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Universal Credit changes: More claimants must carry out work searches

Universal Credit is a monthly payment to help with living costs. People receive it if they are on a low income, out of work or cannot work.

Today, the government changed the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET), a move which impacts thousands on claimants on Universal Credit.

Here’s how:

The AET determines whether claimants are placed in the “Intensive Work Search” group or the “Light Touch” group.
Previously, people on Universal Credit had to earn the equivalent of 12 hours pay per week at the National Living Wage to not fall into the Intensive Work Search group, which means fulfilling more commitments to keep their benefits. This was increased from 9 hours last September.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has increased the threshold to 15 hours per week, which means more than 120,000 extra workers on Universal Credit move into the Intensive Work Search group, requiring them to carry out more activities – such as work searches and applications – and can mean more contact with a work coach at Jobcentre Plus.

Previously, those claimants would have been above the AET and in the Light Touch group, meaning they are not required to look for work and have less contact with the job centre.

Before today, the AET rate worked out on average at £494 a month for single claimants, or £782 a month if claiming as a couple.

The change to the threshold has increased it to £617 for individual claimants and £988 for couples.

The change will start impacting claimants from 26 February.

Some people on Universal Credit are exempt from the changes, including those unable to work because of long-term sickness or disability, as well as anyone over the state pension age of 66.