Hello and welcome to my October blog. Earlier this month, I was approached by a tenant who was struggling to meet her claimant commitment, due to a change to her health. This tenant was very anxious about her existing commitment and was relieved to find that you can request to change your claimant commitment.

As a result of this, I thought it would be wise to use this month’s blog to go into a bit more detail on what your claimant commitment is and when you can request to change it.

What is a claimant commitment?

This is an agreement you make at the beginning of your Universal Credit claim: in exchange for receiving your Universal Credit allowance, you agree to spend a certain amount of time on "work-related activity" each week. This could be working, volunteering or looking for a job.

Every commitment is specifically tailored to the claimant’s personal circumstances, taking into consideration factors such as employment, relationship status, health and family. The commitment is agreed between you and your work coach (who you will meet at your jobcentre appointment) and a copy is stored in your online Universal Credit journal.

Once your commitment has been agreed, you will be expected to complete your work-related activity each week and be able to show evidence of this in future meetings with your work coach.

What happens if I don’t meet my claimant commitment?

If you do not meet the agreements in your claimant commitment, you could receive a sanction. This will mean that your Universal Credit claim is suspended or closed completely, which is why it’s vital to speak to your work coach as soon as you find you’re struggling.

What will a change mean?

If you find you are struggling to complete the work-related activity in your claimant commitment, you can make a request to change your agreement, so that it better suits your personal situation.

For example, if you care for someone with a disability and your care responsibilities are making it difficult to meet your current commitment, you could ask to reduce the hours you agree to spend on work-related activity. This would mean that you still agree to look for employment, but your commitment would be easier to to balance with your care responsibilities.

How can I ask to change my claimant commitment?

Call the Universal Credit helpline (which is free) and ask for an appointment with your work coach to change your claimant commitment. You can also add a note to your online journal to explain why you're requesting a change.

When you meet your work coach, be honest with them about your circumstances and why it is you’re struggling. Whatever the reason behind your request is, your work coach should listen and take your requests into consideration.

What circumstances will allow a change to my claimant commitment?

This is a tricky question to answer; as every commitment is tailored to each claimant, it’s hard to create a definitive list of which circumstances would guarantee a change to your commitment.

However, there are a few situations which would be cause for a change to your claimant commitment. These are:

  • You have an illness or disability and your health has changed
  • You have developed a short-term illness or injury
  • You care for a child, elderly person or disabled person and their care needs have changed
  • You’re pregnant or have given birth within the last 15 weeks
  • Your close family member, partner or child has died
  • You have been threatened with, or experienced, domestic violence or abuse

Ultimately, if you experience any situation which could affect your work-related activity – whether it’s a funeral, moving to a new house, jury duty or anything else – you should inform your work coach as soon as you can to avoid being sanctioned.

Do I need to give evidence of my circumstances?

Usually, yes. Whatever reason you provide when requesting a change to your claimant commitment, your work coach may ask that you provide some evidence of your circumstances.

Your work coach will advise you on what evidence is needed for your circumstances; however, you can be proactive and bring supporting documents with you when you meet your work coach (e.g. a Doctor’s note explaining the illness you’ve developed, or a letter confirming you’re completing jury duty).

Get in touch

I hope that you have found this blog post helpful, and that it has offered some reassurance for struggling with their claimant commitment. If you would like some more information or one-to-one advice, please do not hesitate to contact me.

You can get in touch by clicking here, sending a message through Southway's Facebook page or calling 0161 448 4200.

I look forward to hearing from you.