Over 500,000 Universal Credit claimants hit by sanctions

More than half a million Universal Credit claimants were given a sanction between February 2022 and January 2023, DWP figures have revealed.

Some 514,000 people were given a sanction during this period. In the majority of cases, accounting for 97 percent of the sanctions, a person lost out on benefits because they failed to attend a mandatory interview with a work coach at their local jobcentre.

Others were given a sanction for not being available for work or not joining employment programmes. Some also received a sanction because they quit a job without a good explanation.

A claimant may receive a sanction if they fail to meet their responsibilities as set out in their Claimant Commitment.

A person will be issued a new commitment when their situation changes, such as if they take on a new job, so it’s important for an individual to check regularly to make sure they know what the conditions are.

Claimants can view their commitment online through their Universal Credit account where they can also update their progress on their goals.

A DWP spokesperson said: “If you do not meet one or more conditions of your benefit claim without good reason, your benefit could be stopped or reduced.

“This is a benefit sanction. However, not everyone that is initially referred for failing to meet the conditions of their claim will receive a sanction.

“Where a claimant’s benefit is reduced, the claimant may be eligible for a hardship payment.”

Government figures show there were 18,462 sanctions imposed in January 2020, which more than doubled to 45,000 sanctions imposed in January 2023.

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Spring Budget this year he would toughen the sanctions system to encourage people on Universal Credit to get back into work.

The Government recently increased the administrative earnings threshold, after which a claimant receives less support to encourage them to look for work.

Under the new rules, a single claimant earning below £494 each calendar month and couples with total earnings below £782 a month are placed in the intensive work search category.

This means they have to have regular meetings with a work coach at their local jobcentre in their efforts to look for work and increase their earnings.

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The DWP said: “Our priority is to help people find and move into work and the latest figures show an overwhelming amount of sanctions are applied simply due to claimants failing to attend mandatory appointments, not for failing to undertake work search requirements.

“Sanctions can often quickly be resolved by the claimant re-engaging with the Jobcentre and attending the next appointment.”

People on some means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit, are receiving a £900 cost of living payment over this financial year.

The payment is going out in three instalments with the first £301 recently sent out to eligible people.

The second £300 payment is going out in autumn 2023 with the third £299 instalment going out in spring 2024.

Universal Credit payments increased 10.1 percent in April. These are the new rates for the standard allowance:

  • Single under 25: £292.11 (up from £265.31 per month)
  • Single 25 or over: £368.74 (up from £334.91 per month)
  • Joint claimants both under 25: £458.51 (up from £416.45 per month)
  • Joint claimants, one or both 25 or over: £578.82 (up from £525.72 per month).

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