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Universal Credit Sanctions

Read our guide to Universal Credit Sanctions

1. What are Universal Credit sanctions?

When you claim Universal Credit, you will be set certain things you have to do in order to get your Universal Credit payments. This is called your Claimant Commitment or your Work Related Requirements.  What these are will depend on your circumstances. 

If you don’t do something you were supposed to do, and you don’t have a good reason for not doing it, then you will be sanctioned.

This means that some of the money from your Universal Credit will be taken away for a set period.
 

2. How much will a Universal Credit sanction be?

Single

If you are single and over 25, the sanction will be £10.40 per day for as long as your sanction lasts.

If you are single and under 25, the sanction will be £8.20 per day for as long as the sanction lasts.

Your sanction should not be more than your standard allowance. If you get additional elements for Universal Credit, you will carry on getting them. If you get money in your Universal Credit to help with your rent, it is important you carry on using it for your rent.

Couple

If you are in a couple and one or both of you is over 25, the sanction will be £8.20 per day if only one of you has been sanctioned. 

If you are in a couple and are both under 25, the sanction will be £6.40 per day if only one of you has been sanctioned.

Your sanction should not be more than half your standard allowance. If you receive additional elements for Universal Credit, you will carry on getting them. If you receive money in your Universal Credit to help with your rent, it is important you carry on using it for your rent.

Exceptions

You might have less money taken off your Universal Credit if:

  • You are 16 or 17 years old
  • You are only supposed to take part in work focused interviews – this mostly applies to people caring for young children and people with disabilities
  • You are someone who does not have to do anything to get your Universal Credit (no work related requirements), because:
    • You are the carer for a child under one
    • You are pregnant and your baby is due in less than 11 weeks
    • You had a baby less than 15 weeks ago
    • You are adopting a child and it is less than one year since the child was placed with you.

If you are in one of these groups but are having the full amount of your standard allowance taken from your Universal Credit payments, you should get independent advice.
 

3. How long will a Universal Credit sanction last?

The length of the sanction depends on what you are expected to do to get your Universal Credit and what you did to get the sanction.

High level sanctions

If you fail to apply for a job or fail to accept a job that is offered to you or if you leave your job without a good reason, you may get a high level sanction. High level sanctions usually last for 91 days. If you have had a high level sanction before in the past year, the sanction might last 182 days or 1,095 days.

Medium level sanctions

If you do not do enough to look for work or are not available for work, you may get a medium level sanction. Medium level sanctions usually last for 28 days. If you have had a medium level sanction in the past year, the sanction might last for 91 days. 

Low level sanctions

Most other failures to do what you are expected to do to get your Universal Credit will mean you get a low level sanction. Examples include:

  • Not attending a work focused interview
  • Not signing on when you are supposed to
  • Not providing evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has asked for
  • Not going on a course that has been recommended as part of your work preparation.

A low level sanction is made up of a fixed period of time (usually 7 days) and the time it takes you to correct the failure.

For example, Mariam was supposed to sign on Monday but she forgot to go. She doesn’t have a good reason. She goes to sign on Friday instead. This is the first time she has been sanctioned. Her sanction period will be 7 days + 4 days = 11 days.

16 and 17 year olds

If you are 16 or 17 years old, a high level sanction will usually last 14 days (or 28 days if you have had a high level sanction in the past year). If you are 16 or 17 years old, a medium level sanction will usually last for 7 days (or 14 days if you have had a medium level sanction in the past year).

The DWP has announced that it plans to change the maximum length of sanctions but this has not been put into practice yet.
 

4. What if I don't think I should have been sanctioned?

If you do not think you should have been sanctioned, you should challenge the decision.

There is a two-step process for challenging decisions.

First, you will need to request mandatory reconsideration. You can do this through your journal or over the phone. You should explain why you think you should not have been sanctioned. You only have one month to do this so you need to do it quickly. If you have missed the deadline, you should still ask for the decision to be looked at again.

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not change its decision, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. Again, you only have one month to act in, so you need to submit your appeal as soon as you can. It can be a good idea to get independent advice about appealing a decision. If you have missed the deadline, you should still try to appeal, but your appeal might not go ahead.

If you had a good reason for failing to do what you were supposed to do, you should explain it in detail in your request for mandatory reconsideration.

If you failed to do what you were supposed to do because the expectations were always unreasonable, you should explain this in your request for mandatory reconsideration. This can be a good reason for failing to do what you were supposed to do. For example, if you have caring responsibilities that your work coach knew about but they weren’t taken into account when setting your claimant commitment.

5. Can I get any help during the sanction?

If you have been sanctioned and are struggling to manage without your full Universal Credit payments, you can apply for a hardship payment.

A hardship payment is a loan from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which you will have to pay back through deductions from your benefits once your sanction ends.