1 November 2013
The Claimant Commitment was designed to replace the JSAG for claims transferred onto Universal Credit. However, given the delays to Universal Credit implementation, DWP has decided to introduce the Claimant Commitment for new claims to JSA as an interim measure from October 2013.
The Claimant Commitment is being introduced under existing JSA regulations and does not include elements of the Universal Credit Claimant Commitment, such as the requirement to send 35 hours per week seeking employment. It covers new JSA claims, including Rapid Reclaims and Work Programme returners and completers. It does not include existing JSA claims, or claims to other benefits. It also does not include any in-work conditionality.
The plan is to incrementally rollout the Claimant Commitment into all Job Centres by Spring 2014. Districts will be able to decide whether to introduce it into an office all at once, or more gradually, based on their capacity to train the staff required. 25,000 Job Centre staff are to receive a two day training course along with half a day consolidation in preparation.
DWP maintain that the Claimant Commitment ‘paves the way for the cultural transformation that Universal Credit brings’.
PCS fears that in reality this will mean harsher conditionality for claimants and for more adverse decisions to occur. Where the Claimant Commitment has been trialled before, such as in the Pathfinder offices, there is evidence to show that it resulted in more adverse decisions. There was also evidence of an initial, albeit temporary, increase in UCB activity. It was unclear if this was linked to the trialling of the Claimant Commitment. The Claimant Commitment trialling has been limited and the evaluations not yet shared with PCS.
The Claimant Commitment does not bring with it any change to the numbers of interventions and advisers have the same flexibility to decide this as now. It should also not result in any grading changes as the work will be organised to reflect the existing grading arrangements in Job Centres.
Management expect that both NJI interviews and fortnightly Work Search Reviews will take longer as a result of the Claimant Commitment. They anticipate an additional 10 minutes to the NJI and an additional 4 minutes to the WSR. PCS has pressed management to provide additional resources for this additional work. Management are working on the assumption that this funding will be made available but are awaiting final confirmation of this. However they believe that the need for extra resources will only be temporary on the expectation that
staff will quickly get used to the new arrangements and after three months they will be able to revert to the normal timings.
Group/OSN Implementation managers have been told to engage with their TUS’s to consult them on their plans to implement the Claimant Commitment in their respective areas. It is important that branches ensure this consultation takes place. Branches should also ensure that JCFRA’s are reviewed and control measures tightened given the possibility of increased incidents.
The GEC will keep a close eye on how the rollout of the Claimant Commitment progresses. If there are any problems or issues it is important that these are raised with Group office through branches as soon as possible.
Originally it was intended that, from this October, all new claims to JSA would become claims to Universal Credit. Instead, due to the serious difficulties that have beset the development of Universal Credit, just one Job Centre, Hammersmith in London, will start to take new claims to Universal Credit this October. Here, as with the Pathfinder, these claims will be restricted to the most simple claims involving no children, partners etc. DWP maintains that Universal Credit is still on track but the evidence suggests severe problems remain.