In answer to a parliamentary question from shadow employment minister Seema Malhotra, undersecretary for employment Mims Davies has revealed that the time for interviews has been reduced, despite concern that they were already too short. Responding to Malhotra the minister said: “As we re-introduce claimant commitments we are initially conducting these interviews by phone and testing a 30-minute commitment appointment.”

In a report last year, the Social Security Advisory Committee said many stakeholders felt the allocated 50 minutes was insufficient for some.

The report said: “Several stakeholders felt work coaches don’t have the time to explore all the potential elements of a claimant’s situation if it’s complex.”

Malhotra said: “It beggars belief that the DWP are reintroducing sanctions at a time when they have had to almost halve the time for the claimant commitment interview – the first opportunity for a claimant to raise their often complex and challenging personal circumstances.

“We are also seeing on average one vacancy advertised for eight jobseekers, rising to just one vacancy for every 20 jobseekers in some parts of the country. With the caseload for coaches also set to double, this raises serious questions about the quality of support jobseekers are receiving and the workplace stress new coaches could be put under.”

Separately, analysis by Labour suggests that each work coach will have almost twice the number of jobseekers – 228 on average – to support by October this year compared with before the pandemic.

This is despite the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announcing this month that the number of work coaches would be increased from around 13,500 to 27,000 by early next year.

Read more on the Observer.

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