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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a claimant commitment?

Your claimant commitment is a record of the responsibilities (or ‘work-related requirements’) that you have accepted in return for receiving Universal Credit.

Why is a claimant commitment important?

Your claimant commitment should help you to understand what the DWP expect of you in order to receive your Universal Credit money. If you ever have a sanction imposed on your claim, your Claimant Commitment should also help you to understand what it is that the DWP think has gone wrong. This is why it is important that everyone who claims Universal Credit is able to agree a Claimant Commitment that properly reflects their personal circumstances.

Do I have to accept a claimant commitment?

Acceptance of a claimant commitment is a basic condition of entitlement to universal credit, so you normally have to accept in order to start a claim or continue receiving payments. In exceptional circumstances you will not be required to accept a claimant commitment for as long as it would be unreasonable to expect you to do so, such as if there is a domestic emergency.

If you are terminally ill then you won’t be expected to accept a claimant commitment.

What if I don't want to accept my claimant commitment?

If you want to refuse to sign a Claimant Commitment, you should be offered a ‘cooling off’ period to think about this. DWP guidance suggests that the cooling off period can be a maximum of seven calendar days. Your Work Coach should explain to you the consequences of not signing a claimant commitment.

Once I have accepted a claimant commitment, will I be able to change it?

Yes. Your claimant commitment can be amended at any time. Each time your claimant commitment is amended or updated, you will need to accept the new one in order for it to take effect.

What if I am claiming Universal Credit as a couple/as a joint claim?

If you are claiming as a couple, you will both need to accept claimant commitments. Both of your claimant commitments should be individualised and tailored to meet your individual circumstances.

When will I have to accept a claimant commitment?

After you submit your claim for Universal Credit, the DWP will contact you to arrange an appointment. At this appointment you will meet with a work coach and discuss your work-related requirements that will be recorded on your claimant commitment.

How should I raise issues that I need to discuss?

You could also enter a message on your Universal credit journal in advance of your meeting, in order to draw the DWP’s attention to an issue that you want to discuss.

What kind of conditions or requirements might be expected of me?

This depends on your circumstances. Broadly, you might be expected to complete an agreed upon number of hours of work search or work preparation, to take part in interviews, and to be available to take up job offers.

Some Universal Credit claimants may not have to meet any work-related requirements – this could be because of illness or disability, or because of caring or childcare responsibilities, or because you are considered to be working as much as can be expected of you in your circumstances.

What happens if I don't meet the conditions or requirements on my commitment?

If you do not meet your conditions or work-related requirements, and you do not have a good reason, there is a risk that you will be sanctioned.

A sanction can only be applied for failure to meet commitments if your claimant commitment is new or has been updated since the 1st of July 2020. For more information about changes relating to the Covid-19 pandemic please see here.

What is a sanction?

A sanction is a reduction in your Universal Credit. The DWP may impose a sanction if it is considered that you have not met your work-related requirements, and that you did not have a good reason for doing so.

If I am sanctioned, how much will my Universal Credit be reduced by?

It depends on whether the sanction is a high, medium, low, or lowest level sanction.

How long does a sanction last for?

It depends on whether the sanction is a high, medium, low, or lowest level sanction. It also depends on whether you had a sanction before, within the last year.

The table below sets out how long a sanction will last for.

For longer sanctions periods to apply, the recent ‘sanctionable action’ must have taken place at least 14 days, but less than 365 days, before your current sanctionable action.

  • If the most recent previous sanctionable action was within 14 days of the current one, the length of the new sanction period is the same as the previous one.
  • If it was 365 days or more before the current one, the length of the new sanction period is the same as if you were given a sanction for the first time.

What should I do if I am sanctioned?

You are entitled to ask for a sanction decision to be reviewed or revised. This is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

You may wish to get advice from a welfare rights adviser on how to do this, or to assist you in setting out what grounds you want to put forward. For example, you may have had a good reason for not meeting your work-related requirement, or you may not have been properly notified of the requirement.

Are all claimant commitments the same?

The short answer is that they shouldn’t be. Your claimant commitment should be tailored to meet your needs and reflect your individual circumstances.

What happens if I start working?

Your claimant commitment may need to be amended. This may depend on how many hours you are working and how much you are earning. If you are earning as much as can be expected of you – this means 35 hours a week at minimum wage – then you won’t have any additional work-related requirements.

As your income from earnings goes up your Universal credit payments will decrease. Seek advice if you are not sure how your income will affect your award.

What happens if I start studying?

It depends on your course. The effect of taking up studying will also depend on your individual circumstances. If you are in post-16 full-time education you may not be entitled to claim Universal Credit, although there are exceptions, such as for claimants with children, disabilities and claimants who are in couples or joint claims for Universal Credit.

In some cases your work coach might consider your course to qualify as suitable or appropriate work preparation, in which case your course might count towards your agreed weekly hours of work preparation or work search. Your claimant commitment may need to be amended to reflect this.

What if my work coach refuses to change my claimant commitment?

You should speak to a welfare rights adviser or a public law solicitor about what you could do. You may be able to challenge this.

Where can I get more information about Universal Credit, sanctions or claimant commitments?