12.The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) originally laid the Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance (Work Search and Work Availability Requirements - limitations) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 on 7 February 2022 to reduce from three months to four weeks the period during which claimants are permitted to limit their job search to the same occupation and level of remuneration as their previous work (“the permitted period”). The Department said that this change was made with the objective of getting 500,000 claimants into work by 30 June.
13.We were concerned about the Regulations’ ability to achieve this and therefore asked Baroness Stedman-Scott, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DWP to give oral evidence on them. Our 33rd Report of Session 2021–22 included more details but, back in March, we took the view that the target was aspirational, its delivery not fully thought through, and it was uncertain whether the DWP would be able to demonstrate that it had been achieved.
14.After the end of June deadline had passed, we wrote to DWP to ask about the Regulations’ outcome. In its reply, published in Appendix 1, the Department states that by 6 July at least 520,000 unemployment benefit claimants had moved into work during the “Way to Work” campaign. The letter goes on to say, however, that DWP cannot identify how many of these people would have flowed off the register in a “normal” year, and that “it is sometimes hard to disentangle specific impacts” of the campaign. Similarly, it said that there had been an overall increase in applied sanctions, however within the data it was unable to determine which, if any, were due to the change to the Permitted Period.
15.Our 33rd Report criticised DWP’s lack of an evaluation plan and predicted its inability to identify which of the elements of the Way to Work package had been most effective. While DWP claims to have succeeded in its objective, it cannot identify how many of those leaving are a result of the normal seasonal ebb and flow of unemployment, or what proportion of those who left the register did so a result of market forces. DWP cannot identify the degree to which its policy and the various elements which support it, including these Regulations, have had any effect in achieving the target. We therefore regard the Regulations as a poor example of legislative practice.
11 Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance (Work Search and Work Availability Requirements - limitations) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 ().
12 SLSC, (Session 2022–23, HL 176).