‘Work 200 extra hours a year to avoid cuts’: DWP’s ‘Christmas message’ to working families

© Stefan Wermuth
Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Iain Duncan Smith says families threatened with welfare cuts should work for an extra 200 hours per year to avoid losing out under new benefit regulations starting in April.

Duncan Smith admitted families receiving in-work benefits would be worse off after April 2016, but suggested they work harder to offset the impending cuts.

In a document released on Tuesday, the DWP admitted working families could lose up to £1,600 (US$2,380) per year, despite previous claims by Duncan Smith that people on universal credit would not be made worse off by the changes.

Those who are on universal credit at present will be fully supported through the flexible support fund, which will provide all the resources necessary to ensure that their situation remains exactly the same as it is today,” Duncan Smith said earlier in December.

However, the department now says people should combat the cuts by working harder and “recoup the loss” caused by welfare reforms by working an extra three or four hours each week.

We also expect many claimants to respond to the changes to work allowances announced in the summer budget by actively seeking more work, and we will support them with this.

“For example, someone could recoup the loss from the Work Allowance changes by working three-four additional hours a week at the national living wage to which they are entitled.”

The initiative has been criticized by Labour, which says Duncan Smith’s “Christmas message” will make benefit claimants “livid.”

“Working families set to lose thousands of pounds next year because of cuts to Universal Credit will be livid at the Tories’ offhand suggestion that they just work more hours,” Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith said in a statement.

It’s the measure of Iain Duncan Smith that he is trying to shift the blame for the cuts on to the victims. His Christmas message is work an extra 200 hours a year and you’ll be no worse off.

“Instead, the Tories should come back in the new year, show they have learned their lesson from the tax credits fiasco and issue a full U-turn on the cuts to Universal Credit.”

A spokesperson for the DWP defended the move, saying Universal Credit is “at the heart of our welfare revolution.”

“It ensures work always pays, and supports people to progress. And it is working – under the new system people are significantly more likely to be in work, and earn more than under the old system.”