Major rule change next week for thousands on Universal Credit – how to avoid your payments being STOPPED

PXEK8K A piece of stationery featuring the Universal Credit logo, rests on a table along with some ¿1 coins.

A MAJOR change to Universal Credit is coming next week and it means your benefits could be stopped – here’s how to avoid it.

Some claimants will be expected to increase their search for work, take on more hours or have more meetings with work coaches from Monday (September 26).

Universal Credit rule change is coming into action from next week

Around 115,000 people on Universal Credit will be moved onto an “intensive work search” regime, from a “light touch” work group.

It means these people will be expected to invest more hours looking for jobs, or take on more hours working.

If you fail to meet your new targets, you could see your benefits slashed, or even stopped.

The Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) is a monthly amount that marks if you’re in the “intensive work search” category or the “light touch” group.

Those currently earning below £355 a month, or £567 for couples, are in the intensive work search group.

That includes people who earn nothing at all while on the benefit.

The threshold for this will rise on September 26 to £494 a month, or £782 for joint claims.

Those in the light touch regime and earning over the threshold are not required to search for work or take on more hours.

Exactly how many more hours you will be expected to take on will vary depending on your circumstances.

You can find these details in your claimant commitment – which is an agreement between you and the government outlining what you will do to get Universal Credit payments.

You can find it by logging into your Universal Credit account online.

Searching for work can include can range from applying for jobs, and creating job profiles online, to registering with an employment agency.

People in the work search group are also expected to see a work coach more often, compared to the light touch group where it’s voluntary after initial contact.

But fail to do the things you’ve promised, you could see the benefit money swiped away from you.

This means that you could be refused payment or you could have your entitlement reduced.

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.

How else could I lose my benefits?

If you don’t update the DWP with changes to your personal circumstances, you could see your benefits stopped or cut.

For example, going away on holiday for a long time and failing to tell the DWP could result in this.

Not telling the DWP about your child leaving education could affect your benefits too.

If you quit work without a good reason you may see your benefits reduced.

There’s no set definition of what a good reason is, but it might include unaffordable childcare costs.

People are often required to attend interviews and appointments with the Job Centre as part of their Universal Credit claims.

If you fail to turn up to a meeting you will be sanctioned until you attend another review.

If you repeatedly miss meetings the sanctions may be stricter and last longer.

You can get free debt advice

If you’re in debt there are plenty of services you can take advantage of and they offer free advice on how to manage debt.

Most of them can offer you free guidance and help in person, over the telephone or online.

  • Money Helper – 0800 138 7777
  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
  • StepChange – 0800 138 1111
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000

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