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If you’re receiving employment-related benefit payments such as Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit you could suffer a “benefits sanction”. This can happen if you miss Job Centre meetings, fail to achieve agreed objectives or are suspected of attempting benefit fraud. You could then lose ALL your benefit payments for between 4 weeks and 3 years.
Apply for hardship payments
If you’re struggling for cash you might be able to get emergency money from the DWP to help you cover household expenses like food and bills. This hardship payment is usually a loan, so you’ll 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 benefit payment each month until it’s paid off.
You can only get a hardship payment if you meet all the following conditions:
You may also be able to continue receiving housing and council tax benefits from your local council.
Can you challenge the sanction?
You can ask for the DWP to rethink their decision if you think you’ve been sanctioned unfairly. This is called ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – the contact details will be on the letter sent to you about your sanction. You’ll need to tell them why you think the sanction was wrong. You can get help on our national website citizensadvice.org.uk if you search for “the arguments for challenging a sanction” and “checking if you were given the right sanction”.
You’ll get a letter telling you about your decision – it may be changed or you may get an explanation of why the sanction is upheld. The letter will also tell you how you could appeal to a tribunal.
Avoid getting another sanction
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.
Try to look for work
If you have enough money for travel, you could still attend meetings at the Job Centre and go for job interviews.
If you need more help
If you still can’t make ends meet, please contact us at Citizens Advice and we may be able to provide helpful advice, refer you to a food bank or help you apply to a local charity for a grant.