Universal Credit – 6 Reasons You Could Have Your Benefits Stopped
In 2020, the number of people in the UK claiming benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was 22.8 million. Of these, 12.5 million were pension age while 9.5 million were working age. The rest were claiming Disability Living Allowance.
The majority of claimants do not know that the DWP can sanction benefit payments. For example, Universal Credit claimants could have their benefits stopped if they fail to find work or for other reasons. DWP determines how much to take off your benefit payment depending on the offence. In certain circumstances, DWP may choose to stop your benefits altogether.
How Long Do Benefit Sanctions Last?
According to the DWP GOV.UK website, DWP can reduce or stop benefit payment for about 6 months. But not more than 182 days. There are three sanction levels:
- Lower – lasts 4 to 13 weeks
- Intermediate – lasts 4 to 13 weeks
- Higher – lasts 13 to 26 weeks
The length and level of a sanction depend on:
- Whether your claim ended
- Whether you received an earlier sanction in the previous year
- You have not taken steps to find work
- You left your past job without a good reason
- You lost your job because of misconduct
Want to know more reasons why you could have your benefits stopped?
Here are 6 reasons why you could have your benefits stopped.
1. Failure to Apply For Suitable Jobs
If you’re claiming unemployment support, but you’re not bothered to apply for work, you could have your benefits stopped. In fact, failure to apply for jobs could result in a higher level sanction. This means DWP will cut or stop your benefits for 13 to 26 weeks.
When you apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance, you’re required to meet with a work coach at the Jobcentre. The work coach will help you find work and identify steps to take to find work. He will confirm this in your Claimant Commitment or the Jobseeker’s Agreement.
The Claimant Commitment sets out all action and responsibilities you’ll undertake. It also states the sanctions you may get if you fail to meet your responsibilities. If you don’t have a Claimant Commitment, your work coach can record your duties in an appointment letter or action plan.
The coach will meet with you regularly to review your progress. It’s your responsibility to find work. In return, you’ll receive support and your benefit payment.
2. Not Doing Enough to Look For Work
When you signed the Claimant Commitment, you promised to do a list of things in exchange for financial support (Universal Credit). Part of the Claimant Commitment requires you to spend 35 hours a week looking for work. You’re required to keep a record that you will show your work coach at the Jobcentre.
If your work coach reviews your record and finds out you’re not doing enough to look for work, the DWP will stop your benefit payment. Even when you apply for jobs that you’re not qualified for, your work coach will recommend that DWP stop your benefit.
If you’re over 25 and single, the sanction will be £10.60 per day for the entire sanction period. If you’re under 25 and single, the sanction will be £8.40 per day. Your sanction cannot be more than your standard allowance.
For couples where one or both of you are 25 and over, the sanction will be £8.30 per day, but for couples under 25, the sanction will be £6.60 per day.
3. Refusing a Job Offer
As a Universal Credit claimant, if you refuse job offers, the DWP will stop your benefit. You’re supposed to accept any job offer as long as it’s within reason. This is because the Universal Credit benefit system will continue to support you when out of work and until you find work again.
Failure to take a job offer will see you sanctioned for 13 to 26 weeks. The Universal Credit benefit system requires all claimants to be available for work. If you currently have a limited capability to work related to a health condition or disability, you’ll continue receiving financial support. This is until your circumstances improve. But only if your condition will change over time.
As soon as this happens, you’re expected to prepare for work. If your health condition or disability prevents you from working, you don’t have to work. Also, you will continue to receive financial support through Universal Credit.
4. Being Late for Jobcentre Interview and Appointment
Your work coach will mentor you to ensure that you meet all requirements in your Jobseeker Agreement. He will challenge and support you until you achieve your full potential. By raising your expectations, you’re able to prepare for work.
Your Claimant Commitment includes things such as work preparation actions and job goals. Work preparation actions include:
- Preparing your CV
- Registering with a recruitment agency
- Attending training courses
You’re also expected to attend interviews and appointments at your Jobcentre. By attending interviews, you can update your work coach on your commitment to finding work. You can attend the interviews and appointments in person or over the phone and via video conferencing. Universal Credit claimants who fail to attend interviews at the Jobcentre risk being sanctioned.
The length of a sanction could last until the next appointment or meeting. If the claimant missed appointments repeatedly, the DWP might impose stricter penalties.
5. Quitting Work Without Good Reason
If you quit work without a good reason, your benefits will stop. The reason why your last job ended is always checked. If your employer dismissed you for misconduct or left without good reason, your benefit payment will stop.
Currently, there is no set definition for the best reasons to quit work. But they may include dissatisfaction with the work environment, relocating or childcare costs.
6. Failing to Keep Your Information up to Date
Your Universal Credit standard allowance depends on your age, whether you’re single or a couple. Per household, there is one standard allowance. For example, a single claimant aged under 25 will get £344.00 per month with the £20 uplift. But a claimant aged under 25 without a £20 uplift will receive £257.34 per month.
Failing to keep your information up to date could see you sanctioned. In the worst cases, you could face legal action for committing benefit fraud.
How to Appeal a Benefit Sanction
If you’re sanctioned, and your benefit payment stopped, you need to provide the DWP with your full information. A decision-maker will then decide if you have a good reason. If the DWP decision-maker finds out that you don’t have a good reason, he will determine how long the sanction lasts.
If you think a decision is wrong, you can request the DWP to look at it in a month. To start the process of reconsideration, contact the benefits offices that give you your payments. You can do so by:
- Filling and returning a CRMR1 form
Before you start the appeal, you must wait for the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice (within one month). Include all supporting evidence in your appeal, such as:
- Bank statements
- Reports from specialists
- Medical evidence
You must also provide your name, address, date of birth, date of benefit decision, and National Insurance number. Other benefits where DWP can use a mandatory sanction include:
- Carer’s Credit
- Carer’s Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Bereavement Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Child Maintenance
- Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment
- Income Support
- Funeral Expenses Payment
- Compensation Recovery Scheme
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement
- Maternity Allowance
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Sure Start Maternity Grant
- Personal Independence Payment
- Winter Fuel Payment
- Universal Credit
- Sure Start Maternity Grant
Currently, it’s not clear how long the Department for Work and Pension will take to look into your complaint. But in most cases, it takes around 14 days or longer.
If you’re not happy with the outcome, you can appeal to a First Tier tribunal. You have one month to do this. For exceptional circumstances, there is an extension of 13 months. To appeal against a Department for Work and Pensions decision, download and fill the SSCS1 form.
If the DWP stops your benefit payment and you don’t have money to live on, you can get a hardship payment. To understand more about hardship payments and how to apply, call 0800 169 0310.