Interviews and meetings are part of the Universal Credit claim process and are held periodically for various reasons. Through this blog post, we will discuss what a Universal Credit Compliance Interview is, how should a claimant prepare themselves for it; as well as some other reasons for review sessions held with officers from your local jobcentre and what are the circumstances under which benefits sanctions may be levied on claimants.

What Is A Universal Credit Compliance Interview?

A Universal Credit Compliance Interview is one in which an officer from the Job Centre asks a claimant some basic questions regarding their income, savings and personal circumstances for an update regarding their situation and their benefits claim. It is mostly held when the DWP is concerned about suspicious activity/actions on behalf of claimants that may lead to false claims. The purpose of a UC Compliance Interview is to investigate details and confirm whether facts have been misquoted or hidden during the course of the benefits claim.

The questions that are asked by an officer during the compliance interview may include information regarding the claimants, income, health, personal circumstances, number of household members, relationship status, etc. Therefore, claimants may be required to carry evidence of their income, expenses and living conditions during the interview.

Should they discover factual misrepresentation as a result of this interview, they will then ask the claimant to sign a written statement in acceptance of their fraudulent claim. This is known as an MF47 statement.

While being interviewed, claimants have the right to an interpreter, a friend,  close relative or social worker to be present with them during the interview proceeds. They also have the right to reschedule the interview if they are not comfortable with the date or time indicated by the DWP. They may even record the interview if they wish to.

Certain changes in your circumstances can bear an impact on the benefits you receive including Universal Credit. If you hide such facts from the authorities with the intention to avoid a reduction in your benefits, you may be penalised or taken to court. Therefore, it is advisable if you face any of the following situations, you must inform the relevant authorities by signing in to your Universal Credit account

  • a new mobile number, postal or email address
  • a change in your bank details
  • change of residence due to moving in with a partner
  • having a child
  • changes to your health condition
  • being unable to work due to an illness
  • starting to care for a child or disabled person
  • finding or finishing a job
  • changes to your earnings, savings, investments
  • changes to rental payments
  • changes to your immigration status (in case you’re not a British citizen)

What Are Acceptable Reasons For Missing A Universal Credit Appointment?

Some of the reasons acceptable for missing out on a Universal Credit appointment include the following:

  • personal emergency due to ill health
  • domestic emergency including serious illness death of a close relative or friend
  • detained by the police
  • attending court or a tribunal
  • attended a job interview
  • severe weather conditions prevented commute

If a claimant has faced any of the above listed unfortunate incidents, they must provide evidence of the reason for missing out on an appointment with their work coach. On the other hand, if a claimant is not faced with any of these situations and yet they are unable to meet their work coach as per the scheduled time, they must inform them well in advance so that a meeting can be rescheduled for a later time; since the purpose of such appointments and meeting is to keep the DWP updated with the claimant’s progress on work-related activities.

If a benefits claimant deliberately misses out on an appointment with their work coach, they will be sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pension. This means that their benefits claim will be reduced in amount for the next few months. 

What Is A Work Search Review For Universal Credit?

A work search interview is a periodic dialogue between a Universal Credit (earlier JSA) claimant and their Work Coach at the Universal Credit Job Centre so that (a) the claimants can update their work coach regarding job search and job preparation activities that they have undertaken and (b) the work coach can provide guidance and support to the claimants to be able to find a job.

A work search review can also help in identifying a change in the claimant’s circumstances that may require changes to their previous claimant commitment and the work search related group assigned to them.

Work search reviews can be held weekly or fortnightly; sometimes held as a 10-minute phone call between a claimant and their work coach and other times as a detailed discussion at the local job centre.

Based on the terms of the agreement in the Claimant Commitment of a Universal Credit claimant, the work coach appointed at the UC jobcentre is committed to providing support and guidance to claimants with regard to finding a paid job at the earliest. 

What Happens At A Universal Credit Commitments Review Meeting?

A commitments review meeting is a basic discussion between the work coach from the job centre at DWP and a Universal Credit claimant to assess the individual’s ability to keep up with their Claimant Commitment as well as provide support and guidance to encourage progress. If the claimant has experienced a change in circumstances that can potentially affect their Universal Credit claim, they are expected to share such updates with their work coach during this session so that a new Claimant Commitment can be drafted, if need be.

These meetings are held regularly either through a phone call or a visit to the local job centre and it is mandatory for claimants to attend the review to keep their work coach updated on their progress regarding the commitments made with regards to their Universal Credit claim.

