A BENEFIT sanction is when your payments are stopped or reduced – but there are ways to appeal if you think the decision is wrong.
More people than ever are claiming Universal Credit and other benefits due to the coronavirus crisis.
Latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show six million people were claiming Universal Credit, as of 14 January, 2021.
If you claim benefits, there are several legitimate reasons for your money being sanctioned.
For example, you could see your money stopped if fail to meet the job-searching responsibilities you agreed with the DWP.
Other reasons why you could be sanctioned include failing to accept a reasonable job offer.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases such as your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your council tax – You might be able to get a discount on your council tax or be entitled to discretionary housing payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
But if you think your money has been stopped unfairly, there might be something you can do to appeal.
A three-month ban on benefit sanctions was introduced by the Government back in March, but as of July 1 these penalties can once more be handed down.
Why might I be sanctioned?
Before you think about appealing a sanction, you should check whether your payments have been legitimately stopped.
We've rounded up some examples below of why the DWP could stop your payments, although these won't apply to all benefits:
- You failed to report a change in circumstances – for example, your partner moving in with you
- You didn't attend or take part in a work-focused interview
- You didn't attend a training course
- You didn't apply for a particular job vacancy
- You didn't sign on or report work-related changes such as a change in income
- You didn't attend an interview or start work when you said you would
- You didn't take all reasonable action to get paid work, more paid work or better paid work
- You refused a job offer offer
- You stopped working without good reason
- You took a pay cut without good reason
- You didn't reply to the DWP when they wrote to check details of your claim
When you receive a sanction, you will be told why your money is being stopped and for how long it will last.
The longest amount of time your sanction can last is 182 days.
If the DWP sanctions you two or more times and the sanctions run back to back, they can't run for a total of more than 182 days.
The amount you'll be docked varies depending on the severity of the sanction and how much you currently claim.
What type of Universal Credit sanctions are there?
You can check if you've been sanctioned correctly using this Citizens Advice link.
These apply only to those still in the work focused interview group.
This type of sanction lasts until you complete whatever you failed to do, plus a further seven, 14 or 28 day fixed period.
Your first medium level sanction will see your money sanctioned for 28 days if its your first punishment of this sort in 364 days, or 91 days for your second.
The most severe sanction level, your payments will be capped or stopped for 91 days for your first higher level sanction in 364 days, or 182 days for your second.
How do I appeal an incorrect sanction or decision?
If you think you've been sanctioned unfairly, or disagree with a decision about your payment, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration.
To start the process for a mandatory reconsideration, you'll need to contact the benefits office that gives you your payments.
You can contact them by:
- Filling in and returning a CRMR1 form
You should include as much supporting evidence as possible to support your claim.
This could include new medical evidence, reports from specialists, or bank statements and payslips.
As well as explaining why you think you've been sanction incorrectly, you'll need to provide the date of the benefit decision, your name and address, date of birth and your National Insurance number.
For most benefits, you have one month from when you were notified about the sanction to apply for a mandatory reconsideration.
However, it is still worth applying for one should you have missed the deadline for a good reason, such as being in hospital.
Benefits where you can use a mandatory reconsideration include:
- Attendance Allowance
- Bereavement Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Carer’s Credit
- child maintenance (sometimes known as ‘child support’)
- Compensation Recovery Scheme (including NHS recovery claims)
- Diffuse Mesotheliomia Payment Scheme
- Disability Living Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Funeral Expenses Payment
- Income Support
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Maternity Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Sure Start Maternity Grant
- Universal Credit (including advance payments)
- Winter Fuel Payment
There’s a different process for Child Benefit, Tax-Free Childcare, Guardian’s Allowance, Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and Vaccine Damage Payment.
How long does a mandatory reconsideration take?
There's no set time on how long it will take the DWP to look into your complaint.
The government has said that most cases take around 14 days but it can take longer than this.
What happens if I'm not happy with the outcome?
If you disagree with the decision of your mandatory reconsideration you can appeal to a First-Tier tribunal.
Claimants have one month to do this, although this is extended to 13 months for exceptional circumstances.
You'll need to download and fill in the SSCS1 form from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website.
The form will ask for you:
- Name and contact details
- National Insurance number
- Reasons for appealing
Send this, along with the outcome of your mandatory reconsideration of which you should have received two copies, to:
HMCTS Appeals Centre, PO Box 1203, Bradford, BD1 9WP.
The DWP will be asked to respond to your appeal within 28 days.
Still struggling to understand Universal Credit? We've explained what a Universal Credit advance payment is, how you apply for it and when you pay it back.
Plus here's how you log in to Universal Credit and what the benefits are.
And this is how to check you’re not missing out on thousands of pounds in benefits and Universal Credit.
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