factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“I have to accept my claimant commitment”

The short answer:

That’s usually the case … although you can try to make changes before you accept

Acceptance of a claimant commitment is a basic condition of entitlement to universal credit, so you normally have to accept in order to start a claim or continue receiving payments.

However, a claimant commitment should reflect your individual circumstances, and work coaches have a wide discretion when agreeing a commitment with you, and are advised that they should not use a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Therefore, if you are not happy with any aspect of your commitment, or if your circumstances change so you can no longer meet your commitment, always try and talk it over with your work coach and explain any difficulties you have or if you feel that your commitment is not reasonable.

Tip: Make sure you explain if your health or disability makes it difficult to comply with your commitment. This is because the DWP has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help people with a disability or health condition meet the conditions for claiming or receiving benefits.

If your work coach does not agree to change your commitment after you’ve raised your concerns with them you have a number of options -

  • you can request a review of the details and reasonableness of work availability and work search requirements of your commitment. This is carried out by a different staff member and can be requested each time a commitment is updated with new requirements;
  • the requirement to accept a claimant commitment can be temporarily removed in ‘exceptional circumstances’ where it is unreasonable to expect you to accept one (DWP guidance gives examples of medical or domestic emergencies);
  • you can refuse to accept the commitment, in which case you will be given a 7-day cooling off period to reconsider your decision before your claim is closed. If your claim is closed for not accepting the contents of your claimant commitment you can request a mandatory reconsideration and then appeal.

NB - a claimant does not have to accept a claimant commitment if they lack capacity to do so (and an appointee is not required to accept a claimant commitment on their behalf).

Law and case law:

Section 4 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the basic requirement to accept a claimant commitment while section 14 provides further details.

Regulation 15 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provides for the date and method of acceptance, and regulation 16 provides for exception to the requirement to accept a commitment.

Official guidance:

Chapter J1: Claimant Commitment of the Advice for Decision Making staff guide, and Requirement to accept a claimant's commitment (last updated March 2019) from the House of Commons library give more information about what a claimant commitment includes and the requirement to accept it.


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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