During a commitments review meeting, a work coach may inquire the claimant regarding the nature and quality of activities involved in searching for a job, the amount of time spent in such activities as well as the outcomes of such activities. Claimants are advised to keep evidence of their work search ready during such sessions. 

What Do They Ask You In A Universal Credit Phone Appointment?

In addition to your personal identification details, you can be asked about any of the following areas of your life during a phone appointment with regards to the Universal Credit claim:

  • your identification details from your passport or driving license
  • your postcode
  • your NI number
  • your bank account, building society or credit union account number 
  • your monthly rental payments
  • your landlord’s address 
  • details of your savings and capital investments
  • details of your income and benefits
  • details of any child care payments made by you
  • child benefit reference numbers (if any)

This is a preliminary session that is usually held via telephonic conversation. The purpose of this meeting is for the DWP officer to assess the claim made by a UC applicant.

What Is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a state benefit for UK citizens above the age of 18 and below state pension age. It aims to provide financial assistance to individuals who are either out of work or on a low income. It is a monthly payment that claimants receive to help them to cover living costs.

Universal Credit has replaced six benefits, referred to as the “legacy benefits” by serving a single payment for households and helping them meet housing and childcare costs. These include:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Additionally, it provides support for health conditions, disabilities or the role of a carer that prevent claimants from working full time or working at all.

Who Is Eligible For Universal Credit?

To qualify for Universal Credit, claimants must be able to fulfil the below eligibility criteria:

  • aged between 18 (in some cases it may be 16 or 17) and state pension age
  • unemployed or on low income
  • between the claimant and their partner, total savings are less than £6,000
  • experiencing high costs for child care
  • suffering from a disability or health condition
  • caring for someone else

The amount of Universal Credit that an individual receives depends on their personal circumstances and income (if any). For instance, someone who is single and younger than 25 years of age will be eligible for Universal Credit amounting to around £257 per month. Meanwhile, this amount will rise to around £509 for someone who is living with a partner and either one of them or both of them are above the age of 25.

Conclusion:

A Universal Credit Compliance INterview is scheduled by the Department for Work and Pension when they suspect fraudulent benefits claim. A one to one discussion with the claimants through such interviews helps officers from the DWP aim to investigate the truth so that once proven, a claim of fraud can be dealt with appropriately; whether though sanctions or through a court order.

FAQs: What Is A Universal Credit Compliance Interview?

What is a compliance telephone interview for universal credit?

A compliance interview for universal credit is when an officer from the job centre investigates a suspected benefits fraud with the aim to gain evidence in pursuance of their investigation. For this purpose, they will schedule a telephonic conversation with the claimant and ask some questions regarding possible factual misrepresentation.

What does a compliance interview mean?

A compliance interview means that a benefits claimant will be interviewed by an officer from the DWP with regards to their income, savings, relationship status and living conditions to check for any changes since they filed a claim. The reason for this may be a general overview or to confirm a potential suspicion of claim fraud.

What do they ask in a Universal Credit meeting?

You can be asked for details of your savings and capital investments, your income and benefits to your family structure, health conditions as well as personal circumstances that can impact your ability to work in a Universal Credit meeting.

How long is a work search review?

An initial work search interview can be 10 minutes long and would possibly be held via phone call. However, with the passage of time, the duration may increase depending on the exchange of updates to be shared and the interview may be held at the local job centre.

Why is my Universal Credit being reviewed?

Your claim for Universal Credit may be reviewed if you have experienced a change in circumstances due to which there may be changes to the UC payments you receive.

How long does it take for Universal Credit to review your claim?

Once a claimant has provided all the necessary documents required for their Universal Credit application, it generally takes between 5 to 6 weeks between their application being approved and the first Universal Credit payment being received by them.

References:

A guide to DWP compliance interview questions – Stuart Miller Solicitors

What is a compliance officer from the Jobcentre? – AnswersToAll

Understanding Universal Credit – Sanctions

Understanding Universal Credit – What you need to do on Universal Credit

Find out about money taken off your Universal Credit payment – GOV.UK

Universal Credit and you – GOV.UK

Fail to attend UC.pdf

Universal Credit and your claimant commitment – GOV.UK

Understanding Universal Credit – What you need to do on Universal Credit.

Universal credit and you

Universal credit interviews

Work Search Reviews Universal Credit

Claimant Commitment and UC Work Coach – Renfrewshire Website

What does “35 hours job search” mean?

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?