Get a hardship payment if you've been sanctioned
If your Universal Credit has been cut because of a sanction or penalty for fraud, you might be able to get some emergency money to help you cover household expenses like food and bills.
This is called a 'hardship payment'.
A hardship payment is usually a loan, so you’ll have to pay it back when your sanction ends. The Jobcentre will usually get the money back by taking an amount of money from your Universal Credit payment each month until it’s paid off.
You can only get a hardship payment if you meet all the following conditions:
- You must be 18 or over (16 if your payment is reduced because of fraud).
- You must be struggling to meet your basic needs or the basic needs of a child or young person you’re responsible for. 'Basic needs' include accommodation, heating, food and hygiene. You'll only be eligible if the reason you can't meet these needs is because of the sanction.
- You must have made every effort to stop spending money on non-essential things. The Jobcentre expects you to only spend money on meeting basic needs, so they might expect you to spend less on entertainment or leisure activities.
- You must have done everything you can to get money from other sources before you can apply. The Jobcentre should be reasonable about what you can do in your circumstances. For example, you won't be expected to sell your belongings, move house, or get a bank loan or credit card. But you could be expected to ask friends or family for money, looked for other benefits (eg from your local council, or local charities), or ask for extra hours if you work.
- You must have done all the work-related activities that you were supposed to do in the 7 days before you apply for a hardship payment.
If you’re not eligible for a hardship payment
If you can’t apply for a hardship payment, there may be other ways to get help with living costs while you’re on a sanction.
How to apply
Contact the Universal Credit helpline to apply for a hardship payment. If you’re a couple claiming Universal Credit jointly, either of you can apply.
A hardship payment only covers a limited time up to your next normal Universal Credit payday. You’ll have to make another application if you’ll still be in hardship for the following month.
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Calls to this number are free.
Giving evidence when you apply
You must give any evidence they ask for to support your application. For example, you’ll have to explain:
- what you’ve done to find other sources of financial help
- what other income or savings you might have to help pay your costs
- what you’ve done to reduce your non-essential costs, eg entertainment costs
- which living costs you’re struggling to meet
It will help your application if you can show a budget or financial statement that shows your monthly income and living costs. They’ll then be able to clearly see what you’re spending your money on. If you're not sure how to do a budget, the budget planner from the Money Advice Service could help you with this - you can download and print a copy at the end.
How much you'll get
The hardship payment is roughly 60% of the amount you were sanctioned by in the last month.
If you're still struggling to cover your costs, there may be other ways to get help with living costs while you’re on a sanction.
Paying back a hardship payment
You'll get less Universal Credit each month until you pay it back. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will reduce your payment by up to 30% of your 'standard allowance' – this is the basic amount you get, not including extra amounts called ‘elements’.
For example - if your payment is reduced by 30% of your standard allowance and your standard allowance is usually £317.82 a month, your total payment will be reduced by £95.34.
If you think you won't have enough money to live on because you're paying back an hardship payment, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you budget or ask the DWP to take repayments at a lower rate.
Appealing the decision
If the DWP decide you're not eligible for the hardship payment, you can ask them to rethink their decision. This is called 'mandatory reconsideration'. If you have new evidence or your circumstances have changed since you first applied, include this information with your request.