Universal Credit applicants will need to submit their claim within 28 days of creating an account. From here, most interactions with the Universal Credit system will take place through a local Jobcentre Plus. At these Jobcentre sites, applicants will be paired with a work coach. This work coach will support applicants throughout their Universal Credit tenure, providing support, information on various job search programmes and answering any questions regarding the system. It will be the work coach who creates the claimant commitment, usually in the first meeting with the applicant.
The claimant commitment will detail what the applicant agrees to do to prepare and search for work, or to increase their earnings if they’re already working.
The details will be based on personal circumstances and will be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. Every time that it is updated, the applicant will need to accept a new Claimant Commitment to continually receive their payments.
It will record the responsibilities that the applicant must follow as well as the consequences if they are not met.
To ensure that the applicant stays on top of their individual commitments, they can view the latest version of it online.
Applicants could face sanctions if they fail to live up to their claimant commitment
It’s important to note that couples claiming Universal Credit together will receive individual claimant commitments. However, they may be individually affected if either of the partners starts work or have their circumstances change.
The claimant commitment will be updated as individual situations evolve. The specifics of how it will change will vary from person to person. However, the government has provided some examples of circumstances which will have a corresponding effect on claimant commitments:
- If the claimant is earning as much can be expected - financial support will be given without any other conditions to increase earnings
- If the claimant is able and available for work - the individual will need to do everything they reasonably can to give themselves the best chance of finding work. Preparing for and getting a job must be the full time focus
- If the claimant has limited capability for work, related to a disability or health condition, but this is expected to change over time - support will be given until the circumstanced improve and they claimant can work. The individual will be expected to prepare for work so far as they are able
- If the claimant has a disability or health condition which prevents them from working - the applicant will not be asked to work, they will be supported fully through Universal Credit
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The Claimant commitment will also be affected by certain factors such as if the applicant has children or cares for a disabled person.
The assigned work coach will focus entirely on helping applicants ensure they meet their commitments.
They will keep track of certain targets such as job goals and regular work search activity levels.
The government details that, for those able to work, job seeking should be viewed as a full-time job. Looking or preparing for work is expected to take up a minimum of 35 hours a week of the applicants time.
The rules for applicants will be made very clear, along with details on what happens if the rules/responsibilities are not met.
Those who fail to meet the responsibilities are expected to have an acceptable reason for why it happened.
If not, they may face a sanction. The severity of sanctions will be based on what the applicant failed to do and how often the applicant failed to meet their responsibilities set forth in the claimant commitment
Generally though, sanctions are broken down into four tapering levels:
Lowest level: This sanction will only apply if the applicant has to take part in a work-focused interview as a requirement but they fail to do so. The sanction will last until the applicant takes part in one
Low level: This level is used in if they fail to attend or take part in a work-focused interview, and a lowest sanction level does not apply. Or they fail to attend or take part in a training course or fail to take a specific action to get paid work/increase their earnings from work
Medium level: This level is used if they have to meet a ‘work search requirement’ but they fail to take all reasonable actions to find paid work or increase earnings
Higher level: This level is used if they have to meet a ‘work search requirement’, and they fail to apply for a particular job when told to do so, or if they refuse a job offer or they leave work or reduce hours of work either voluntarily or due to misconduct.