Five mistakes that could STOP Universal Credit payments as number facing sanctions jumps | The Sun
HARD-UP households on Universal Credit could see their payments stopped if they make these common mistakes.
Millions of families rely on cash from the government and can't afford to miss out as soaring bills roll in.
But the latest figures show that 59,000 sanction decisions were made on Universal Credit in May 2022.
That means claimants were refused their pay out, or many have had their entitlement reduced.
This figures has risen form 38,000 in January, and the DWP says the newest figure is the highest number recorded.
It comes after the number of people claiming Universal Credit went up because of the pandemic.
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Rules for new claims were relaxed, suspending face-to-face meetings and requirements for proof of identity and housing costs.
The DWP is now reviewing claims for Universal Credit and other benefits made through the pandemic.
When you claim Universal Credit, or any benefit, you sign yourself up for commitments that you have to meet in order to get the financial support.
This may be from showing you're actively looking for a job, to being on time to appointments.
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But fail to do the things you've promised in that agreement and you could see the benefit money swiped away from you.
Exactly how much you'll have taken off your claim depends on what you've done – or not done.
Here's all the reasons why your payments could be stopped altogether, and how to challenge a sanction if you think it's wrong.
Not applying for work
In order to claim unemployment support, you have to show you're trying to look for work.
If you don't bother, you may have your benefits cut.
The same goes if you're not putting the hours in too look.
Part of the commitment you sign onto includes spending 35 hours a week looking for work, which you will need to keep a record of doing to show your work coach.
If your Jobcentre work coach doesn't feel you're doing enough to get back into work you can be sanctioned.
Refusing a job offer
If you've been offered a job, you're expected to take it – so long as it's suitable.
Refusing a job offer just because you don't want it will see you sanctioned at the highest level.
Quitting your job
Quitting your job without a good reason could see you sanctioned too.
There's no set definition of what a good reason is, but it might include unaffordable childcare costs.
You might have your benefit payments reduced though, if you made the decision to leave what work your are in.
If you're late to Jobcentre appointments and interviews you could see payments cut.
Often, you'll be required to attend these appointments to update your work coach on your commitments to finding work.
If there's a good reason why you can't attend a meeting then you should let the Jobcentre know immediately.
But if you fail to turn up to a meeting you'll likely be sanctioned until you visit your next review.
Not updating your information
The amount of Universal Credit you are entitled to depends on many factors surround your individual circumstances.
That might be how many hours you work, or how many children you have.
But failing to report a change in circumstances, like moving house or getting a new job, could see you sanctioned.
In the worst cases, you may be committing benefit fraud and could even face legal action.
Remember that any penalties you might face will only apply to the standard element of your claim – so extra cash you get through the housing or childcare elements will still be paid.
How to challenge a sanction
If you've been sanctioned unfairly, the first thing you must do is check the level of sanction and for how long your money has been reduced.
You'll then need to contact the DWP for a "mandatory reconsideration" if you think they've made the wrong decision.
Citizens Advice says you should have been told:
- Why you’ve received a sanction
- The level of sanction you’ve been given
- How long the sanction will last
- How much money will be taken away from your Universal Credit payment
- The date the sanction decision was made
You should include as much supporting evidence as possible to support your claim.
This could include new medical evidence, reports from specialists, or bank statements and payslips.
For most benefits, you have one month from when you were notified about the sanction to apply for a "mandatory reconsideration".
However, it is still worth applying for one should you have missed the deadline for a good reason, such as being in hospital.
If you disagree with the decision of your mandatory reconsideration you can appeal to a First-Tier tribunal.
Claimants have one month to do this, although this is extended to 13 months for exceptional circumstances.
You'll need to download and fill in the SSCS1 form from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website.
The form will ask for you:
- Name and contact details
- National Insurance number
- Reasons for appealing
Send this, along with the outcome of your mandatory reconsideration of which you should have received two copies, to:
HMCTS Appeals Centre, PO Box 1203, Bradford, BD1 9WP.
The DWP will be asked to respond to your appeal within 28 days.
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You can get advice and support for appealing a decision for free from organisations like Citizens Advice and Benefits and Work.
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