The Universal Credit Claimant Commitment
Universal Credit is designed to ensure that for people who can, work is still the
best route out of poverty and an escape from benefit dependence. The aim of
Universal Credit is to increase labour market participation, reduce
worklessness and increase in-work progression. The conditionality regime will
recast the relationship between the citizen and the State from one centred on
“entitlement” to one centred on a contractual concept that provides a range of
support in return for claimant’s meeting an explicit set of responsibilities, with
a sanctions regime to encourage compliance. A personalised approach to
labour market activity, together with appropriate sanctions, will encourage and
incentivise claimants to take responsibility for preparing for work, finding work
and taking up more and better paid work.
The Claimant Commitment is at the heart of this personalised approach.
Compliance with requirements such as active job search and engagement
with advisers, increases the chances that claimants find work more quickly
than they would otherwise, but too often in the current system there is a lack
of clarity about requirements and consequences. The Claimant Commitment
will address this, for the first time setting out all requirements and
consequences in one place – ensuring claimants understand what is required.
The key role it will play is reflected in the fact that all claimants are required to
accept a Claimant Commitment as a condition of entitlement to Universal
Credit. The Claimant Commitment will be accepted as part of the normal
claim process, where appropriate during a face to face interview with an
adviser. The conditionality group a claimant falls into determines the
requirements that can be imposed: All Work- Related Requirements Group
Claimants who are able to work fall into this group. Our aim is to encourage
them to get into as much work as they reasonably can do as quickly as
possible. Advisers will take account of individual circumstances and set
requirements that, if complied with, give the claimant the best possible
prospects of finding paid work. All such requirements will be recorded on the
Claimant Commitment. Our initial focus will be on those claimants who would
be eligible for current benefits. We will explore through trials, tests and pilots
the right approach for claimants who are in work.
Work Focused Interview Only Group
Claimants in this group, including people responsible for children aged
between 1-5 and foster carers, will be required to attend regular work focused
interviews which help them focus on how they can move into work in the
future and the steps they can take to prepare for this. Work Preparation Group
Claimants who have been determined at their Work Capability Assessment as
having limited capability for work are subject only to work preparation and
work focused interviews. Our aim will be to set requirements which help keep
them motivated by preparing them to return to work as soon as they are able,
taking into account their capability and circumstances. No Work-Related Requirements Group
For those claimants who are not expected to work, their Claimant
Commitment will require them to notify promptly any changes in
circumstances. For those claimants who are exempt from conditionality
because of their earnings, the Claimant Commitment will also advise them of
any implications of ending employment or loss of pay.
The Claimant Commitment
As accepting a Claimant Commitment is a condition of entitlement, in the case
of joint claims, both
eligible claimants within a household will be required to
accept an individual Claimant Commitment, which will set out any work related
requirements for each of them. If one member of the couple does not accept
their Claimant Commitment, neither will be entitled to Universal Credit if they
continue to apply as a couple. The Claimant Commitment can be accepted
electronically, by phone or in writing. The appropriate method will be made
clear to the individual.
We recognise that in some circumstances, claimants will find it difficult or be
unable to accept a Claimant Commitment. In the following situations, we will
support these people by:
lifting the requirement for those claimants who lack capacity. In this
context, “lack the capacity” primarily relates to those claimants with an
appointee acting on their behalf.
In exceptional circumstances, deferring the requirement to accept a
Claimant Commitment, without affecting the date of entitlement, such
as an office being closed due to fire or flood.
Claimants in the all work related requirements group
This paper focuses on the development of requirements for those claimants
falling into the all work related requirements group. These will be subject to an
intensive conditionality regime and will be expected to actively look for and
prepare for work. These are claimants who would be eligible for Jobseeker’s
Allowance in the current benefit system and who will be the first to access
In all such cases, the Claimant Commitment will be developed through a face
to face interview with an adviser. The interview will cover 4 core elements
leading to a set of requirements to be recorded in a Claimant Commitment.
capability and circumstance
Identifying the work a claimant is expected to look and be available for
Establishing which work search, preparation and availability requirements
Establishing ongoing contact requirements
These will enable the adviser to develop and record a set of requirements
that, if complied with, will give claimants the best prospects of finding work.
