CHANGES to Universal Credit this week could mean more than 120,000 people will have to look for more work or better paid work to avoid benefit sanctions.

New rules came into force this week, raising the minimum hours claimants have to work in order to receive their full benefit.

Claimants will now have to work a minimum of 15 hours to demonstrate they are job hunting, up from 12 hours.

The Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) decides which group you are placed in, and this then impacts how many requirements you must meet in order to keep your benefits.

The National:

Currently the rate stands at £494 a month or £782 a month if you are a joint claimant.

However, this increased this week to £618 a month or £988 for joint claimants.

If you earn more than these rates each month you will not be required to look for work and will have less contact with the JobCentre.

However, if you earn below this rate you will be moved to “intensive work search” and will be given a number of hours that you are expected to take part in work search activities each week.

Your individual circumstances will decide how many hours that is, with childcare commitments and health conditions being considered.

These are some of the other activities you may be asked to take part in:

  • Making applications
  • Creating and maintaining an online history
  • Registering with an employment agency
  • Creating and maintaining job profiles

Any mandatory commitments missed without a valid reason could lead to a sanction and your benefits being stopped.

Universal Credit cost of living support

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have confirmed the dates low-income families will receive £900 in cost of living payments.

Claimants can expect three instalments of £299, £300 and £301 to land directly into their accounts over the next calendar year.

The new £900 cash boost for over eight million eligible means-tested benefits claimants, including those on Universal Credit, Pension Credit and tax credits, starts in spring and will go direct to bank accounts in three payments over the course of the financial year.

Exact payment windows will be announced closer to the time but are spread across a longer period to ensure a consistent support offering throughout the year. They are expected to be broadly as follows:

  • First cost of living payment - £301 – Spring 2023
  • Second cost of living payment - £300 – Autumn 2023
  • Third cost of living payment - £299 – Spring 2024.

If individuals are eligible, they will be paid automatically, and there will be no need to apply.