announced. Along with the "accelerated" rollout of Universal Credit, which will bring thousands of people on old-style benefits into stricter work requirements, the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) - which sets the minimum a claimant must earn - is being increased from May 13.

The Department says it is collaborating with businesses to get more Brits back into work and reduce high levels of inactivity as well as dependence on foreign labour. The latest efforts to boost the UK workforce also come as many will be starting to see the effect of National Insurance cuts in their pay packets after the rate of deductions went down to 8 per cent from April.


The latest figures published this week show that in the past year a record number of 98,710 places were delivered on Sector-based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs). It brings the total number of SWAP starts to 283,930 – in sectors ranging from coding to hospitality, construction, health and social care.

SWAPs help benefit claimants move off welfare and into work by providing tailored training and work experience ahead of a guaranteed job interview. Businesses that are actively hiring staff are involved in designing the six-week programmes so that participants gain the right experience and skills for a full-time job at the end.

SWAPs are available for those claiming Universal Credit, Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in England and Scotland.

Pubs chain Greene King is among the companies involved. Andrew Bush, CPO of Greene King, said: "We were really pleased to be part of the sector-based work academy in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions and other hospitality employers. Through collaboration, we were able to create a programme that gave candidates a greater insight into our exciting industry, providing opportunities for many to achieve a fulfilling career in hospitality."

The DWP has shared success stories of people who have benefited from SWAPs. Among them is James, 52, from Cleveleys, who was a ground worker for many years until the role became too physical for him. His work coach told him about a HGV SWAP which provided hands-on experience and the exams required to become a qualified HGV driver.

James said: "I have never been so pleased as I was when I passed my test. The SWAP has opened up a world of possibilities for me and I can now start to save towards my retirement. I am so happy in my new job and in my new career. The hard work has paid off. I am so grateful for the opportunity that the SWAP provided me with."

Keith, 47, from St Austell, landed a role in the NHS through a SWAP scheme. He said: "I was very interested in getting into mental health care, but I had no qualifications or experience in the area. My work coach Tom was really supportive and told me how I could get experience in the sector through a SWAP with the NHS.

"The SWAP opened my eyes to the type of roles available within the NHS and gave me the confidence I needed to kickstart my new career. I'm now working as a developmental mental health assistant and cannot believe I've reached my dream of working in mental health so quickly with the help of SWAPs."

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride said: "Our jobcentres are a proven route to changing lives through work and the learning and upskilling opportunities they provide are second to none. As part of our plan to build our new welfare settlement for Britain and grow the economy, this major milestone helps people get on with the skills they need to secure a great job, a higher wage, and a brighter future for their family."

Even more claimants will be offered employment support through jobcentres as Universal Credit extends its reach across the UK, taking the place of six older benefits. The DWP is launching a £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan to help over a million people, including those with long-term health conditions, to enter the employment market.

Anyone interested in taking part in one of the training schemes should contact their local Jobcentre Plus for more information about local SWAP opportunities. In addition, the GOV.UK website has a Find a Job service listing available vacancies.

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