DWP releases new Universal Credit training scheme plans but ‘more still needs to be done’
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Universal Credit claimants will receive extended support and training going forward as Rishi Sunak laid out the Government’s “most ambitious funding package” since 2015. Recently, the state launched a £500 million expansion to its multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs and on top of this, the Chancellor set out plans to invest £3.8 billion in skills by 2025.
Universal Credit changes
On November 1, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released an update on what can be expected going forward. Across the UK, Universal Credit claimants can attend full-time work-related training courses for up to 12 weeks while still receiving benefit payments.
This is an extension from the Train and Progress (TaP) initiative as prior to April 2021, claimants were limited to eight weeks of training.
The extension will also mean those receiving Universal Credit who are in the intensive work search group can take advantage of more sector-specific training, which can range between digital skills to social care and engineering.
In England, customers can also take part in the free Department for Education Skills Bootcamps for up to 16 weeks, and will be able to access the planned HGV Bootcamps.
Mims Davies, the Minister for Employment, commented: “A higher skilled, higher paid jobs market is in everyone’s interests – and this change can help us get there. It means job seekers across Great Britain can build their skills and progress, seizing new opportunities as we bounce back from the pandemic.”
“UK employers are struggling”
While many employers welcomed this news, some warned the changes will not go far enough and more niche focus is needed. Kevin Hanegan, Chief Learning Officer at Qlik, noted additional efforts are needed to make sure applicants have relevant and up to date skills.
He said: “UK employers are struggling to fill vacancies across many different sectors.
“The £3.8billion investment into skills outlined in the Budget is a promising step to help fill these vacancies. Yet, while quadrupling the number of skills boot camps for adults is moving in the right direction, more still needs to be done to ensure candidates have the relevant skills to apply for the most in-demand jobs.
“This means continued investment in upskilling to support the development of future-proofed skills – like digital and data competencies – that are in demand today and will be, more so, in the future.”
Similar sentiment was shared by Paramjit Uppal, the CEO and Founder of AND Digital. Mr Uppal warned talent gaps remain the biggest threat to UK competitiveness for the coming years.
“This is the right direction. However, I would like to see more investment going into the software design/development skills development,” he said.
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“The UK needs more skilled people who can build software and data solutions for every organisation – the gap in the needs of large and small, private and public sector organisations and the availability of talent is the single biggest competitive threat to the UK over the next three to five years.
“Investing in people and their potential will be the catalyst for innovation and will underpin a society that already relies so heavily on digital progress. As schemes develop, we should expect to see more support measures and investments dedicated to developing the technical skills people need to help build products and experiences that can make a real impact.
“It’s right to make this training commitment to adults of all ages; learning is a lifelong process. Supporting people in cultivating the technical expertise and fundamental digital skills they need to progress is simply the right thing to do.”
Currently, people can get free training if they’re unemployed and claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, in an Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity group or required to do training as part of a Universal Credit claim.
A claimant’s Jobcentre work coach will keep the claimant informed of what training they can do. Additionally, if they’re claiming other benefits or cannot get free training through their job centre, they may be able to get funding from colleges and training providers.
Taking advantage of these training programmes is important as under the current rules, Universal Credit claimants will make an agreement called a “Claimant Commitment” with their work coach. Adhering to this commitment will be needed to ensure payments come through regularly.
What will be agreed upon will depend on the claimant’s specific situation. Claimants may need to do such activities such as write a CV, look and apply for jobs and go on training courses.
Where claimants have a partner, they’ll both each have a Claimant Commitment and set of responsibilities.
Both claimants may need to attend regular appointments with their work coach by phone, by video or face to face in the jobcentre. If they miss an appointment without a good reason, their payment will be affected. This is called a sanction.
During the pandemic, the need to jobhunt was reduced but as relative normality continues to return, more emphasis could be placed on Claimant Commitments once again.
Universal Credit eligibility
To be eligible for Universal Credit initially, a person must be on a low income or out of work entirely. On top of this, they must be aged between 18 and state pension age, have less than £16,000 in savings and be living in the UK.
Claimants who are in full-time further education can also apply so long as following is applicable:
- They do not have parental support and they’re not under local authority care
- They have limited capability for work and they’re entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- They’re responsible for a child
- They’re in a couple with responsibility for a child and their partner is eligible for Universal Credit
Claims for Universal Credit are made online through the Government’s website.
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