To get Universal Credit and Job Seekers Allowance, you have to meet certain work-related requirements. These are the things you have to do to prepare for work, find work, get better paid work, or increase your hours, like going to job interviews.

If you fail to meet one of these requirements, you can be sanctioned. This means your benefit is reduced for a certain period.

If Jobcentre Plus has reduced your Universal Credit (UC), Job seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, it might be because you've been sanctioned. However, Jobcentre Plus can reduce your benefit for other reasons, for example, to repay an overpayment or because your circumstances have changed. You should check why your benefit has been reduced to see if it's because you've been sanctioned.

You may have a letter from Jobcentre Plus telling you that you've been sanctioned and giving a reason why. If you're not sure why your benefit has been reduced, contact Jobcentre Plus and ask them why.

What is a sanction?

A sanction means Jobcentre Plus reduces your benefit for a certain period of time. There are rules about how much they'll reduce it by and how long the sanction lasts for.

The reduction in your UC depends on your circumstances. For example, your it won't be reduced by as much if you’re in the work-focused interview only group or because of things like being pregnant or caring for a child under one.

Jobcentre Plus can sanction you if you fail to meet one of your work-related requirements.

They can also sanction you in some other circumstances, for example, if you’ve left your job voluntarily and without a good reason, or you've been dismissed for misconduct.

The length of time you can be sanctioned for depends on the type of sanction you’re given.

Top tips

  • check your benefit has gone down because of a sanction and not some other reason
  • check which type of sanction you’ve been given
  • check why you've been sanctioned
  • check which work-related group you're in and what you can be sanctioned for if you're in that group
  • check Jobcentre Plus was right to sanction you
  • check how much the sanction should be
  • check how long your sanction should last.

You can challenge the decision to sanction. Nearly half of the people who appeal win and get their money back. The advice agencies in Salford have produced a special leaflet, or you can get more information on the council’s web site www.salford.gov.uk/sanctionshelp

For help from Salford Citizens Advice visit your local bureau in Eccles, Irlam and Cadishead, Salford City, Swinton, Walkden or at Salford Royal.

Telephone our advice line: 0844 826 9695 (if calling from a landline or if calling from a mobile 0300 456 2554).

Tom Togher.