Benefit claimants who refuse to take a job will face automatic cuts to their handouts as part of back-to-work plans rolled out by Jeremy Hunt.

Treasury sources said measures in the Budget will ‘significantly increase’ the number of financial sanctions imposed on those who failed to attend job interviews or refused to take up offers of employment.

For some time, jobcentres have been able to dock the benefits of people who refuse to take a job, but it is rare.

New funding will allow the Department for Work and Pensions to automate referrals, although a final decision on withdrawing benefits will still be made by jobcentre staff.

‘The current system is not a real deterrent,’ a source said. ‘There are many people at the moment who could be sanctioned for not taking a job but are not. Automation is going to change that.’

Those found to have turned down a job offer could have their benefits slashed for three months, or up to six months if they have had a similar sanction in the previous year.

Voters back move to axe £1m pension cap

Jeremy Hunt’s decision to scrap the cap on pension savings is backed by 60 per cent of voters, a poll found yesterday.

In Wednesday’s Budget, the Chancellor abolished the £1million lifetime tax-free allowance and lifted the annual cap from £40,000 to £60,000. He said this would help prevent doctors and other professionals taking early retirement.

Labour condemned the plan and vowed to reverse it if the party won power next year.

But the study by Omnisis found 60 per cent of voters support scrapping the lifetime allowance, with just 11 per cent opposed. Raising the annual allowance was backed by an even bigger margin.

Sir John Curtice, a polling expert, said: ‘The decision to attack this change may not resonate as strongly with voters as Labour assumes.’ The pension caps have been blamed for driving thousands of doctors into early retirement to avoid crippling penalty charges.

The British Medical Association welcomed Mr Hunt’s move, saying some doctors were already looking to postpone their retirement.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves condemned the £1.1billion scheme as a ‘bung for the 1 per cent’.

Budget changes will also require people to continue seeking more work unless they are already working for at least 18 hours a week –up from 12 hours last year.

Ministers believe the changes could help nudge 200,000 back into the workplace, helping to ease the recruitment crisis that is driving up immigration levels.

And 2.5 million classed as long-term sick or disabled will also be offered new support to look for work. Mr Hunt said the moves were part of a plan for ‘breaking down barriers that stop people working’.

He added: ‘Independence is always better than dependence, which is why we believe those 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.’

The Chancellor said there were currently seven million adults of working age who were not in work – seven times the number of vacancies in the economy.

Ministers believe that only about one million are genuinely unable to carry out any work.

The new back-to-work plan follows months of work by work and pensions secretary Mel Stride.

A source close to Mr Stride said he believed the benefits system should be ‘fair but firm’ to those claiming handouts from the state.

‘His view is that we should do all we can to provide opportunities to help people into work,’ the source said. 

‘But as part of the social contract with the state, if you refuse to engage with those opportunities then you should feel the full force of the sanctions regime.’

The DWP believes there is huge scope for encouraging the sick and disabled back to work, given developments in home working and technology.

Those with long-term back problems and mental health issues will be offered extra health support.

And ministers will abolish the notorious work capability assessment, which require people to prove ill health in order to claim benefits. Instead, they will be encouraged to focus on what work they could do.

Anyone in receipt of the personal independence payment will be allowed to carry on claiming it even if they find a job.

The DWP last night insisted that jobcentre staff would still have the final say over whether someone should lose their benefits.

A spokesman said: ‘We are not and will not be automatically applying sanctions.

‘To help our work coaches, we are exploring how automation can improve the speed and accuracy of sanction referrals.’

Read more

2023-03-18T00:46:55Z dg43tfdfdgfd