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Universal credit rule change to put tens of thousands of people at risk of having benefits cut – here's what you need to know

More than 100,000 people claiming universal credit will be asked to "take active steps" to increase the hours they work or find better paid jobs – or face having their benefits reduced. Here's what it means for you.

Currently, those working up to 9 hours a week at the national minimum wage are required to meet regularly with their job centre coach and take active steps to increase their earnings – but this will be expanded to those working 12 hours a week from next week and to those working 15 hours a week from January 2023.

See our Universal credit guide for full info on how this benefit works and use our 10-minute benefits check to find out if you could be entitled to it.

You'll need to follow your 'claimant commitment' or risk sanctions

The claimant commitment is the agreement you sign when you start getting universal credit, and sets out the things you have to do in order to get your payments. This can include applying for jobs, attending interviews or increasing your hours. 

If you don't stick to the commitment, your universal credit payments can be reduced through sanctions. For example, if you are single and over 25, sanctions can reduce your universal credit payment by £11 a day, for as long as your sanction lasts.

For some, the rule change may mean having to find (and pay for) more hours of childcare, or having to take jobs in sectors where they have little or no experience.

Those who are unable to work due to long-term sickness or a disability are exempt from sanctions, however – and this isn't changing.

What does the Government say?

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said: "These gradual changes focus on getting people back into work and maximising the hours people take on to help grow the economy and raise living standards for all. It's a win-win. It boosts incomes for families and helps businesses get the domestic workers they need, all while supporting economic growth."

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