New to Universal Credit

6. Your responsibilities

Universal Credit provides financial support. In return you will be expected to do certain things, depending on your circumstances.

Changes in your situation

It is your responsibility to tell the Department for Work and Pensions about any changes in your situation, as these may mean changes to the amount of Universal Credit you receive or what is expected of you. Changes can include:

  • finding or finishing a job
  • having or caring for a child
  • a change to your address
  • becoming ill
  • a change in your health condition
  • a change to your banking details
  • your rent payments going up or down
  • a partner joining or leaving the home you rent and live in

There may be other changes that are not listed here. If there are any changes in your situation talk to your work coach or contact Universal Credit to see if they will affect your payments or what you are expected to do.

These are often called changes of circumstances. For more information see Universal Credit: report a change of circumstances

Preparing or looking for work

What you are expected to do in return for receiving Universal Credit will depend on your personal circumstances. It will take into account things like caring responsibilities, or whether you are disabled or have a health condition.

With Universal Credit you usually get a work coach to help you if you are preparing for work, moving into work or looking to increase your earnings. They may continue to provide support and advice even when you start work, depending on your circumstances.

Your Claimant Commitment

In most cases what you will do will be agreed during a conversation with your work coach. What you and your work coach agree will then be written down in a Claimant Commitment. This will set out what you have agreed to do to:

  • prepare for work
  • look for work
  • increase your earnings if you are already working

Your Claimant Commitment will be reviewed regularly, and may be changed if your circumstances change. Each time it changes you will need to agree and accept a new Claimant Commitment.

You can ask to change your Claimant Commitment, but all changes will need to be agreed with your work coach. If you think there are things that need to be taken into account, you should talk to your work coach about these so that they can fully understand your situation. See examples of circumstances that could affect your Claimant Commitment

If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, both of you will need to accept an individual Claimant Commitment.

For more information see Universal Credit and your Claimant Commitment

Changes during the coronavirus outbreak

We will contact you to discuss your Claimant Commitment. In the meantime, if you are able to look for work safely while following government guidance on coronavirus, you should:

  • update your CV
  • consider your opportunities for returning to work
  • search for jobs, for example on the government’s jobhelp website
  • read about Claimant Commitments and looking for work in the coronavirus and Universal Credit guide, which you can find in your online account
  • make yourself available to start work.

You do not need to attend the jobcentre unless we ask you to do so. If you need to contact us the quickest way to do this is online or by phone.

If you need to attend a jobcentre, they are open and one of our colleagues will be able to assist you.

You will be required to wear a face covering when entering a jobcentre, unless you are in an exempt category. Do not visit a jobcentre if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. Please also follow the latest government guidance on meeting with others safely and lockdown restrictions

If we need to make an appointment with you, this will be on the phone. We will leave a message in your journal before we call you.

You still need to tell us if anything changes – use the ‘Report a change of circumstances’ link in your online account. If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible.

What you will be expected to do

If you are able to work and are available for work you will need to do everything you reasonably can to give yourself the best chance of finding work. Preparing for and getting a job is expected to be your full time focus.

If you have a health condition or disability (including mental health conditions) that limits your capability for work, the Department for Work and Pensions will work with you to best support you during this time. You may be asked to do work search and work preparation activities that are reasonable for your condition and situation. You do not need to have been assessed as having limited capability for work for your health condition or disability to be taken into account. All requirements are agreed with your work coach and you won’t be asked to do something you’re not capable of.

If your health condition or disability improves or gets worse, what is asked of you will change to match your new situation.

If you have a current Fit Note from your GP you will not be asked to take up or be available for work.

Other circumstances may also have an effect upon what you are asked to do. You should talk to your work coach about anything which may prevent you from being able to fully focus on finding or preparing for work. This could include:

  • Childcare responsibilities. See the childcare section to find out how the age of your youngest child affects what you will be expected to do.
  • Domestic abuse. If you are the victim of domestic abuse, the jobcentre can temporarily remove the need for you to look for work so that you can focus on your immediate needs. Read more about the support available for victims of domestic abuse
  • Homelessness. If you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, the need for you to look or prepare for work can be paused so you can focus on finding somewhere to live.
  • Bereavement. If you have suffered a bereavement you should let your work coach know so you can discuss how it might affect what you are expected to do.
  • Caring responsibilities. If you are responsible for taking care of someone else, such as disabled relative, this can be considered when discussing what you will be expected to do.
  • Drug or alcohol misuse. If you are in structured treatment for drug and/or alcohol dependency you may not be required to look or be available for work for up to 6 months.
  • Leaving care. The DWP care leaver offer includes studying for secondary level education up to the age of 22, during which time you may not be required to look or be available for work.

Find out more about how your situation might affect what you are expected to do in return for Universal Credit.

If you are not required to do work search or work-related activities you will continue to be supported whilst you remain on Universal Credit.

Childcare responsibilities

If you are the lead carer for a child, what is expected of you will be based on the age of the youngest child in your household.

This table shows what you will be expected to do in return for Universal Credit, depending on the age of your youngest child. Other circumstances may also affect what you are asked to do.

Age of youngest childYour responsibilities
Under 1You do not need to look for work in order to receive Universal Credit.
Age 1If you are not already working, you do not need to look for work in order to receive Universal Credit. You will be asked to attend work-focused interviews with your work coach to discuss plans for a future move into work and will need to report any changes of circumstances.
Age 2You will be expected to take active steps to prepare for work. This will involve having regular work-focused interviews with your work coach, and agreeing a programme of activities tailored to your individual circumstances which might include some training and work preparation activities (for example, writing your CV).
Age 3 or 4You will be expected to work a maximum of 16 hours a week, or spend 16 hours a week looking for work. This might include some training and work-focused interviews.
Age between 5 and 12You will be expected to work a maximum of 25 hours a week, or spend 25 hours a week looking for work. This might include some training and work-focused interviews.
Age 13 and aboveYou will be expected to work a maximum of 35 hours a week, or spend 35 hours a week looking for work. This might include some training and work-focused interviews.

You should let your work coach know as soon as you accept a job offer, as you can claim support for your childcare costs for at least a month before you start work.

For more details see Universal Credit: further information for families

If you don’t do what you’ve agreed

If you don’t meet your responsibilities or do what you’ve agreed in your Claimant Commitment, your Universal Credit payments could be stopped or reduced.  This is called a sanction


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