Universal Credit – Deductions are being made from my Universal Credit. What can I do?
What are Deductions?
Once the DWP has assessed a claimant’s entitlement to Universal Credit they will then go on to take any relevant deductions from the award before making the payment.
Deductions could be for: a sanction, repaying an Advance Payment, repaying a Hardship Payment, paying Court Fines, Child Support Payments, Benefit Overpayments (including HB and HMRC overpayments), debts to the DWP such as a social fund loan and civil/fraud penalties.
The DWP can also make deductions from the claimant’s award to repay certain priority debts (such as rent, utility bills and bills) owed to a third party via third party deductions.
Each Universal Credit claimant is required to accept a Claimant Commitment as a condition of entitlement at the beginning of their claim.
This sets out all your responsibilities and what the sanctions will be if you fail to meet them.
This Claimant Commitment outlines the availability and job search requirements linked to their claim depending on various factors including which conditionality group they have been placed in. (e.g. claimants are expected to search for work for 35 hours per week but this can be reduced if you are working part-time, are a lone parent with a young family, have caring responsibilities etc.)
Failure to undertake certain actions or committing certain offences can result in sanctions.
A sanction is a reduction in the amount of benefit award for a fixed or variable period, to encourage claimants to comply with work related requirements.
The most common reasons for having your benefits sanctioned are:
- Not doing enough to look for work.
- Being late for appointments or interviews
- Not turning up to a meeting at the Jobcentre
- Not taking part in an employment or training scheme
Sanctions take priority over other deduction and most deductions will be suspended when a sanction has been imposed.
Please see https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/already-claimed/sanctions/ for more details
How to avoid a sanction
Sanctions can be 40% or 100% of your standard allowance so it is important to avoid them.
The best way to avoid sanctions is to do all the things that are set out in your claimant commitment or agreement.
Here’s a checklist to help you:
- Make sure you understand all your responsibilities
- Ask your Work Coach or Jobcentre Adviser to explain anything that’s unclear
- Let the Jobcentre know as soon as possible if there’s anything in your agreement that you can’t do, and explain your reasons
- Keep track of all the dates when you have to go to the Jobcentre and any other meetings you have to attend
- Keep a record of all your activities that relate to your benefit requirements. For example, make a note of the time you spend looking for work and any jobs you apply for
- Keep a copy of anything the Jobcentre gives or sends you
- If you can’t attend a meeting or interview, or you know you’re going to be late, make sure you give as much notice as possible
How can I challenge a deduction?
Ask for a “mandatory reconsideration” giving reasons why the sanction should not be applied, ideally within one calendar month of the date of the sanction. If the deadline has passed there is a maximum time limit of 13 months.
You can use the on-line journal, send a letter to Freepost, DWP, Universal Credit Live Claim, or ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644
If the decision is not changed you can appeal to the independent First tier tribunal by completing form SSCS1 within one calendar month of the date of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice, explaining why you think the DWP made the wrong decision. Will need to attach a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
Telephone the DWP’s Debt Management Team, free, on 0800 916 0647 to see if the deduction can be reduced (please note deductions for rent arrears cannot fall below 10% of the standard allowance) or write to: Debt Management (C), Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton WV98 2DF. Please include your name, address and national insurance number.
Court Fine –
You have 10 days to appeal to the Magistrates Court, which imposed the fine, over the “Deductions from Benefits Order”.
However, a Fines Officer has the discretion to reduce repayments at any time if the UC claimant phones them or writes to them explaining that they are experiencing financial difficulty.
Please also see the following links for answers to other questions you may have: