Job Centres to reopen this week as appointments and benefit sanctions restart

JOB Centres are to begin reopening this week for face-to-face Universal Credit appointments and assessments – but a ban on benefit sanctions will also be lifted.

The phased restarting of meetings with Jobcentre staff will resume from Wednesday July 1, more than three months after they were paused to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

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Jobcentres never fully closed during lockdown so that it continue to provide services for those lacking phones or the internet, such as the homeless.

But it ran a significantly reduced service and encouraged people to stay at home where possible.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that staff are already calling claimants to discuss their "work commitments".

This refers to the amount of time claimants commit to looking for a job in order to receive benefits.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren't enough to cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

DWP Minister Therese Coffey made the announcement in the Commons today although further details of the are expected over the next few days.

She also ruled out an extension to a three-month ban on Universal Credit sanctions, which is due to end at the end on Tuesday.

Failure to meet the responsibilities you agreed with DWP normally results in a benefits sanction.

This usually sees your benefits docked for a set period, although how much by depends on why you're being sanctioned.

Reasons for this can include failure to look for work, failure to attend a work focused interview, or not accepting a reasonable job offer.

Two million people have applied for benefits since the start of the coronavirus crisis began back in March.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics earlier this month show that the number of workers on company payrolls has fallen by 612,000 between March and May 2020.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes five weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7million from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn:The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.

This number is expected to rise in the coming months as employers start to take on some of the responsibility for paying wages of staff members on the government's furlough scheme.

Many of these will be looking for help from the welfare system.

On this, Ms. Coffey said: "It’s important that as the job centres fully reopen this week, that we do reinstate the need for having a claimant commitment and it’s an essential part of the contract to help people start to reconsider what vacancies there may be.

"But I know that I can trust the work coaches, my job centre managers who are empowered to act proactively with people.

"There will be some people right now, Mr Speaker, who have never had to look for a job for the last 20 to 30 years and they will need careful support."

A spokesperson for the DWP said: "From July, people can make an appointment with their work coach if they can’t get the help they want online or over the phone and work coaches will be calling all claimants to help them get ready for the world of work."

The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign is demanding ministers make more changes to the system to help struggling Brits before its too late.

We’ve told heartbreaking tales of how Brits are drowning in thousands of pounds worth of debt waiting for help, and have had to give up work due to the complicated childcare system.

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