Diagnosis of claimant capability and circumstance
To support claimants get into as much work as they can as quickly as
possible, advisers will determine a claimant’s capability and personal
circumstances (including exploring work history, qualifications, health and
caring responsibilities) . This will ensure the claimant is placed in the correct
conditionality group and that all relevant circumstances are taken into
account. Identifying the work a claimant is expected to look and be available for
The adviser will identify a job requirement that sets out the work a claimant is
expected to look for and accept if offered. The adviser will establish the type,
location, hours and pattern of work a claimant will be expected to look and be
available for. Claimants will normally be expected to look for any suitable
employment, paying the relevant national minimum wage, that is within 1.5
hours travelling distance from their home. Claimants will also be expected to
look for full time work.
Claimants in the all work related group will normally be available to attend an
interview and take up a job immediately. People with childcare responsibilities
are permitted 48 hours to arrange alternative care and up to one month to
arrange care before they take up a job.
There are a variety of matters an adviser will take into account. Where a
claimant has a strong work history the adviser can allow a claimant to restrict
their jobsearch for up to 3 months to looking for work relating to a particular
type of job and location (and associated salary) that they have recent
experience in. This is to be known as a ‘permitted period’. After this period,
they will be expected to look for full time work at the national minimum wage.
The adviser should also reflect on caring responsibilities and any health
issues. There are specific provisions in regulations:
A parent of a child aged 5-12 years (or an older child where the child
has exceptional care needs) will be expected to look for work in line
with their caring responsibilities, for example during their child’s school
Carers who are not entitled to the Carer’s Element but have regular
caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person may have their
hours of availability adjusted in line with their caring responsibilities.
They will have to satisfy the adviser that the restricted hours offer
reasonable prospects of finding paid employment. Those with at least
35 hours a week of caring responsibilities are exempt from all
Where a claimant has a physical or mental impairment the requirement
will be limited to what is considered reasonable in light of the
impairment and they will not have to show they have ‘reasonable
prospects’ of finding work.
In establishing whether a claimant has “reasonable prospects” of obtaining
paid work, the adviser will ensure that the limitations do not prevent the
claimant from taking up any job, taking into account the jobs available in the
local labour market and ensuring that the claimant is not restricting the hours
they are available to such an extent that no jobs would be available. Establishing whether work search and availability requirements should
When a claimant is expected to look for work, we will identify the requirements
that will maximise their chances of finding work. These will remain in place
and the claimant will be expected to show how they have been meeting them
on a regular basis. The requirements will be kept under review to check that
they are still appropriate and likely to get the claimant into work.
There will also be some circumstances, where requirements won’t be applied,
for short periods of time. In certain circumstances, work search and availability
requirements cannot be applied. Regulations give a list of the particular
circumstances where this may be appropriate. This applies to claimants:
with a self certificate/medical evidence of illness of up to 14 days
receiving medical treatment outside of Great Britain
on jury service or attending court or a tribunal as a witness
whose partner, child or qualifying young person has died
participating in structured recovery for alcohol or drugs
who has in the last 6 months been a victim of domestic violence
who are prisoners
with a protection order
engaged in a public duty.
And at adviser discretion:
where the claimant is carrying out work preparation or voluntary work
Where a claimant has a fit note beyond the first 14 days of sickness the
adviser may decide that it is unreasonable to impose work availability and
work search requirements on account of the claimant’s illness. They may
decide that, nevertheless, the claimant should be subject to other work
related requirements, such as work preparation and/or work focused
Where a claimant has a temporary emergency or temporary
responsibilities and the adviser considers that it would be unreasonable to
require the claimant to comply with requirements for a short period of time
(for example a claimant is dealing with a domestic emergency).
