Universal Credit changes this month and thousands could see payments stopped | Personal Finance | Finance

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The new rule raises the minimum amount of hours claimants have to work in order to receive their full benefit. People who work part-time may have to start looking for more or better paid jobs if they want to continue receiving Universal Credit.

Currently, Universal Credit claimants working 12 or less hours a week at the national minimum wage must actively look for extra hours or better paid work to continue to be eligible for the cash. They must also meet regularly with a work coach.

However, a new rule set to come into force on January 30, will increase this to 15 hours or less at minimum wage, meaning an estimated 120,000 people will have to earn more to be exempt.

If they do not meet the requirements they could lose their Universal Credit payments.

The Government has said certain groups will remain exempt from sanctions, including people who are unable to work because of long-term sickness or a disability and those over the state pension age of 66.

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A person’s earnings threshold is unique to them based on their specific circumstances.

The Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) decides which group people are placed in, and this then impacts how many requirements they must meet in order to keep their benefits.

At the moment, if someone is single, employed and has household earnings of more than £494 month they would not be required to look for work.

The same applies if they’re a couple and earning more than £782 jointly – but these amounts will rise to £618 and £988 respectively.


However, if someone earns below this rate they will be moved to “intensive work search” and will be given a number of hours that they are expected to take part in work search activities each week.

Their individual circumstances will decide how many hours that is, with childcare commitments and health conditions being considered.

These are some of the other activities they may be asked to take part in:

  • Making applications
  • Creating and maintaining an online history
  • Registering with an employment agency
  • Creating and maintaining job profiles

Any mandatory commitments missed without a valid reason could lead to a sanction and their benefits being stopped.

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The new £900 cash boost for over eight million eligible means-tested benefits claimants, including those on Universal Credit, Pension Credit and tax credits, starts in Spring and will go direct to bank accounts in three payments over the course of the financial year.

Exact payment windows will be announced closer to the time but are spread across a longer period to ensure a consistent support offering throughout the year.

They will be broadly as follows:

  • First cost of living payment – £301 – Spring 2023
  • Second cost of living payment – £300 – Autumn 2023
  • Third cost of living payment – £299 – Spring 2024.

If individuals are eligible, they will be paid automatically, and there will be no need to apply.

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