DWP denies £326 cost of living payment to ‘sanctioned’ Universal Credit claimants

Some Britons on Universal Credit have been denied their ‘vital’ cost of living payment due to sanctions at the Jobcentre.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the £326 lump sum in July would show some 8 million people across the UK that “we are on their side”. But guidance sent to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff, seen by the Mirror, told them to refute some claimants for the payment if their benefits were stopped.

It has led campaigners to demand the DWP overturn the ‘outrageous’ and ‘misjudged’ decision, with energy bills soon to top £5,000 a year.

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New figures which expose the extent of the sanctions should in turn be published tomorrow. Single person benefits are reduced or removed altogether if Jobcentre staff feel claimants have broken strict rules.

This includes if work coaches decide that benefit recipients are “not taking all reasonable steps to find gainful employment”. DWP workers’ advice said people who had seen Universal Credit halted entirely due to sanctions during a ‘qualification period’ – which lasted a month this spring – ‘will not be entitled to a cost of living” referred to as “zero reward”. .

Sanctions last between 28 days and 182 days depending on the seriousness of the offense

The decision was not mentioned directly in general advice to Britons about payment, in information posted on the government’s website. However, after being approached by The Mirror today, the Government confirmed this was indeed the case, sparking mass outrage.

The same website said people were ineligible if they received a “zero reward” based on their income, but there was no mention of penalties. He also confirmed that if people had suffered zero compensation due to deducted rent or debts, they “may still be eligible”.

Marc Francis of the poverty charity, the Z2K Trust, asked the DWP to think again. He said: ‘These one-time payments are designed first and foremost to ensure that people are not unable to afford to put food on the table or freeze it at home.

Marc added that the sanctions were “notoriously overzealous” and that many people who were affected “can’t find help” to appeal the decision, “so end up going without or turning to the food bank. local “.

Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said it was ‘outrageous’, adding: ‘This decision compounds the cause of distress sanctions, inflicting significant damage to people’s mental health. The DWP must urgently review this decision and administer the cost of a subsistence payment to those affected as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary suffering and harm.

Although the DWP has not confirmed how many people have missed said payment, it is believed that the figure could be between hundreds and tens of thousands. Sanctions across the UK have increased with the reopening of Jobcentres following the coronavirus pandemic, and 78,672 Universal Credit households were subject to them in February 2022.

This figure is up slightly from 75,059 in January, 64,893 in December, 49,724 in November, 40,826 in October, 26,658 in September, 18,026 last August and 8,752 last July. The penalties mean that up to 100% of a single applicant’s Universal Credit is deducted, or 50% for those applying as a couple.

Official figures do not indicate how many of the sanctioned parties were single, so it remains unclear how many lost their cost-of-living payments entirely. Some people are also only sanctioned for less than a month.

They last 28 days for “medium level” sanctions, 91 days for “higher level” sanctions or 182 days for repeat offenders of higher level sanctions. Individuals were assessed for payment of £326 based on whether or not they received UC in a one-month installment that ended between the dates of April 26 and May 25.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that those who receive a Universal Credit ‘zero reward’ during the qualification period will not be eligible for the first installment of the cost of payment. life. However, those who received “zero compensation” due to a sanction could be entitled to it retroactively if the sanction is successfully appealed.

“For those who have not received the first installment, our £37 billion assistance package provides further assistance, including a £400 energy payment, available to all households. A person is sanctioned only if he does not respect, without valid reason, the conditions to which he has committed.

“Sanctions can often be resolved quickly by reconnecting with the Jobcentre and attending the next appointment.”

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