Working in the team responsible for communicating information about Universal Credit, I often find myself quoting famous Roman stoic Seneca. I mean, who wouldn’t?
He was an unusually perceptive person, and a decent playwright, by all accounts – but the line that I keep coming back to is, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
What (I think) he’s saying is there is no such thing as luck – you get what you put in; put yourself out there and when the opportunity comes, be ready to take advantage.
Incredibly, this is pretty much what we are saying about Universal Credit. ‘Opportunity’ and ‘preparation’ are golden threads that run throughout our communications, and they play a huge part in shaping the narrative we tell and the support we offer.
In practice, that means Universal Credit has been designed to create opportunity for both jobseekers and businesses. It does that by removing some of the barriers that might in the past have stopped people taking work, or taking more work. In short, it’s about flexibility.
For jobseekers, flexibility means in and out of work support – which means Universal Credit gives support for jobseekers and those in work to help them become more independent.
It does this by topping up a low income, so claimants are better off for every hour they work. The idea is a simple one – to always make it worthwhile taking that job, or doing those extra hours. And because the support is there in and out of work, the transition from one to the other is smoother – making short term jobs more attractive.
For businesses, it means being aware and able to take advantage of this more flexible workforce plus the removal of other barriers such as the 16 hour rule. It’s an opportunity, we hope, to think again about the way they recruit, retain and support their employees to progress.
For organisations like you that help us support claimants, Universal Credit gives you access to a wider pool of vacancies, roles and employers than ever before. And a clearer ‘work pays’ message to support you in discussions with claimants.
So that’s the opportunity. My role in all of this – and that of the team I work in, is therefore a simple one; all we need to do is help people and businesses and providers prepare properly to make best use of these new opportunities to help claimants move into work.
To do that, I present to you our new Employer Hub which provides information about Universal Credit, and the opportunities it brings for employers. It also includes detailed guides for HR or recruitment teams, FAQs and other guides which you might want to share within your organisation. And it provides links to information for claimants too. Have a look round – see if it does what you need it to. If so, great; if not, let me know. I want it to help you build your knowledge so you can support claimants and employers. If it isn’t doing that now, I’ll make sure it soon does.
We’re using our social media accounts to talk about the way that Universal Credit can help businesses and individuals, so keep an eye out for posts from our @dwp and @dwppressoffice Twitter accounts or LinkedIn account, and maybe link to some of our content or share your own views – please use the #universalcredit hashtag on twitter.
For jobseekers, the reassurance that they will be supported out of work and in work should give them more confidence to try new jobs and the ability to use part time or temporary work as a stepping stone to independence. So, in theory, the labour market should expand for these people as they look to (for example) different types of work, different locations and different working patterns – if Apple hadn’t beaten us to it, ‘Think Different(ly)’ would perfectly articulate how we’d all want to encourage jobseekers to act.
To prepare for this new way of thinking, we have a really (I think) useful web portal called the daily jobseeker. It is full of hints from employers, agencies, Jobcentre Plus and others. It’s a place we want jobseekers (of all stripes, not just UC-claimants) to go and share hints, tips and ideas. You might find this backs up your work too, so feel free to use it with people you’re supporting or even link to it from your site or products.
We’re using our social media accounts to pass on hints, signpost to helpful resources or encourage people to think differently about sectors and roles. Again, we’d appreciate your support with this – by retweeting content from the @dwp twitter account, by helping us promote the daily jobseeker or by using the #jobsmart hashtag to post local job vacancies or helpful advice.
We hope to see providers, businesses, workers and jobseekers putting themselves in the best place to take advantage of these changes and ideally, we want these groups sharing with us the ways that they have benefited; and how they have taken control of their own situation. As Seneca also said, ‘Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.’