CORONAVIRUS: During the Coronavirus outbreak, you can still be sanctioned if you fail to keep to your Claimant Commitment. But anything you have been asked to do should be realistic given the outbreak and your personal circumstances.
Help! I’ve been sanctioned.
If you’ve been sanctioned for failing to keep to your Claimant Commitment there are a number of things you can do.
- Challenge the decision
If you think the DWP have made a mistake, or you had a good reason for failing to do what was required, you can request a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ of the DWP’s decision. There is no time limit to challenge a sanction – but it’s best to do it as soon as possible. See below for more details and speak to a Benefits Adviser.
- Apply for a Hardship Payment
A hardship payment is a loan to help you out with your household expenses while you are being sanctioned. The amount you get is 60% of the Standard Allowance that applies to you – see below for more details.
- Consider what other help you may need
You may be able to apply for help from other places – see below.
What might you be able to challenge?
Your ‘sanction notification’ (posted on your journal) should tell you:
- Why you’ve received a sanction – did you have a good reason for doing what you did?
- The level of sanction you’ve been given – have the DWP got you in the correct ‘conditionality group’?
- How long the sanction will last.
- How much money will be taken away from your Universal Credit payment.
- The date the sanction decision was made.
If you think any of this isn’t right, you can challenge it.
Did you have a good reason for not doing what you were supposed to do?
A sanction should not be applied if you can show you had a good reason for acting as you did, or the DWP have not made it clear what is expected of you (and what might happen if you fail to take that action).
Kylie had an appointment at the JobCentre but was unable to attend that day because her daughter had a bad asthma attack and had to be taken out of school and rushed to A&E.
She needs to tell the DWP as soon as possible and provide evidence. Her sanction should be overturned.
NB: it’s always best, if possible, to ring the Jobcentre before the appointment to let them know the reason why you can’t attend.
Ali was told to apply for a job at a pork butcher’s – he did not apply because it would conflict with his sincerely held religious beliefs. However he was sanctioned.
He should write a request for a Mandatory Reconsideration on his journal, explaining this.
Barbara was sanctioned for failing to attend a day’s training on writing a CV.
But although she got a text from her work coach telling her she had to go to the JobCentre, the text didn’t say what it was about, that she had to go, or that she would be sanctioned it she didn’t attend. There was nothing on her journal either.
As they didn’t inform her properly, Barbara can challenge the sanction.
IMPORTANT: It’s always best to make sure any limitations on what jobs you can look for / apply for are included in your Claimant Commitment. If you haven’t done so, ask your Work Coach for a variation to your commitment. You will need to accept the amended version within 7 days to avoid a sanction for failure to do so.
Was the sanction right for the ‘conditionality group’ you are in?
Check that the sanction that has been applied is the right level and period for the ‘conditionality group’ you are in, according to your circumstances.
See What do I have to do? for more information on the different conditionality groups.
Freddie is the primary carer of his two year old daughter, because his partner Maddy works. However he has been sanctioned for failing to apply for a job.
It appears that the DWP have made a mistake, thinking that Maddy is the primary carer and that Freddie is in the ‘all work related requirements group’ and so has to look for work.
He should be in the ‘work preparation and work focused interviews’ group because he is the primary carer of a 2 year old. So he wouldn’t need to look for or accept a job.
He needs to request a Mandatory Reconsideration against this decision, explaining his situation.
Apply for a hardship payment
A hardship payment is a loan to help you out with your household expenses while you are being sanctioned. The amount you get is 60% of the Standard Allowance that applies to you.
See For you for more information on the Standard Allowance.
You can only get a hardship payment if:
- You’re 18 or over, and
- You’re struggling to meet your basic needs or the basic needs of a child or young person you’re responsible for. ‘Basic needs’ include accommodation, heating, food and hygiene, and
- You can show the JobCentre that you’ve done all you can to cut down on everything except basic needs. This can include asking you to reduce any agreements to pay off debts, and
- You can show the JobCentre that you’ve done everything reasonably possible to get money eg from friends and family, asked for extra hours at work, looked for other benefits you might be eligible for including from the council. But you won’t be expected to sell your belongings, move house, use a food bank, or get a bank loan or credit card, and
- In the 7 days before applying, you’ve kept to all the work-related activities in your Claimant Commitment.
But if the JobCentre have recorded that you have ‘complex needs’ then they shouldn’t refuse you hardship payments.
IMPORTANT: You have to RE-APPLY for a hardship payment every month.
After your sanction has ended the DWP will want you to re-pay the Hardship Payment you’ve received.
They will take it back out of your Universal Credit each month until it’s paid back. The most they can take is an amount equal to 30% of your Standard Allowance, or it could be less.
Hardship Payments can be written off if you earn above a certain level for 6 months or more.
Other help available
- Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
You might be able to get a DHP if you’re struggling to pay your rent. You can’t have one if the only reason you’re struggling is because of the sanction. But if your Universal Credit has been reduced for another reason, such as the Bedroom Tax or the Benefit Cap, and you can show that you were struggling before the sanction was imposed then the council’s DHP team might agree to help out with a short term grant. Contact your local Council to apply.
See Discretionary Housing Payments for more information.
- Check your benefits
There might be a benefit that you didn’t realise you – or someone in your family – could claim. Contact a Benefits Adviser.
- Check your Council Tax
Contact the Council to check if you should be getting a discount in your bill. And have you claimed Council Tax Support?
- Help with utility bills
Contact your gas, electricity and water suppliers to see if there’s a scheme that can help you out while your income is reduced.
- Help with budgeting
You can get help with sorting out your bills and debts from StepChange, or the National DebtLine, or the Money Advice Service.
Your local council will be able to tell you if there are any local charities who can offer help.
- Food banks
If the sanction has left you and your family without food ask your social worker or doctor or health visitor, if you have one, for a referral. If you don’t, contact us and we’ll put you in touch with someone who can help.