Citizens Advice publishes answers to some common Universal Credit questions
From today (1 July 2020) people claiming Universal Credit will begin to see a return of job-seeking requirements. These have been paused since 30 March due to COVID-19.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said work coaches will be calling all claimants to help them prepare for work, although what people will need to do will depend on their Claimant Commitment. This is a document people need to agree to as part of getting Universal Credit.
The types of job-seeking activities people will be asked to do will vary depending on factors. Such as their health, current circumstances and which “conditionality” group they have been placed in.
There are four groups, which set out the tasks they’re expected to complete to receive their full benefit payment.
People who are in the All Work-Related Requirements Group usually have to, in the government’s words, do “all they can” to find a job or earn more.
It promised they would not be penalised if they could not look for a job up until 30 June. From 1 July, the government has said it will take a “common-sense” approach to the job-hunting rules.
Given many people have claimed Universal Credit for the first time during lockdown, Citizens Advice has set out the answers to some common questions its advisers are seeing:
What do I need to do to receive my Universal Credit?
After applying for Universal Credit you should have been put in one the four “conditionality” groups. You can check which group you’re in by logging into your Universal Credit account online and checking your Claimant Commitment. This will tell you which group you’re in and what tasks you’ll have to do regularly to get Universal Credit.These tasks could include writing your CV, signing up for job alerts or applying for vacancies.
Some claimants who have not had a Jobcentre interview may not have a Claimant Commitment yet. The Department for Work and Pensions has said it will be calling all claimants to help them prepare for work, so people should expect to be contacted to set up the Claimant Commitment. The tasks you need to complete will depend on your Claimant Commitment.
Does everyone claiming Universal Credit have to look for work?
Most people will probably be put in the All Work-Related Requirements Group if they’re able to work. Depending on your circumstances, however, you might be put in a different “conditionality” group, say if you have children under the age of three, or are pregnant or disabled.
In some cases you won’t have to take any steps to prepare for work or improve your skills, in other cases you may have to have interviews with your work coach. You can check which group you’re in, and what you must do to receive your full Universal Credit payment, by logging into your Universal Credit account online.
What happens if I don’t meet the requirements?
Failing to carry out the tasks set out in your Claimant Commitment could mean your Universal Credit payment is temporarily reduced, which is known as a sanction. The amount your Universal Credit will be reduced depends on factors such as how long the sanction lasts, and how quickly you complete the outstanding tasks. See gov.uk for more information.
What if there are no jobs available?
It’s very tricky for many who are job hunting at the moment, and it’s clear that finding jobs to apply for will be harder than usual. In order to show how you have completed the to-do list set out in your Claimant Commitment, try and keep a diary of the tasks you’ve done and how long they took, e.g. signing up to a recruitment agency.
Do I have to go to the Jobcentre to carry on claiming Universal Credit?
Usually you would need to go to the Jobcentre to have regular meetings with your work coach. You should agree with your work coach which tasks need to be done as part of the claimant commitment. The government cancelled all face-to-face appointments in March but has said that it will start to reopen Jobcentres from July. The DWP says people can make an appointment with their work coach if they can’t get the help they want online or over the phone.
How do I challenge a Universal Credit decision?
You need to tell your work coach as soon as possible if you’re in the wrong “conditionality” group. Explain which exceptions apply and show them any evidence you can – for example a letter from your doctor if you’re sick, or the birth certificate for a child you care for.
If your work coach won’t change your work-related activity group, you can complain to the Department for Work and Pensions. If you get a sanction even though you’ve explained your situation to your work coach, you can challenge the decision by asking for what is called a mandatory reconsideration.
Citizens Advice’s network of charities offers impartial advice online and over the phone, for free. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or online.