Under 25? You must spend 48 hours a week looking for work on Universal Credit?

With regards the 48 hour Universal Credit (UC) Claimant Commitment (CC) weekly ‘expected hours’ to look and prepare for work for under 25 year olds, that someone mentioned* at the Manchester ‘Welfare Action Gathering’, this needs clarification.

“A claimant’s ‘expected hours’ of work search is not something that is intended to drive the claimant to meet an artificial hours target. ”

The impression is that this view stems from a conflation of the EU working time directive that limits the working week to 48 hours, with worker opt outs in certain situations and the national ‘living’ wage restrictions for under 25 years olds.

The DWP UC ‘All work related requirements’, Chapter J2 guidance and regulations refer to 35 hours:

“J2084 The general rule is that, unless an exception applies, the expected number of hours per week is normally 35

The universal Credit Regulations (2013)

“Expected hours
88. —(1)   The “expected number of hours per week” in relation to a claimant for the purposes of determining their individual threshold in regulation 90 or for the purposes of regulation 95 or 97 is 35… ”

With regards the UC CC, it is understood they have a pre-printed statement referring to the 35 hour expectation. However, what is also crucial  is to look at the section called ‘How often’, this lists the CC activities agreed throughout a week and they do not specify specific time to complete an activity, just ‘how often’. Of sample UC CCs seen thus far, many of the activities can  be completed in far less than 35 hours.

Many adults now (76%), or know friends who do, have smart phones with camera and email facilities, would therefore suggest anyone suggesting a 48 UC CC ‘expected hours’ get a photo extract of the CC section on hours and ‘how often’ – as so far cannot find any actual independently verified evidence of any 48 hour expectation.

This 48 hour issue seems to be speculative based upon the working time directive and how the new national ‘living’ wage rates do not apply to under 25s.

As a general observation, it can be best to substantiate any UC expectation that seems diabolical or excessive, do not rely upon verbal testimony alone, as that runs a very real risk of giving credence to the idea that Jobcentres and it’s ‘Work Roaches‘ have powers they don’t and can reinforce or generate unsubstantiated fear and distress amongst claimants.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto includes an intention to create a new benefit called the ‘Youth Allowance‘ for 18 to 21 year olds, under what is known as the ‘Youth Obligation‘.

Edit: Related FOI request

*”Some under 25s on Universal Credit have been made to sign a Claimant Commitment to look for work for 48 hours a week, not 35, to compensate for their lower minimum wage”
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Youth Workfare: Direct Action and Campaigning Against

Suggested actions and considerations, from the 2016 Welfare Action Gathering workshop on The Future of Workfare, specific to the Youth Obligation/Workfare for 18 to 21 years olds:

Undertake a Welfare Action Gathering dedicated to young people, whilst caution expressed about dividing people and anti workfare campaigning on generational grounds.

Organise direct action, campaigns and awareness with schools and colleges

The possibility that the Platform for Life programme, may be rolled out for young needing accommodation, but including a tenancy condition of accepting any job offer.

Tenancies should be time limited and linked to participation in work, further education or vocational training, with the aim of assisting residents into long term employment and independence, and thereby improving their prospects for a successful and healthy life”

Engage with youth workers and teachers/ educationalists

Learn from and look back at the 1985 schools strike against the workfare style Youth Training Scheme

Make creative use of social media, particularly used by young people. snapchat mentioned

Engage with orgs/groups working with and run by young people

With regards ‘voluntary’ Jobcentre Work Experience, being undertaken on the basis of fully informed freely given consent, reference was made to the DWP’s ‘viciously dsyfunctionalculture of threats, sanctions and coercion.

Issues affecting rural communities, poor transport and transport costs

The growth of zero hour contracts

Lower national wage rates for under 25 year olds

Engage with community councils and young people’s assembly’s

Investigate the place young people meet and get together, activist/campaign orientated discos mentioned

Look at how Forces Watch  http://www.forceswatch.net/ works with schools and Funky Dragon http://www.funkydragon.org