I’ve been sanctioned

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.

  1. 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. See this page  (challenging decisions) for general information on challenging decisions. There is no time limit to challenge a sanction – but it’s best to do it as soon as possible. Speak to a benefits adviser.

What might you be able to challenge?

Your ‘sanction notification’ (posted on your journal) should tell you:

  • why you’ve received a sanction
  • the level of sanction you’ve been given
  • 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.

Was the sanction right for the ‘conditionality group’ you are in?

Go to this page (What if I don’t stick my Claimant Commitment?) and 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.

Example: Freddie is the primary carer of his two year old daughter, because his partner Maddy is disabled and he is her carer.  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.

Instead he should either :

  • Be in the ‘work preparation and work focused interviews’ group because he is the primary carer pf a 2 year old. So he wouldn’t need to look for or accept a job.
  • Or, if he is Maddy’s full time carer – and he has told the DWP this – then he would have no work related requirements at all.

He needs to request a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ against this decision, explaining his situation.

Did you have a good reason for not doing what you were supposed to do?

Examples

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.

NOTE: During the Coronavirus outbreak (for 3 months from March 2020 – may be extended) people are not expected to attend the JobCentre for appointments.

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.

NB: 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.

John went for an interview for a job at a call centre. He turned down the job because he discovered that it involved more reading and writing than he expected, and he has great difficulty with literacy.
He was sanctioned because the DWP did not know the reasons.He should write a request for a mandatory reconsideration on his journal, or by phone, explaining this.

NB: 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.

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. The JobCentre have to give the following information to you when they invite you to an appointment:

  • When it is
  • What it is for
  • That you will face sanctions if you don’t go.

As they didn’t do this Barbara can challenge the sanction. 

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.

You can only get a hardship payment if:

  • you’re 18 or over (16 if your payment is reduced because of fraud), and
  • you’re must be 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, 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 – ie every time you’re in a new Monthly Assessment Period.

As it’s a loan, how do I repay it?

After your sanction has ended the DWP 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.

If you earn, or you and your partner together earn, what the DWP consider enough (your ‘conditionality earnings threshold’*) then the repayments can be suspended for each monthly assessment period that you’re earning this amount.

If you earn enough for at least 6 monthly assessment periods in a year then the repayments re written off.

*Your conditionality earnings threshold is normally based on whatever minimum wage applies to you multiplied by however many hours you’re expected to work – usually 35 but could be less. So if you’re 25 or older your threshold will be:
minimum wage X expected looking for work hours = conditionality earnings threshold
£8.21 X 35  = £287.35 a week (£1245.18 per month)But if you have been allowed to look for work for fewer hours – see this page (am I expected to look for work) then your threshold will work out lower.

Example:

Petiya is expected to look for work for 20 hours a week because of the time she has to spend on childcare responsibilities.
her conditionality threshold is worked out:
minimum wage  X expected looking for work hours = conditionality earnings threshold
£8.21 X  20  = £164.20 a week (£711.53 per month.
She was sanctioned and had been repaying it back for four monthly assessment periods but when she got a job paying £800.00 a month nest the repayments were suspended. After she’d kept the job 6 months she didn’t have to pay back any 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 benefit’s reduced for another reason, such as the bedroom tax or the benefit cap, the council’s DHP team might agree to help out with a short term grant. Contact your local Council to apply.
  • 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.
  • Charities
    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 out you in touch with someone who can help.