Setting requirements to give claimants the best prospects of finding
By the end of the process, the intention is that the claimant is committed to
complying with their requirements and motivated to find work. In setting
requirements, the adviser will – working with the claimant – set out a detailed
action plan, articulating the steps a claimant must take to give themselves the
best prospects of finding a job.
A claimant will be expected to devote the same number of hours to work
search in accordance with this action plan as we would expect them to be
available for work (up to a maximum of 35 hours a week).
The action plan in the Claimant Commitment will reflect:
- any mandatory work preparation requirements – such as attendance at
training or CV clinics – that the adviser thinks will benefit the claimant.
- other (non-mandatory) activity the claimant is engaged in that the adviser
agrees improves their employment prospects. For example, if they are
undertaking paid work or undertaking voluntary work (though this can only
account for 50% of the expected hours).
- work search activity. Work search activity will take up the majority of a
claimant’s time – usually 35 hours - although we can take account of work
preparation activity. In articulating a work search plan we will expect advisers
to focus on quality of work search not quantity. We do not intend to set out in
guidance how long any particular activity should take as this will vary from
claimant to claimant. Where a claimant has done all that could reasonably be
expected of them – for example they have applied for all suitable jobs and
undertaken all the activities set out in their work search and work preparation
plan - this may be considered sufficient even where the time taken was less
than the hours expected. Establishing ongoing contact requirements
Finally, advisers will determine how on an ongoing basis they will continue to
support the claimant and check that they are continuing to take the necessary
steps to move them into work. This will consist of a tailored level of adviser
contact - by telephone, electronically, or face to face – and regular reviews –
at least fortnightly - to check progress and that a claimant is meeting their
requirements. Claimants in need of additional support are likely to be seen
more often and for longer than those claimants more capable of looking for
and finding work themselves.
Accepting a claimant commitment
Advisors will record all requirements in the Claimant Commitment.
Requirements set will aim to get the claimant into work as quickly as possible
but will be reasonable with regard to the claimant’s circumstances, such that
the claimant understands them. The consequences (sanctions) of any failure
to comply will be made clear.
There may be circumstances where the claimant is reluctant to accept the
Claimant Commitment. If the claimant refuses to accept, the adviser must
offer a cooling off period of a maximum of 7 calendar days. If the claimant still
refuses to accept their Claimant Commitment then he or she will no longer be
entitled to claim Universal Credit
The claimant can also request a reconsideration (second opinion) of the
Claimant Commitment. This means that another adviser looks again at the
requirements set in the Commitment and decides if they are reasonable. If the
original requirements stand, then the date of entitlement may be moved to the
date the claimant does accept their Claimant Commitment.
A new Claimant Commitment should be drawn up in response to a change of
circumstance, when old requirements expire, or when work search or work
preparations activities are proving ineffective. Any revised Claimant
Commitment has to be accepted by the claimant for entitlement to continue.
Where a claimant has not completed a requirement, the adviser will need to
ask the claimant why this is. The adviser should consider whether a referral
to a decision maker is appropriate to consider the application of a sanction.
Sanctions only apply if the claimant failed to meet a requirement without good
Claimants will be invited to provide evidence of good reason for not meeting
the requirement. The decision maker will take all available evidence into
account and may contact the claimant or third parties for further information.
Claimant Commitment Examples: Joanne Brown
On 9 Jan 2013 Joanne sees an adviser. Joanne is 25, single, with chronic
asthma which prevents her working in dusty environments, but no other
personal circumstances that need to be taken into account. Joanne will be
required to be available for full time work and undertake job-search for 35
hours per week. At the first interview the adviser establishes that she:
Has 5 GCSEs including English and Maths at Grade C
Has no IT qualifications or experience and no internet access at home
Has 1 year voluntary work experience (3 years ago)
Would like to work in a clothes shop
Uses public transport. The bus service is limited.
Has brought in a CV
The adviser explores how Joanne feels about not working and what she thinks
is stopping her getting a job.
