Job centre staff to get bonuses for getting people work

The government is setting up a job centre league table and will give £250 bonuses to staff who get the most people into work.

It is part of a pilot scheme in 60 job centres aiming to get more Universal Credit claimants into employment.

The government said it is right to reward staff when they help people secure work.

But the PCS union said the scheme was "gimmicky" and would not help address the "poverty pay" of job centre staff.

According to an internal Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) document seen by the BBC, officials want to test whether financial incentives for job centre teams "drive better outcomes".

Staff will be set targets, or what the document calls "into work stretch aspirations".

Staff at the top performing job centres each month will receive £250. The next best performing staff will get £125 each.

The pilot will also make it compulsory for Universal Credit claimants who have been on the benefit for thirteen weeks, to visit a job centre every weekday for a fortnight for "intensive support". Failure to attend could lead to sanctions.

One internal document says that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, has asked that the pilot "apply more mandatory activities to increase movement into work". It said this should be delivered within the existing budget and be "able to be scaled quickly".

The department says the 13-week mark is critical because it is the point at which a claimant's prospects of moving into work decreases significantly.

At present, Universal Credit claimants normally only meet with a work coach once a week for the first three months and once a fortnight after that.

The PCS union said the scheme was an "insult" to its members.

The union's DWP Group President, Martin Cavanagh, said the pilot would increase the likelihood of claimants being sanctioned due to missed appointments.

He said the government was ''hell-bent on making it more difficult for people to claim benefits" and warned the pilot would increase the risk of poverty for jobseekers who fell foul of it.

"Asking more customers to travel more often into job centres does nothing to help our staff or their workloads,'' he added.

The union's DWP staff have recently been on strike over pay. They have been offered a 2% pay increase for 2022-23 but are demanding a rise of 10%.

There are currently 1.3 million unemployed people in the UK and a further 9 million who are economically inactive which means they are neither in work nor looking for work.

Ministers are concerned that economic inactivity could hold back economic growth. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has set up a review of policies to raise workforce participation and could make an announcement in the Budget on 15 March.

The Resolution Foundation said the best way to boost the workforce was to encourage more mothers in low-income families into work, and to help people who need to take time-off for ill-health to stay attached to their jobs.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: "It is right that we reward our staff when they go above and beyond, and helping people to secure, stay in, and succeed in work is a key government priority.

"DWP has an existing in-year reward policy in the form of vouchers to colleagues."