Warning for thousands on Universal Credit over major change that could see payments STOPPED | The Sun

A MAJOR change to Universal Credit is set to affect thousands of people within weeks.

They face tougher rules, and if not followed, it could result in payments being reduced or stopped altogether in the worst case.

Around 115,000 people on Universal Credit will be moved from the "light touch" work group to the "intensive work search" regime.

This means they will be expected to have more meetings with work coaches and increase their search for work or take on more hours.

Anyone who doesn't follow the stricter rules could face sanctions.

Claimants can lose some or all of their benefits if they don't follow the rules set out in their claimants commitment, but the most severe consequences are for repeat offenders.

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Payments can be slashed for a number of reasons, like turning down a job offer or failing to update information like moving house or how many hours you work.

The exact terms of looking for work or increasing hours depends on your circumstances and is detailed in your claimant commitment.

This is a document where you agree to certain terms when making a claim for Universal Credit.

For instance those looking after children or with caring responsibilities are not expected to have to work, or look for work, for as many hours.

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Something known as the Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) marks if you're in the "light touch" work group to the "intensive work search" regime.

Those currently earning below £355 a month, or £567 for couples, are in the intensive work search group.

That includes people who earn nothing at all while on the benefit.

The amount will rise to £494 a month, or £782 for joint claims, taking thousands more people out of the light touch group and into the stricter work search group.

You will then be expected to increase your work search from next month.

How to check if you're affected

Those affected by the change will be contacted by the DWP in due course.

The new thresholds will take effect from September 26, according to government documents.

Those in the light touch regime and earning over the threshold are not required to search for work or take on more hours.

If you're in the intensive work search and earning below this threshold then you will have a certain number of hours that you are expected to look for work.

How many hours that is will depend on your circumstances, including childcare commitments and any health conditions.

Details of which group you are in and the work search requirements should be detailed in your claimant commitment.

A claimant commitment is an agreement between you and the government outlining what you will do to get Universal Credit payments.

You can find it by logging into your Universal Credit account online.

Searching for work can include can range from applying for jobs, and creating job profiles online, to registering with an employment agency.

People in the work search group are also expected to see a work coach more often, compared to the light touch group where it's voluntary after initial contact.

The change to the AET brings it in line with the National Living Wage.

The new AET is the equivalent of an individual working 12 hours per week or a couple working 19 hours per week between them.

Since its introduction in 2013, the AET has not kept pace with the increases in the National Living Wage, with the result that the number of hours needed to work to earn the AET has fallen over time.

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The threshold will rise in future in line with the National Living Wage, the DWP said.

Currently the wage is set at £9.50 per hour for those 23 and over.

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