Universal credit: conditionality and sanctions
Thank you to all those who attended our seminars on 17th of November and 9th of December, 2016. The seminar examined the conditionality rules that are applied to claimants in the most beneficial way for them, as well as remedies for when things go wrong.
Claimants of universal credit face a heavily revised regime of labour market requirements which have to be fulfilled in order to avoid a sanction, including:
- The requirement to perform a certain number of hours of jobsearch each week (with 35 hours a week the default position for many claimants).
- Potential requirements for those whose GPs are providing them with medical certificates to still be forced to look for work whilst waiting to be assessed to see if they have ‘limited capability for work'.
- The removal of rule based exemptions from the labour market requirements for those in certain situations (such as carer’s of young children during the summer holidays where no child care arrangements can be made). These exemptions are replaced with reductions in labour market requirements only in cases where a work coach thinks these are ‘reasonable’.
This half-day seminar explored the opportunity for claimant advisers to:
- Consider the conditionality regime in outline and understand the key differences from the old JSA/ESA/IS regimes.
- Focus on the particular way the rules will work for parents with young children, carer’s and those with health problems: particularly looking at the potential problems that come from delegating to individual decision makers the power to decide what is reasonable for a claimant rather than having fixed rules.
- Think about ways of both ensuring the conditionality rules are applied to claimants in the most beneficial way for them and remedies for when things go wrong (challenging sanctions, hardship payments, appeals and public law challenges).
- Parent advisers and organisations: The changes to the exemptions for those with child care responsibilities are a potential source of confusion and hardship for parents, who will increasingly have to claim universal credit. The seminar will look at how to use the law to assist such parents.
- Disability advisers and organisations: Universal credit further increases the potential for seriously ill/disabled claimants being forced to apply for jobs under threat of sanction and the stress and potential destitution that can arise should they fail to do so. This seminar will provide opportunity to discuss potential remedies to such problems.
- Social Landlords: With direct payment of the housing costs element of universal credit to tenants, a sanction can often result in the rent not being paid. Helping claimants to ensure the conditionality regime they are subject to is appropriate to avoid sanctions and assisting in challenges to sanctions is therefore now in the interest of social landlords.