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Changing your claimant commitment

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If you’re struggling to complete all the work-related activities in your claimant commitment, you might be able to get them changed.

Contact the Universal Credit helpline and say you’d like an appointment with your work coach because you need to change your claimant commitment. Explain why and tell them about any changes in your circumstances.

If you have an online journal for Universal Credit you should also add a note to it, telling your work coach that you need to change your claimant commitment.

Universal Credit full service helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to this number are free. 

Universal Credit live service helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

It’s important to act quickly and to keep trying to meet your current claimant commitment while you’re waiting for changes. Your Universal Credit could be cut (called a ‘sanction’) if you don’t do all your work-related activities.

Talking to your work coach

Be honest with your work coach about what work-related activities are realistic for you. They should always consider your requests.

Explain why you can’t complete your work-related activities - including anything about your situation that’s changed. In some situations you’ll automatically get less or no work-related activities.

If you’re unhappy about the way your work coach responds to your requests you can complain by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

You’ve experienced or been threatened with domestic violence or abuse

Tell the DWP within 6 months if you’ve experienced domestic violence or abuse. If you’d rather not talk to your work coach about this you can call the Universal Credit helpline instead.

You won’t need to do any work-related activities for 13 weeks, as long as you no longer live with your partner. The 13 weeks starts from the date you experienced or were threatened with domestic violence or abuse. It’s extended to 26 weeks if you’re a single parent and you’re responsible for a child under 16.

Within a month of telling the DWP, you’ll need to send them a statement from someone in an official position. They could be, for example:

  • your employer
  • a healthcare professional
  • a police officer
  • a social worker
  • a housing officer
  • a support worker
  • a trade union official

If you’re still living with your partner or you don’t report the domestic violence or abuse, the DWP won’t change your work-related activities.

The DWP will only change your work-related activities after domestic violence or abuse once every 12 months.

You’re ill or disabled

If you have a short-term illness

Tell your work coach if you’re ill - you won’t have to look for work until you’re better. You can only do this twice a year.

If you’re ill for more than 7 days you’ll need to get a doctor’s note.

If you’re ill for more than 14 days this counts as a long-term illness.

If you’re disabled or have a long-term illness

You won’t need to work if you can show that you have ‘limited capability for work’. You might need to fill in a questionnaire about your health and go to a medical assessment.

Tell your work coach about any health problems you have even if you aren’t classed as having ‘limited capability for work’. They should still adjust your claimant commitment if your health condition means you can only do certain types of work or manage a certain number of hours.

It could be discrimination if your work coach refuses to adjust your claimant commitment based on your health. You can check if they’ve failed to make a reasonable adjustment and ask them to make changes if they have.

You’re looking after a child or a severely disabled person

Your work coach should always take your caring commitments into account. Check you’re in the right work-related activity group to make sure you’re being asked to do the right things.

You should also tell your work coach about any temporary problems that stop you doing your work-related activities. For example, you should be allowed time off if your childcare is disrupted and you can’t rearrange it at short notice.

You’re pregnant or you’ve given birth in the past 15 weeks

Your work coach should always take pregnancy and childbirth into account. Check you’re in the right work-related activity group to make sure you’re being asked to do the right things.

You might be able to make a claim for discrimination if your work coach refuses to adjust your claimant commitment based on your pregnancy.

You’re looking for a particular wage or kind of job

If your work coach expects you to look for work they’ll normally want you to accept any job that pays at least minimum wage. This includes part-time work.

If you’ve recently been in work you can ask to restrict your search to particular jobs for up to 3 months from the date you claim Universal Credit. For example, you might only want to look for work that:

  • is full-time
  • pays more than minimum wage - closer to what you’ve earned recently
  • is in a particular area where you have experience

You’ll need to show that you have a reasonable chance of finding the kind of job you want. For example, tell your work coach if you have relevant experience, training, skills or qualifications.

If you’re told to apply for a job that’s against your beliefs

You shouldn’t have to do work that goes against your beliefs - whether religious or not. For example, if you’re a pacifist you shouldn’t have to work in an armaments factory.

Explain your beliefs to your work coach if they do ask you to do anything against your beliefs. If they refuse to make changes check if this is discrimination.

If you’re self-employed or already working

You don’t have to do work-related activities once you’re earning a certain amount - check you’re in the right work-related activity group.

They’re asking you to travel too much

You don’t have to apply for jobs that would take more than 90 minutes of travel each way.

Tell your work coach if health problems or caring responsibilities make it reasonable for you to limit your travel time further. Your claimant commitment should take this into account.

If your work coach thinks a journey would take you less than 90 minutes, make sure they know about any problems with the journey or restrictions on how you can travel. They might be using a quick estimate when the journey takes longer in reality.

Something else is stopping you working or looking for work

Tell your work coach if you:

  • have a family emergency
  • need to go to a funeral
  • need time off because your partner or child has died
  • have a disruption to your childcare and you can’t rearrange it
  • are in court, including as a witness or member of the jury
  • are moving house

Depending on your situation you might still need to do some work-related activities, but they should be reduced. Exactly what you still need to do depends on what you agree with your work coach.

Giving evidence

Your work coach might ask to see evidence of your change in circumstances or your problems with your work-related activities. For example:

  • a letter from a doctor
  • a child’s birth certificate
  • documents showing you’ve moved house

If you’re not sure what evidence you’ll need to show, ask your work coach.

If your work coach won’t change your claimant commitment

You can complain to the DWP if you think the decision is unfair.

If you get a sanction even though you’ve explained your situation to your work coach, you can challenge the decision with a mandatory reconsideration.

You can also check if the refusal to change your claimant commitment amounts to discrimination.

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