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Hardship Payments

Hardship Payments are reduced-rate payments of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) that are made in limited circumstances, including if you have been sanctioned.

1. What is a Hardship Payment?

Hardship payments are reduced-rate payments of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) that are made if you have been sanctioned.

You or your partner or children must be experiencing hardship and in most cases you must show that you or your family will suffer hardship unless benefit is paid. In some cases for JSA, you must be in a ‘vulnerable group’.

If you come under the UC system, you need to claim the Hardship Payment of UC.

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Applies to: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland 

Age rules: You must be 18 or over. Some 16 and 17 year olds can get Hardship Payments though - see further information in this guide.

Type of benefit: Means tested 

Taxable: 

  • Yes:  Hardship payments of Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • No: Hardship payments of Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit are not taxable


Administered by: Jobcentre Plus 
 

2. Jobseeker’s Allowance - Hardship Payments

Only people who usually get income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance(i-JSA) can get a Hardship Payment.

You may be able to get Hardship Payments of i-JSA if your JSA is being paid at a reduced (or nil) rate.

You can qualify for hardship payments of i-JSA in a number of situations:

  • If you are in a vulnerable group and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has decided that you (or your partner) do not satisfy the job-seeking conditions.​ You may be in a vulnerable group if you:
    • are pregnant or responsible for a child
    • qualify for a disability premium
    • have a chronic medical condition
    • care for someone (claiming a qualifying disability benefit)
    • are under 21 and have been in local authority care in the last three years.
  • When your JSA is suspended because there is doubt about whether you (or your partner) are meeting job-seeking conditions.
  • When your JSA is reduced because of a sanction.

 

3. How much can I get from Jobseeker's Allowance hardship payments?

The weekly amount of Hardship Payment you get will depend on your needs.

You do not have to pay back a Jobseeker's Allowance Hardship Payment. This may however change in the future so always check with your Jobcentre Plus office before submitting a claim.

4. How do I claim Jobseeker's Allowance Hardship Payments?

You should ask your Jobcentre Plus office for a Jobseeker's Allowance Hardship Payment application form and explain your grounds for applying for a Hardship Payment in the form.

When you apply for a Hardship Payment, make sure you explain anything that is causing you hardship or makes it more likely that you will experience hardship. This includes health, disability, pregnancy and any special needs you, your partner and children have.

When deciding whether you would experience hardship, the decision maker must consider such matters as:

  • If you, your partner or child included in your claim qualify for a disability premium.
  • Whether there is a ‘substantial risk’ that you or your partner, or a child included in your claim would be without essential items for example: food, clothes, heating or accommodation.

The decision makers must also take into account any resources likely to be available to you. This includes income and capital that is disregarded when calculating your benefit. For example:  Disability Living Allowance and savings below £6,000.

You should not be treated as having resources if these are only available on credit or you would have to sell any of your possessions.

5. Employment and Support Allowance Hardship Payments

Only people who would usually get income-related Employment and Support Allowance (i-ESA) can get a Hardship Payment.

You may be able to get hardship payments of i-ESA if your ESA is being paid at a reduced (or nil) rate.

If you are getting contribution-based ESA (c-ESA), you may also be able to make a claim for Hardship Payments in limited circumstances. If you are in this position, you should seek advice.

You can qualify for Hardship Payments of i-ESA if:

  • you have been sanctioned for failing to take part in a work-focused interview or for failing to undertake work-related activity; or
  • you have committed a benefit offence; and
  • you, your partner or a child (must usually be getting Child Benefit for the child) for whom you or your partner are responsible would experience hardship if payments were not made.

6. How much can I get from Employment and Support Allowance hardship payments?

Usually the weekly amount of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Hardship Payment provided is 60 per cent of the standard ESA main-phase allowance rounded to the nearest five pence. This is currently 60 per cent of £74.70  = £44.80 per week.

If you qualify for a Hardship Payment, you will get the payment in addition to any other amounts of ESA that you can be paid despite the sanction. For example, a component that you may be getting as well as premiums and housing costs that maybe relevant to your circumstances. 

If you have received an ESA sanction, you should always seek advice before and after making a Hardship Payment claim to ensure that you are receiving the correct rates of payment that you are entitled to.

You do not have to pay back an ESA Hardship Payment. This may however change in the future so always check with your Jobcentre Plus office before submitting a claim.

Updated: April 2021
 

7. How do I claim Employment and Support Allowance Hardship Payments?

You should ask your Jobcentre Plus office for an 'Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Hardship Payment application form' and fully explain your grounds for applying for a Hardship Payment.

If you are only getting contributory ESA, you will also need to complete form ESA3 to establish your entitlement to income-related ESA.. If you are getting New Style ESA, you won't be able to get an ESA Hardship Payment but you might be able to get a Universal Credit Hardship Payment.

 

8. Universal Credit Hardship Payments

You may be able to get Hardship Payments of Universal Credit (UC) if your UC is being paid at a reduced (or nil) rate.

Important: Hardship Payments of UC are recoverable so you must pay them back.

You can qualify for a Hardship Payment of UC in a number of situations:

  • If you are 18 or over and are sanctioned (or your partner is) and

  • For ‘low level sanctions only’, you and your partner if you are claiming jointly have met compliance conditions set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). For example: you have now taken part in a work-focused interview or have agreed to attend training.

  • Your UC has been reduced because of a benefit offence.

In addition to the above, you must submit a hardship application with evidence and accept that a Hardship Payment will have to be paid back. The DWP must also be satisfied that you have met all work–related  requirements that you were required to meet in the seven days before you applied for a Hardship Payment and that you (and your partner) are experiencing hardship.

If you are aged 16-17 and you are sanctioned, you cannot get Hardship Payments. This is because, while you are sanctioned, your UC is automatically paid at a reduced rate.

If your UC has been reduced because of a benefit offence and you are aged 16-17, you can still apply for a Hardship Payment.

UC Hardship payments: What is Hardship? 

The decision maker only considers you to be in hardship if:

  • You cannot meet your immediate and most basic essential needs or those of a child you are responsible for. For example: accommodation, heating and food.

  • You have made every effort to get alternative sources of support, for example from a charity to help your situation.

9. How much can I get from a Universal Credit hardship payment?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) works out a daily rate for the amount of your Hardship Payment. This is roughly 60 per cent of the amount of the sanction. The amount of the Hardship Payment you get is the daily rate multiplied by the number of days the sanction lasts.

A Hardship Payment is only paid for a limited number of days. If you need another Hardship Payment after this, you’ll have to reapply.

You will also need to reapply for each assessment period in which you are affected by a sanction.

10. How do I claim Universal Credit hardship payments

To make a claim, get in touch with the Universal Credit contact centre or your local Jobcentre Plus office. 

Universal Credit helpline (Monday to Friday, 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, closed bank holidays)
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Welsh language line: 0800 328 1744 (Textphone: 0800 328 1344)
 
An appointment will normally be arranged at the Jobcentre office for you to provide the information and evidence required to support your application.

Reviewed: September 2021

11. Hardship Payments and Claiming Other Benefits or Tax Credits

Whilst getting Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC) Hardship Payments, you are still entitled to full Housing Benefit and other passported benefits in the usual way.

 

12. Challenging a hardship payment decision


If you are refused hardship payments, you can appeal against the decision. You must however first apply for the decision to be looked at again which is referred to as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’

For further information on challenging a Department for Work and Pensions decision, see our Challenging Decisions and Complaints guide.