Joanne will be required to check the local paper and apply for all suitable jobs.
She agrees to visit the library or Jobcentre to set up a Universal Jobmatch
(UJ) account. The adviser assesses this will take Joanne about half a day
including travel. The adviser agrees with Joanne that she should then make a
trip into town twice a week to spend time on UJ. Whilst there she should visit
shops and hand in a tailored CV.
As Joanne’s CV needs work, the adviser discusses attendance at a 2 day
interviewing skills and CV workshop. The adviser looks at UJ with Joanne
but there are no suitable vacancies. She suggests that Joanne contacts a
local agency that specialises in employment in the retail sector. The adviser
tells Joanne that any matches on UJ or via the local paper should be applied
for and a record of all Joanne’s activity should be kept.
The adviser arranges for Joanne to attend a Job Club in her village. This is
not mandatory but it will give her access to supported jobsearch. The
Claimant Commitment is attached (annex 1).
On 6 February, Joanne has completed the activities in Section 2 and has
provided the new CVs, along with her diary of regular activity. Her CV is
improved and her adviser agrees Joanne will continue her cold-calling efforts.
They agree that she will go to town twice a week to spend time on UJ and
cold call shops, concentrating her effort, street by street.
Joanne has secured 8 hours per week voluntary work in the local charity shop
and the manager will provide a reference should she need one. The adviser
has suggested Joanne gains a formal IT qualification and also advises her to
update her CV on UJ to show she is now undertaking the voluntary work.
Joanne has also been referred to a 6 week (one day per week) Level 2 IT
course and 9 hours will be counted as jobsearch (6 hours for the course and 3
for travelling. Joanne’s updated Claimant Commitment is attached in annex 2
On 9 Jan 2013 Mark sees his adviser for his first Universal Credit interview.
Mark is 45 and has split up from his wife. He is healthy and has 1 child aged
15 living with him who has been in trouble with the police and plays truant.
Mark has a voluntary parenting contract with the Youth Offending Team which
says Mark must ensure his child goes to school and must be home by 4.30pm
to supervise him after school. For these reasons Mark has asked if he can
restrict his hours to school hours to fit with his parenting contract so he can
take his child to the morning Homework Club at 8am and can be home at
4.30pm. He lives in a village and has no family nearby. The following
information is also gathered by the adviser:
Mark has no qualifications but can read and write
He has no IT skills an no internet access at home
He worked as a gardener at the local quarry and as a driver for 15
years and took redundancy. He hasn’t worked for 12 years.
He would prefer outdoor/labouring type jobs
He has a car
He has no CV.
Mark is happy to look for work providing he can drop his child off at school
and can be back for 4.30pm. The adviser has agreed Mark’s hours can be
restricted to a minimum of 25 hours per week and for his availability to be
between the hours of 9:00 and 3:00 to allow for travel to and from a job.
Mark’s adviser suggests attending a CV and interviewing skills course. He
also refers him to an IT course, and has allowed 6.5 hours for the course and
travel. Marks adviser discusses the best types of work search activities that
will help him to find employment. This includes, applying for vacancies in the
local newspaper, using Universal Jobmatch and “cold calling” employers. The Claimant Commitment produced for Mark from this interview is
attached annex 3.
On 14th January Mark contacts the office to say he had been ill and developed
chondritis which makes it hard to breathe and painful to move. The doctor
advises rest for the next 7 days. Mark’s adviser switches off requirements for
1 week based on a self certificate. Mark produces a fit note for the 2nd week
showing he cannot work, so the requirements remain switched off and on
week 3 he has a fit note that says he could do some work but needs to restrict
his driving for a further 2 weeks. The new Claimant Commitment produced
for Mark is attached at annex 4
Following the suspension of requirements, in view of the Doctor’s advice that
the condition may take months to completely alleviate, Mark is asked to attend
a discussion with his adviser to review his Claimant Commitment to ensure
that it is still reasonable and appropriate in light of his health condition.