Universal Credit typically is centred around physical interaction. While the claimant could easily check on their payments through an online system, the payments themselves are dependant on the claimant’s engagement level with the system.
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If the claimant was able to work, they were expected to search for employment while receiving payments.
Claimants were expected to provide evidence for this, usually through a “work search review”
This work search review would usually take place in a Jobcentre Plus with a work coach and failure to attend one of these meetings could result in a sanction.
These sanctions could lead to the claimant having reductions made to their payments or having them halted entirely.
However, following the coronavirus outbreak physical meetings like these have been called into question.
Cases are rising across the world and many organisations and government departments are now advising people to self-isolate and in some cases avoid physical contact.
Because of this, Rishi Sunak made changes to the universal credit rules in the 2020 budget.
As the chancellor of the exchequer detailed: “To make sure that time spent off work due to sickness is reflected in your benefits, I’m also temporarily removing the minimum income floor in Universal Credit;
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“And I’m relaxing the requirement for anyone to physically attend a jobcentre; everything can be done by phone or online.”
As physical meetings will soon be difficult to manage, the government has made efforts to make the process easier in other areas.
Understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk has already been updated with information on coronavirus considerations.
They provide information on how a work coach can be contacted via an online journal or phone.
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There is also a Universal Credit helpline in place that can help with any queries.
Jobcentre Plus also has a number of helplines in place for various benefits as well as normal Universal Credit.
There are also several independent organisations that can be contacted for support on Universal Credit, which do not require the claimant’s physical presence.
These include the Money Advice Service and Citizens Advice.
While claimants will not be required to attend Jobentre appointments in person going forward it is unclear if the discussion topics will also change.
For now, it can be assumed that these appointments will cover the usual considerations.
The government detail that this can include creating up to date CVs, looking for jobs and completing training courses.
Should a claimant still need to physically visit their jobcentre plus, the state provide tools for finding the nearest offices.
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