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It seems strange to write a myth-busting article in favour of the Department for Work and Pensions, but it seems whoever told our fellow blog Skwawkbox that there was a two-year time limit for Universal Credit claimants with disabilities to find a job was misinformed.

This should come as a huge relief to many people who raised concerns after the article was published last month.

But it raises serious questions as to the information being circulated around the DWP.

This Writer, acting on concerns that the article was “fake news”, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP on July 19. I received a reply today. It states:

“There is no Work-Related Activity Group in Universal Credit (UC). UC claimants are allocated to one of four legally defined conditionality groups, set out in sections 19-22 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The requirements that may apply to claimants in each of these groups are set out in sections 15-18 of the Act. A link to the Act is provided here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/contents/enacted.

“Claimants who are expected to look for and be available for work must do all they reasonably can to find and take up a job. The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 regulations 93 – 99 set out the parameters for setting work-related requirements and regulations 101- 105 set out the different types of sanctions. A link to the Regulations is provided here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111531938/contents.

“Sanctions are only used in a minority of cases when people fail to attend work-search reviews; fail to meet the work-related requirements they have agreed in their Claimant Commitment; fail to apply for work or take up an offer of work; or leave a job, without good reason. The DWP does not have any statutory powers to sanction or reduce benefit payments solely on the basis that a claimant has been trying but has been unable to find work within 2 years.

“There are no time limits for how long a UC claimant is given to find a job.”

So that’s that. 

The parts of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 are worth reading in their own right – especially paragraph 99 of the Regulations.

As regards the claims that the original article was “fake news”, I contacted Steve Walker, who runs Skwawkbox, on July 22, and he told me:

“Can’t say for sure where the activist who first contacted me got the idea. She begged me to put something out asap to highlight it – I checked it with three separate longstanding DWP contacts whose responses ranged from “yep” to “100 per cent correct”, so I ran the story.”

My experience of Mr Walker gives me every reason to believe that these are the facts of the matter. Apologies are due to anybody who was unduly distressed by the inaccurate information in the article published on This Site on July 17. Considering Mr Walker’s comments, and the fact that the DWP is currently trying to hide facts about ‘outcome reports’ on its fitness-for-work tests after lying by saying it did not hold the relevant information, I can assure all readers that it was published in good faith.

We are left to wonder about the quality of information being given to DWP employees, that made it possible for them to confirm the original allegations as accurate.

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