Support finding work

One of the key aims of Universal Credit is to increase employment rates. In part this was to be achieved by the simplification benefit system. The hypothesis was that, if people didn’t have to apply for a totally different benefit when offered a job or an increase in their hours, they would be more likely to take the job or increase their hours. The other strategy aimed at increasing employment rates is the different ‘conditionality groups’ and the regimes associated with them.

Under these regimes, depending on their circumstances, claimants may be expected to prove they are working to increase their earnings and undertake certain activities as directed by their work coach. These regimes do not map 100% to the groups defined in the Welfare Reform Act and those in the ‘all work-related requirements’ group may find themselves under either the ‘intensive work search’ or the ‘light touch’ regimes depending on their circumstances, including how many hours they are working at any given time.1

As previously mentioned, claimants interact with work coaches primarily via the journal and to-do list in the digital account. Work coaches add new items to the to-do list by choosing from a set of generic templates. DWP refused an FOI to extract the list of these templates from their software2, but Annex 6 lists 49 activities that may be expected of claimants identified from various DWP documents. Given the free-form nature of the templates, It is likely that there is much variation within and in addition to these 49 activities. Some activities are tasks that need completing online, such as uploading a CV, others are completed offline, such as attending a skills assessment.

Among the online activities that may be set for claimants are a set of tools developed by DWP and located at These include:

  • Explore work you could do
  • Build your CV
  • Record your work search
  • Choose your activities

As of March 2019, these tools were being used in selected jobcentre areas and are accessed from the digital account, but it is unclear how integrated they are3 4 5 While the completion of individual to-do list items such as these tools may not be considered mandatory by DWP, if work coaches decide that a claimant is not meeting their high-level commitments, then they may still issue a sanction.

Searching for work 35 hours a week

For claimants in the ‘All work-related requirements’ group and the ‘Intensive work search’ regimes, these tools contribute towards the 35 hour a week requirement to look for work. Beyond these specific examples, DWP is vague about how the requirement can be met. It does provide a website called ‘Daily Jobseeker’ hosted on Tumblr which includes some advice.6 However, it does not appear to have been updated since 2018 and the advice is limited.

The government also operates a job search website ‘Find a Job’ that allows anyone, regardless of if they are a Universal Credit claimant or not, to search and apply for jobs. Find a Job replaced the Universal Jobmatch service, which allowed work coaches to directly monitor how many searches and applications a claimant was making. Universal Jobmatch was also plagued with fake adverts, and there were suggestions that jobcentres were mandating the use of the service.7 [^8] DWP recommend claimants use commercial job search websites and the ‘Find a job’ service to apply for work and then record this in their journal. There does not appear to be any integration between these services and the digital account.

If a claimant remains unemployed for 2 years, they may also be referred to the ‘Work and Health Programme’, which is referred to by DWP as a “black box approach” where claimants are referred to external organisations who aim to return them to work. 8 As of October 2019 there were 14 such providers.9

In-work conditionality and work preparation

Many claimants work part-time, but DWP may still require certain activities of them. Exactly what form this takes for any given claimant today is vague, but consists of phone interviews and the development of an action plan.10 11 As early as 2014, the National Audit Office cited this so-called ‘in-work conditionality’ as a hard problem.12 In 2013, the department had planned to test various nudges to encourage people to increase their hours and more recently it has run randomised control trials of different approaches. 13 14

Similarly, those in the ‘work-focused interview’ and ‘work preparation’ groups may have to attend face-to-face interviews. Those in the latter may have to complete items on their to-do lists such as ‘researching childcare costs and provision’ or ‘improving personal presentation’. 15 16

Jobcentres, work coaches and automation

While the business case envisioned an increase in “valuable face-to-face back-to-work support”, since 2017 over 100 jobcentres have been closed or merged, meaning claimants may have further to travel for appointments and support. 37 jobcentres are now co-located with local authorities, often in libraries.17 This raises the question of how this affects the privacy of claimants, because work coaches may be able to observe claimants using library computers to do their job search, or using the library for other activities, possibly in contravention of the 35-hour requirement.

As of March 2018, there were an average of 85 claimants per work coach. This is estimated to rise to 373 claimants by 2024, presumably through automation. 18 Overall, the experience of finding work under Universal Credit looks set to become less orientated around 1-to-1 support in jobcentres and even more orientated around the digital account.

Alongside this drive towards automation and reduction in jobcentres DWP has developed a set of tools for administering Universal Credit. These are considered in the next section.

[^8]: One response to this was the development of a browser plugin that automated the process of applying for jobs. See: “Universal Automation Introduction”, Universal Automation Introduction,,, retrieved 14 September 2019
  1. “Labour market regimes”, 

  2. “List of Todo Templates - a Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions”, WhatDoTheyKnow,com,, retrieved 14 December 2019 

  3. “The labour market tools”, 

  4. Trying to access gives the message “” 

  5. “Working with your Work Coach (Universal Credit full service)”, Universal Credit In Action - YouTube, 23rd July 2017, 

  6. “Daily Jobseeker”, Tumblr, 

  7. Michael Laffan, “Universal Jobmatch - Update for Members - Recent information from the union in DWP”, PCS website, 3rd December 2012,, retrieved 19th September 2019 

  8. “Work Programme”, 

  9. “Work Programme”, 

  10. “Light Touch Regime”, 

  11. “UC intensive work search and light touch regime - a Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions”, WhatDoTheyKnow, 

  12. National Audit Office, “Universal Credit: progress update”, p11, 26th November 2014,, retrieved 4th October 2019 

  13. Richard Evans, “Government texts to encourage part-timers to work longer hours”, The Telegraph, 22nd January 2013,, Retrieved 12th August 2019 

  14. Department for Work and Pensions, “Universal Credit: in-work progression randomised controlled trial”, GOV.UK, 12th September 2019,, retrieved 14 December 2019 

  15. “Work Preparation Regime”, 

  16. “Work focused interview regime”, 

  17. Department for Work and Pensions, “Update on the future of DWP jobcentres”, GOV.UK, 6th October 2017, 

  18. National Audit Office, “Rolling out Universal Credit”, 11th June 2018,, retrieved 4th October 2019