6 reasons your Universal Credit payments could be stopped or cut – and how to avoid it

UNIVERSAL Credit payments can be stopped or cut for a number of reasons including not applying for work.

Claimants can be sanctioned if they fail to meet the requirements set out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Your payments could be affected if you don't look for employment or if you're late for Job Centre appointments.

Tougher rules, introduced in February, mean there are now stricter penalties if you don't accept a job offer.

Claimants can lose some or all of their benefits if they're sanctioned, but the most severe consequences are for repeat offenders.

If you're sanctioned you'll have less money to live on, so it helps to understand why this can happen and how to avoid it.

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Missed migration date

Your benefits could be stopped if you don't move over to Universal Credit by a certain deadline.

The government has resumed a drive to switch more people on to the benefit.

This means you'll be told when you need to claim Universal Credit by – but you'll only have months to do so.

You'll get a Migration Notice letter sent to you in the post.

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It will include a deadline to switch from legacy benefits to Universal Credit.

The DWP has said you will have just three months to claim the benefit from the date of receiving that letter, or face missing out on payments altogether.

In an update on Monday the DWP said: "This letter will inform you that your existing benefits or tax credits will be ending, and the date you must claim Universal Credit by."

The initial push will affect around 500 people so you might not get your letter straight away.

However all legacy benefits are set to be phased out by 2024.

This isn't a sanction and you should be able to sign up to Universal Credit even if you miss the deadline – but you may face a delay in your benefit payments.

Not applying for work

Another reason why your Universal Credit payments could be stopped or reduced is that you're not applying for work.

This is because under the commitments you agree to apply for jobs to get you back into employment.

Turning down a job

Universal Credit claimants are expected to accept jobs they have been offered it as long as it's within reason.

Refusing a job offer because you don't want it will lead to you being sanctioned at the highest level.

A new rule also means you'll have less time to accept a job offer.

Benefits claimants used to be able to spend three months trying to get a position that they have relevant experience for.

But since February that has been slashed to four weeks.

After that workers will be expected to accept alternative offers of employment in any sector, or face sanctions.

Quitting your job

Employees on a low income can get help with living costs through Universal Credit.

But if you quit work without a good reason you may see your benefits reduced.

There's no set definition of what a good reason is, but it might include unaffordable childcare costs.

Being late for Job Centre appointments and interviews

People are often required to attend interviews and appointments with the Job Centre as part of their Universal Credit claims.

These are held face to face or can be over the phone or via video chat.

You should let the Jobcentre know immediately if you are unable to attend.

If you fail to turn up to a meeting you will be sanctioned until you attend another review.

If you repeatedly miss meetings the sanctions may be stricter and last longer.

Not updating your information

The amount of Universal Credit you get depends on many factors, including how many hours you work and how many children you have.

Failing to report a change in circumstances, such as moving house or getting a new job, could lead to sanctions.

In the most extreme cases you may be committing benefit fraud and could even face legal action.

What can I do if my Universal Credit payments are sanctioned?

You can ask for a hardship payment if you cannot pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs because you got a sanction.

However you will have to repay it through your Universal Credit payments – they’ll be lower until you pay it back.

Claimants also have to prove that they've tried to find the money from somewhere else and will only spend the money on essentials

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You can call the Universal Credit helpline to ask for a hardship payment.

You can also appeal the decision to sanction you.

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