In Work Support – what does it mean for UC claimants?

The DWP has developed what is being presented as a practical and tailored support offer for Universal Credit claimants who are in work, but what does that look like and what will be expected of claimants? 

The DWP has developed what is being presented as a practical and tailored support offer for Universal Credit claimants earning above the so-called Administrative Earnings Threshold. To deliver the programme, 37 new District Progression Leads are in place across the UK; roll out will be complete by 22 March.  

  • Work Coaches have been trained to provide in-work service to claimants to help them progress either in the same sector or in a different, high-growth area. Claimants will be supported to develop progression plans, based on individual circumstances, setting out practical steps to reach an agreed goal and outlining support available at each stage. The plans will be regularly reviewed. It may involve developing new skills, or securing a job that allows more flexibility around caring responsibilities.
  • The District Progression Leads will deliver specialist support to Jobcentres, building the expertise of Work Coaches on local opportunities in individual sectors, local transport networks, childcare provision, and appropriate local skills provision. Progression Leads will work with local partners such as Skills Advisory Panels, skills providers, and employer-led Local Skills Improvement Plans to help ensure skills provision is more responsive to the needs of local labour markets. Progression Leads will also work with and influence transport authorities and other partners to ensure local transport policies support progression for all claimants.
  • The Flexible Support Fund will be used on a case-by-case basis to support people to overcome barriers such as travel costs, childcare costs and clothing. This will also be used in some circumstances to provide funding for training and education. Full guidance can be found here Document Title (

At present the emphasis is on the voluntary nature of the support, which can be requested via a UC claimant’s online journal, and the Programme as an effective and potentially transformative way of building confidence, identifying barriers and exploring creative ways to overcome them. However, the DWP is also exploring if the Claimant Commitment could be used in the future in respect of the Programme; this may involve embedding the progression plan into the Commitment, effectively mandating the steps outlined in it. Furthermore, from September 2023 UC claimants in the “Light Touch” Group will be obligated to engage with the Programme.

What is the Administrative Earnings Threshold?

Universal Credit claimants who are in work are currently placed into groups known as “Intensive Work Search” and “Light Touch”. The Administrative Earnings Threshold or AET and Conditionality Earnings Threshold or CET determine which group a person is placed in based on how much they earn, and therefore how much support they will be expected to engage with to increase their earnings. Claimants earning above the AET but below the CET are placed in the “Light Touch” group where they may receive some form of support from a Work Coach. This will be less than those in the “Intensive Work Search” group, but more than those earning over the CET in the “Working Enough” group.

Changes which came into force on the 30th January 2023 mean that in work claimants will remain in the Intensive Work Search Group until their earnings reach a new higher threshold. The new threshold is monthly earnings equal to, or less than, 15 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage for a single person, 24 hours combined for a couple. In both cases the amount is converted to a monthly amount by multiplying by 52 and dividing by 12; earnings not from employment are excluded. In effect, a single claimant earning below £617 per calendar month and couples with combined earnings below £988 per calendar month will fall into the “Intensive Work Search” group. This means that these claimants will require to attend fortnightly meetings with a Work Coach as a minimum, and will be expected to engage frequently and intensively with Jobcentre Plus.

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