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What is the Universal Credit Claimant Commitment?

When you claim Universal Credit, you will need to accept your Claimant Commitment - the responsibilities you have accepted in return for the benefit. We explain what the Universal Credit Claimant Commitment is and what happens if you don't meet your commitment.

When claiming Universal Credit the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will expect you to look for, or prepare for work, or to increase your earnings if you are already working.

In the majority of cases, your Claimant Commitment will be decided with your work coach during your Jobcentre interview.

When agreeing to a Claimant Commitment, you must accept a list of conditions including:

  • What you have to do to prepare for, or look for, work.
  • The consequences if you don’t fulfil the conditions.
  • Information the DWP needs you to provide you.

Depending on your situation, you might have to:

  • Show that you are looking for full-time work, and
  • Take steps to prepare for work if you are too unwell to work currently.

The Claimant Commitment will be based on your circumstances and will be reviewed and updated when you attend work-focused interviews.

These are meetings with an adviser where you will talk about the type of work you can do and what problems you would have in work, and you will work out how to deal with these problems.

Each time the Claimant Commitment is updated, you will be required to accept the new Claimant Commitment so you can continue to receive Universal Credit.

If you are so unwell, and the DWP does not think you should attend work-focused interviews, this will be part of your Claimant Commitment.

Once agreed, you can view your Claimant Commitment through your online account and update your progress on your goals.

If you’re claiming Universal Credit with a partner, you will both have to agree to an individual Claimant Commitment. Either of your Claimant Commitments can be affected if you or your partner start work or circumstances change.

What do I need to do if I have to look for work?

Your Claimant Commitment will change as things change in your life. Your responsibilities will vary depending on certain factors such as your family, your health and your earnings.

If you have to look for work, you will need to be available to start work immediately unless you have a good reason why you can’t – this is the work availability requirement.

The work search requirement is when the DWP will expect you to spend time looking for or preparing for work.

Can I choose which jobs to apply for?

The DWP allow you to look for work in your chosen occupation or sector for up to 4 weeks when you first make a UC claim. For example, if you are a teacher, you will be allowed to focus on looking for work in the education sector for 4 weeks. If you have not found a job after 4 weeks, your work coach will expect you to look for work in other sectors.

What else do I have to do?

Your Claimant Commitment should say what meetings you have to go to and how long you have to spend looking for work. If you need the Commitment changed, speak to your work coach at the Jobcentre.

The table below outlines examples of what may be expected of you from a Claimant Commitment:

Your situation Claimant Commitment requirement
You are working and earning as much as you are expected to. You will receive Universal Credit, without the need to increase your earnings.
You are able and available to work. You will receive Universal Credit but be expected to do everything possible to give yourself the best opportunity to find a job. If you don’t have an acceptable reason for not doing so, you could receive a sanction.
You are currently classed to have limited capability for work (LCW), related to a physical or mental health condition; this is expected to improve over time. You will receive Universal Credit until your circumstances improve and you can work. You will, however, be expected to prepare for work in the future. If you don’t do this, you could receive a sanction.
You are classed to have limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA) This means you have a disability or mental health condition which prevents you from working or looking for work.  You will not be asked to work and will be supported through Universal Credit.

Your work coach and Jobcentre interviews

When you claim Universal Credit, you will be assigned a work coach. They will focus on giving you the advice to help you meet the requirements of your Claimant Commitment.

If you can look and prepare for work, your Claimant Commitment may require you to:

  • State your job ambitions - You are now expected to look for work outside of your chosen occupation or job sector after 4 weeks. For example, if you are a qualified pilot but you cannot find a job in the aviation sector, after 4 weeks your work coach will expect you to apply for other jobs.
  • Provide evidence that you have searched for work regularly.
  • Sign up for recruitment agencies.
  • Apply for recommended vacancies.
  • Provide proof you have prepared for work.
  • Take interview training.
  • Write a new CV.
  • Complete a training course to improve your skillset.

What if I don’t do what my Claimant Commitment requires?

If you don’t follow the rules of your Claimant Commitment, you could lose some of your benefits – this is called a Universal Credit sanction.

There are four levels of sanction the DWP can apply depending on the severity of the circumstance which caused your sanction.

How much can the DWP take from my Universal Credit if I am sanctioned?

If you are single or in a couple, a sanction should not be more than half of your Universal Credit standard allowance.

If your Universal Credit is sanctioned at the lowest level, you will lose 40% of your standard allowance. This will continue until you start doing what the Jobcentre asked you to do, or they say you don’t have to.

If the full amount of your standard allowance is being taken from your Universal Credit payments, you should contact a Welfare and Benefits advisor immediately.

What if I have been affected by coronavirus?

You will still need to tell the DWP of any changes that may impact your Claimant Commitment. If coronavirus is affecting your ability to fulfil your Claimant Commitment, you should contact your work coach as soon as possible.

If you are too ill to contact your work coach, you can ask a relative or mental health support worker to help.

Hardship payments

If the DWP sanctions your benefit, you may be able to apply for help through a hardship payment. The DWP must pay you some money if you:

  • Cannot pay for essential things like rent, heating, food and hygiene.
  • Have tried to spend less and get other kinds of support.
  • Have met all work-related requirements in the previous seven days.

You will have to apply for a hardship payment every month if you need it, but you will have to pay it back using at least 15% of the Universal Credit you receive.

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