Universal Credit supports many Britons on low incomes with payments due to increase by 10.1 percent in April. How much a person or couple receives depends on their situation, so they have to update the DWP if their circumstances change so their payments are accurate.
It is an offence if a person does not inform the DWP when their situation changes which could result in a criminal investigation.
If a person is suspected of taking advantage of the Government’s benefit system, they may be visited by a Fraud Investigation Officer and be asked to attend an interview about their claim.
These interviews are recorded and could be used as evidence in a later criminal investigation.
The claimant will then be instructed to pay back any overpaid money and if they are suspected of committing or attempting fraud, they may be brought before court. This may result in a fine of up to £5,000.
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These are the 18 things the DWP considers to be a change in circumstances, which must be reported to the department:
- Finding or finishing a job, even if it’s volunteer work, or changes to earnings if self-employed
- Having a baby, or adopting or fostering a child
- Changes to living arrangements, such as moving in with a partner, or someone in the household going to prison, or the rent for the property changes
- Splitting up with a partner
- Getting married or divorced
- Claimant or claimant’s children start or stop full-time education or any training they were undertaking
- Claimant or partner reach state pension age
- Health changes, such as becoming ill or being admitted to hospital
- If someone close to the claimant dies, such as their partner, child,or someone they were caring for
- Changes to immigration status
- Changes to bank details
- Changing name or gender
- Plans to go abroad for any length of time
- Changing doctor
- Changes to pension, savings, investments or property
- Changes to other money received (for example student loans or grants, sick pay or money from a charity)
- Changes to the benefits the claimant or anyone else in their house gets
- Claimant or their partner getting back-pay (sometimes called ‘arrears’) for salary or earnings they are owed.
Those who do not report a change in circumstances also risk getting a sanction which could result in their Universal Credit or other benefit payments being reduced.
People can also avoid sanctions by reading through their Claimant Commitment, and making sure they understand it in full.
The commitment sets out what a claimant agrees to do in preparing for and looking for work, and how they will increase their earnings if they are already in work.
A recent debate in Parliament revealed the number of sanctions had increased 250 percent in the three months before the pandemic.
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In this case, a person can go through the mandatory reconsideration process, to see if the ruling can be overturned.
The daily sanctions that will affect a claimant’s Universal Credit payment for however long the sanction lasts are as follows:
- Single and under 25 – £8.70
- Single and over 25 – £11.00
- Couple and both under 25 – £6.80
- Couple and both over 25 – £8.60.