Universal Credit warning as sanctions increase – how to avoid payment being reduced | Personal Finance | Finance

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Claimants may get a sanction if they fail to comply with an element of their Claimant Commitment without good reason. A sanction will usually be applied to a person’s next payment and several sanctions can run back to back.

A recent debate in Parliament revealed the number of sanctions had increased 250 percent in the three months before the pandemic.

SNP MP Chris Stephens said: “Different [Jobcentre] offices’ statistics are compared, pushing for higher sanction and deferral rates. Sanctions appear to be back with a vengeance.”

The best way for a person to avoid sanctions on their Universal Credit payment is to read through their Claimant Commitment to be sure they understand it in full.

The commitment sets out what a person agrees to do in preparing for and looking for work, and how they will increase their earnings if they are already in work.

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The document is designed to be tailored to a person’s circumstances and will be reviewed and updated regularly.

Each time the commitment is updated, a person will need to accept the new Claimant Commitment to keep receiving Universal Credit.

A person can view their latest Claimant Commitment online through their account, and can update their progress towards their goals.

For couples, both people will need to agree to an individual Claimant Commitment, and each person may see their commitment affected if their partner starts work or their situation changes.


Higher level

A person will be sanctioned for 91 days for their first higher level sanction, and then 182 days for any further sanctions at this level, in any 364-day period.

This will happen if a person:

  • Has to meet the ‘work search requirement’, and they fail to apply for a particular job when told to do so
  • Has to meet the ‘work availability requirement’, and they refuse a job offer
  • Leaves work or reduces their hours of work, whether voluntarily or due to ‘misconduct’ (while claiming Universal Credit or just before your claim).

There are special rules that apply for how long a sanction will last if it is for leaving work before a person claimed Universal Credit.

Medium level

This will last for 28 days for the first sanction in any 364-day period, or for 91 days for the second sanction at this level.

This applies when a person:

  • Has to meet the ‘work search requirement’, and they fail to take all reasonable actions to find paid work or increase their earnings from work
  • Has to meet the ‘work availability requirement’ and they are not available to start work or attend interviews.

Low level

This lasts until a person does whatever they were sanctioned for failing to do.

There will also be seven days of sanctions for the first low level sanction in any 364-day period, 14 days for their second, or 28 days for their third.

This comes into force when a person:

  • Fails to attend or take part in a work-focused interview, and a lowest sanction level does not apply
  • Fails to attend or take part in a training course
  • Fails to take a specific action to get paid work, or to increase their earnings from work.

Lowest level

This sanction applies only if a person has to meet the work-focused interview requirement, and they fail to attend or take part in the interview.

The sanction will be in force until a person takes part in the required interview.

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