Universal Credit: With physical meetings abolished how are interviews now conducted?

Universal Credit has seen massive changes to how it works in recent weeks. Claimants now receive extra income and the minimum income floor has been abolished. These changes have been made in response to coronavirus, with the application process receiving one of the biggest alterations. 

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Since 19 March, claimants no longer have to attend Jobcentre appointments.

While appointments have been temporarily suspended, it is still possible to put through an application.

The work coach interviews will still be conducted, they’re now just handled over the phone instead.

Claimants will need to set up the interview themselves.

New applicants will be given a specific number to call for this.

During the interview, the work coach will go through the claimant’s details to ensure they’re all correct and up to date.

They will then ask the claimant to agree to a “claimant commitment”, a document which sets out what tasks and obligations the claimant must do to ensure payments are received.

It is important to follow the rules set out in this commitment as not doing so could result in sanctions.

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As physical meetings have been abolished, all Universal Credit operational procedures have moved to the phone lines.

As to be expected, this has made the lines exceptionally busy and many people have reportedly had to wait for hours before speaking to someone.

Fortunately, procedures have been put in place to help remedy this.

If the claimants local Jobcentre has seen that they have applied online but haven’t been able to call through yet, they will call the claimant to make arrangements.

Universal Credit claimants have an online journal for their accounts and the Jobcentre ill use this journal to let them know when they’ll be calling.

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All Universal Credit receivers will have an online account which will be used to:

  • keep a record of the things they’ve done to prepare or look for work
  • send messages to a work coach and read messages they send back
  • report a change of circumstances
  • record childcare costs
  • provide details about a health condition or disability
  • see how much Universal Credit payments are
  • check what’s agreed to do in the Claimant Commitment

Within this online account, a “to do” list will be presented which could have various tasks laid out. The claimant will be required to complete these tasks within a certain timeframe.

If for any reason these tasks cannot be completed, or if the person falls behind on their claimant commitment they should contact their work coach asap. Without valid reason, claimants can have their payments reduced or even withdrawn.

If the claimant requires money quickly for certain emergency household costs they can apply for a budgeting advance. These loans will be provided by the government and are to be used for things such as cookers white goods.

The amounts awarded can be substantial but it must be remembered that they will be needed to be paid back. The smallest amount that can be borrowed is £100 and the highest that can be received is £348 if the claimant’s single, £464 if they’re part of a couple or £812 if they have children.

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