Ask CPAG Online - Avoiding and Challenging Universal Credit Sanctions

What does this topic cover?

This topic supplements Ask CPAG Online - Benefit Sanctions by providing specific information on avoiding and challenging universal credit (UC) sanctions.

What is a UC sanction?

UC has a tough regime of 'conditionality' and 'sanctions'. This means that in order to qualify for UC, you must accept a 'claimant committment' which, depending on your circumstances, will set out which of the 'work-related requirements' you must meet (work-focussed interviews, work preparation, work search and work availabiity) and what you have agreed to do to meet them.  Details of the claimant committment and the work related requirements can be found in Chapter 46 of the Handbook.

If you fail, without a good reason, to meet your requirements or a particular requirement, you can be given a 'sanction' resulting in a reduction in your UC entitlement for a specified period. In most cases, the sanction is equivalent to the loss of your UC' standard allowance' (in the case of couples half of your standard allowance if only one of you is sanctioned) for 28, 91, 182, or 1095 days (3 years), or in  some cases until you meet a 'complance condition', depending on your failure. Details of the different sanctions can be found in Chapter 47 of the Handbook.

How are UC conditionality and sanctions different to other benefits?

Many of the rules about UC conditionality and sanctions are similar to other benefits and a lot of the information set out in Ask CPAG Online - Benefit Sanctions also applies to UC. There are signficant differences, however, including:

  • accepting a 'claimant committment' is a condition of entitlement for UC;

  • some of the terminology is different e.g. UC has 'work search' rather than 'actively seeking work', 'work preparation', rather than 'work-related activity', and four, rather than two, levels of sanctions;

  • there is a default 35 hour per week work search requirement for UC, with most modifications from work search and availability discretionary, rather than set out in regulations;

  • UC claimants may be subject to full conditionality while waiting for a work capablity assessment, or the outome of disability benefit claim by a person for whom they are caring;

  • there is no requirement to show 'good reason' for failing to take part in a work-focussed interview or to undertake work preparation within a prescribed period (e.g. five days);

  • UC has 'in-work conditionality' requirements (currently being tested in selected areas);

  • Hardship payments during a UC sanction are only loans which must be repaid to the DWP and there is a more stringent definition of hardship than for other benefits (see 53(1) of the Handbook). For more details about hardship payments, click here.

Note also that the UC rules on conditionality and sanctions applies if you come under the UC system and are claiming contribution-based jobseeker's allowance or contributory employment and support allowance (see Chapter 50 of the Handbook).

Click on the links below for information and advice on avoiding and challenging UC sanctions: