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Get a hardship payment if you've been sanctioned

This advice applies to Scotland

If your Universal Credit has been cut because of a sanction or penalty for fraud, you might be able to get some emergency money to help you cover household expenses like food and bills. 

This is called a 'hardship payment'.

A hardship payment is a loan, so you’ll usually have to pay it back when your sanction ends. The Jobcentre will usually get the money back by taking an amount of money from your Universal Credit payment each month until it’s paid off.

Eligibility 

You can only get a hardship payment if you meet all the following conditions:

  1. You must be 18 or over (16 if your payment is reduced because of fraud).
  2. You 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. You'll only be eligible if the reason you can't meet these needs is because of the sanction. 
  3. You must have made every effort to stop spending money on non-essential things. The Jobcentre expects you to only spend money on meeting basic needs, so they might expect you to spend less on entertainment or leisure activities.  
  4. You must have done everything you can to get money from other sources before you can apply. The Jobcentre should be reasonable about what you can do in your circumstances. For example, you won't be expected to sell your belongings, move house, or get a bank loan or credit card. But you could be expected to ask friends or family for money, looked for other benefits (eg from your local council, or local charities), or ask for extra hours if you work.
  5. You must have done all the work-related activities that you were supposed to do in the 7 days before you apply for a hardship payment.

If you’re not eligible for a hardship payment

If you can’t apply for a hardship payment, there may be other ways to get help with living costs while you’re on a sanction.

How to apply

Contact the Universal Credit helpline to apply for a hardship payment. If you’re a couple claiming Universal Credit jointly, either of you can apply.

A hardship payment only covers a limited time up to your next normal Universal Credit payday. You’ll have to make another application if you’ll still be in hardship for the following month.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 5644

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

Giving evidence when you apply

You must give any evidence they ask for to support your application. For example, you’ll have to explain:

  • what you’ve done to find other sources of financial help
  • what other income or savings you might have to help pay your costs
  • what you’ve done to reduce your non-essential costs, eg entertainment costs
  • which living costs you’re struggling to meet

It will help your application if you can show a budget or financial statement that shows your monthly income and living costs. They’ll then be able to clearly see what you’re spending your money on. If you're not sure how to do a budget, the budget planner from the Money Advice Service could help you with this - you can download and print a copy at the end.

How much you'll get

The hardship payment is roughly 60% of the amount you were sanctioned by in the last month. 

If you're still struggling to cover your costs, there may be other ways to get help with living costs while you’re on a sanction.

Check if you have to pay back a hardship payment

If paying back the hardship payment is causing you serious harm, the DWP might agree to reduce or cancel your repayments. Get help from an adviser to check what you can do.

If you or your partner are employed or self-employed

The DWP should pause your repayments if you earn a certain amount - this is called the ‘earnings threshold’.

If you’re paid at least the earnings threshold for 6 assessment periods in a row, your repayments should be permanently cancelled.

The earnings threshold is the weekly hours you’re expected to work multiplied by your minimum wage. Check your minimum wage.

Your weekly hours depend on what work-related activity group you would be in if you weren't working. If you’re not sure, check what work-related group you would be in.

Your work group Hours
Work-focused interview group 16
Work preparation group 16
All work-related activity group Set in your claimant commitment - usually 35

If you live with your partner, your earnings thresholds will be added together to create one joint threshold.

If you start earning more than the threshold, contact the DWP and check they’ll stop your repayments.

If you have an online account, report a change by using your account to send a message to your work coach. You can also call the Universal Credit helpline, but this is likely to take longer as you might have to wait for someone to answer. If you don’t have an online account, you should call the helpline.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 5644

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

Paying back a hardship payment

You'll get less Universal Credit each month until you pay it back. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will reduce your payment by up to 30% of your 'standard allowance' – this is the basic amount you get, not including extra amounts called ‘elements’.

For example - if your payment is reduced by 30% of your standard allowance and your standard allowance is usually £317.82 a month, your total payment will be reduced by £95.34.

If you think you won't have enough money to live on because you're paying back an hardship payment, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you budget or ask the DWP to take repayments at a lower rate.

Appealing the decision

If the DWP decide you're not eligible for the hardship payment, you can ask them to rethink their decision. This is called 'mandatory reconsideration'. If you have new evidence or your circumstances have changed since you first applied, include this information with your request.

 

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