factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“Foodbanks are the only option after getting a sanction”

The short answer:

Not necessarily ... there are other options

Hardship payments

If you have been given a sanction you may be able to claim hardship payments from the DWP.

You will need to show that you do not have any other sources of income to meet your basic needs, which include food, hygiene, heating and accommodation. You will also need to show that you are meeting all your work-related requirements.

To claim a hardship payment you can ask your work coach at the jobcentre or ring the universal credit helpline - 0800 328 5644.

If you are awarded a hardship payment it will be paid at 60% of the amount that you have been sanctioned, and it will run up to your next universal credit payment date. If your sanction goes on beyond that date you will need to reapply if you want a further hardship payment.

Tip: When you apply, explain if there are any reasons that make it more likely you will be in hardship, for example if you have health problems or a disability, or if you have children or other caring responsibilities.

Hardship payments are recoverable from your universal credit although generally you should not have more than 40% of your standard allowance deducted from your benefit including any other deductions that are being made.

Local welfare assistance

You may be able to get help from the local welfare assistance scheme at your local council. They can sometimes give vouchers to pay for food, fuel or clothing.

Use advicelocal to find out what is available in your area.

Challenge the sanction

It is common to be given a sanction even though you have a good reason for not carrying out the work-related requirement. If this is the case you should ask for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision, and then an appeal if this is unsuccessful. Although you should normally do this within one month of the decision about the sanction, you can ask for a late reconsideration for up to a year after this - just explain the reasons why you are late, for example if you have health issues or you were unable to get help. If you have had more than one sanction you can challenge them all. 

It may be helpful to get advice to help you with the challenge - use advicelocal to find out what is available in your area

Law and case law:

Chapter 3 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 sets out the provisions for when a hardship payment can be made.

Official guidance:

Chapter L1 of Advice for Decision Makers explains what hardship is, how to apply for a hardship payment, and how the payments are recovered.

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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