Universal Credit rule change that could cut benefits explained

A BIG Universal Credit change launched today could see half a million Brits forced to apply for more jobs or risk seeing their payments docked.

The Department for Work and Pensions today launched the 'Way to Work' scheme to get 500,000 people on Universal Credit into work by the end of June.

It will aim to help prepare households against soaring prices as the cost of living crunch is only expected to get worse, with energy bills, tax rises and more expected to rise.

There are around 1.2million jobs currently on offer – 59% more than before the pandemic – even though unemployment is still at record lows.

Now the government wants Brits on benefits to help plug the vacancies-gap to help the nation's post-Covid recovery.

But the new scheme will see rules toughen up when it comes to Universal Credit claimants searching for work.

It could mean you risk seeing a cut to your claim under the shake-up.

Here's what you need to know about the rule change and how it could affect you.

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What is changing?

If you are claiming Universal Credit, you have to commit to looking for a job to eventually getting yourself off the benefit.

This is called the 'claimant commitment' and you'll usually get around three months to search for a role in the industry or career you're already in.

After that, you are expected to look further afield for a role.

Under today's shake-up, you now only get a matter of weeks to hunt for a job in the industry you're in.

From the fourth week, you will be expected to look for a job in other areas of work you may never even have considered before.

As this is now a requirement, you could see your benefits cut if you don't widen your search.

You will be given more time with your Work Coach to hunt for a role.

Who is affected?

The shake-up is targeted at getting those who have been categorised as being in the 'intensive work search group' by the DWP to get a job quicker.

We've asked the DWP who this relates to and we will update you when we are given more information.

So if you are suffering from ill health or are classed as vulnerable – for example, if you have mental health issues – this implies you won't be affected.

This is because you will be categorised differently by the DWP as having limited capability for work and work related activity and most likely won't be subject to the same sanction rules.

You should check with your Work Coach for more information on whether the new rules apply to you.

What are the sanctions?

If you don't show you are making "reasonable efforts" to find a job in any industry – not just the one you work in – or you turn down a job offer, you could be hit with sanctions from the fourth week of job hunting.

Sanctions are where you have your Universal Credit payment reduced for a certain period of time because you have not fulfilled your claimant commitments without good reason.

There are four sanction levels – higher, medium, low, lowest.

In the higher level, you could initially be sanctioned for 91 days if you fail to apply for a job when told to, or refuse a job when you meet the 'work availability requirement' – which is where you are able and willing to take up work immediately.

In the medium level, you could initially be sanctioned for 28 days if you fail to take "all reasonable actions" to find paid work or increase your earnings.

Whereas you could get a low level sanction – lasting for seven days, or until you do whatever you were sanctioned for – for failing to take a "specific action" to get work.

You can appeal a Universal Credit sanction – you need to write to the department that gave you the decision.

This address will be found on the decision letter you will have received telling you about your sanction.

You'll need to say why you think the decision is wrong, providing any evidence, and you can ask for a review within a month of the date of a decision.

It comes as a sick note rule change will affect millions of Universal Credit claimants.

Thousands of claimants could get a payout after the DWP loses a legal battle.

We also explain if you can get a mortgage if you're on Universal Credit or state pension benefits.

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