Job-seeking rules for single parents

Date last updated: 9 August 2018

Universal Credit: key rules for single parents

When you claim universal credit you sign a ‘claimant commitment’. One important part of the claimant commitment is the number of hours per week you are expected to work, and to spend looking for work. This ranges from 0 to 35 hours depending on the age of your youngest or only child and whether there are any other circumstances that affect your ability to work.

It is important you make sure that your claimant commitment is the correct type of commitment for you as a a single parent. The type of commitment that applies to you depends on the age of your child, and some other factors. Refer to the information below to find out what kind of commitment is appropriate to your circumstances.

Other information about universal credit

The claimant commitment may require you to attend ‘work focused interviews’ and to take part in ‘work preparation’.

A work focused interview aims to assess and develop your prospects for employment and identify training or educational needs that may help you find work in the future.

Work preparation is any kind of action you might take that can improve your chances of moving into work or getting better paid work. This might include things such as attending a training course or updating your CV. If your youngest child is two, three, or four then you do not have to find work, but you might have to take part in work preparation that makes you better prepared to find work in the future.

Any work preparation you are asked to take part in must be reasonable, improve your chances of finding work, and take into account your individual circumstances.

The activity should be agreed between you and your adviser and written down in an ‘action plan’ so you are clear about what you are expected to do.

Check below to see the rules that apply to you now, and in the future. Be aware that different rules may apply in certain circumstances, including:

  • if you are disabled or have a health problem
  • you care for someone who is disabled or has a health problem
  • you have been a victim of domestic violence within the last six months.

For further advice please contact the free Gingerbread helpline.

My youngest child is under 1 year old

If your child is under a year old you don’t have to look for work, attend work focused interviews, or take part in work preparation.

If you are asked to attend the jobcentre for work focused interviews or training, or to look for a job, you can ask for this to be changed and you can challenge this.

How to get your claimant commitment changed:

  1. Contact the Universal Credit helpline to request an appointment with your work coach to discuss changing your claimant commitment. You may need to explain your reasons over the phone.
  2. Also make a note in your online journal, letting your work coach know that you need to change your claimant commitment and explaining why.
  3. If after discussing this with your work coach the claimant commitment is still not suitable you can make a complaint by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

At any point in this process you can contact the Gingerbread helpline or Citizen’s Advice for further support.

My youngest child is between 1 and 2 years old

You can be asked to attend one or more work focused interviews at the jobcentre. You are not required to do work preparation or look for work.

If you do want to do any work preparation, such as training or look for a job, you can ask your work coach for help, but you are not required to do this

The number of interviews you must attend can vary and is set by your work coach.

If you don’t attend a work focused interview you can be sanctioned. Being sanctioned means some of your universal credit is stopped. You can only be sanctioned if you didn’t give your work coach a good reason for not attending – for example being ill, childcare problems or other emergency. See Citizen’s Advice’s information about sanctions to find out more.

What to do if you think you are being asked to go to too many work focused interviews by your work coach:

  1. Contact the Universal Credit helpline to request an appointment with your work coach to discuss changing the number of work focused interviews.
  2. Also make a note in your online journal, letting your work coach know that you need to change the agreed upon number of interviews and why.
  3. If after discussing this with your work coach the situation is not resolved  you can make a complaint by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

At any point in this process you can contact the Gingerbread helpline or Citizen’s Advice for further support.

My youngest child is between 2 and 3 years old

You can be asked to attend a work focused interview at the jobcentre. You can also be required to take part in work preparation.

The number of interviews you must attend can vary and is set by your work coach.

If you don’t attend a work focused interview you can be sanctioned. Being sanctioned means some of your universal credit is stopped. You can only be sanctioned if you didn’t give your work coach a good reason for not attending – for example being ill, childcare problems or other emergency. See Citizen’s Advice’s information about sanctions to find out more.

What to do if you think you are being asked to go to too many work focused interviews or take part in too much work preparation by your work coach:

  1. Contact the Universal Credit helpline to request an appointment with your work coach to discuss changing your amount of work focused interviews or work preparation.
  2. Also make a note in your online journal, letting your work coach know that you need to make these changes and explain why.
  3. If after discussing this with your work coach the situation is not resolved  you can make a complaint by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

At any point in this process you can contact the Gingerbread helpline or Citizen’s Advice for further support.

My youngest child is 3 or 4 years old

If your child is 3 or 4 years old you will usually be required to look for part time work that is at least 16 hours a week. This is also the number of hours that you are required to spend looking for work.

You can also be required to attend work focused interviews and participate in work preparation.

You may be able to attend work-related training for up to a year instead of working, however this requires permission from your work coach and they do not have to agree.

If you don’t attend a work-focused interview or look for work, or if you miss work preparation that you have been asked to attend, you can be sanctioned. Being sanctioned means some of your universal credit is stopped.

You can only be sanctioned if you didn’t give your work coach a good reason for not attending – for example being ill, childcare problems or other emergency. See Citizen’s Advice’s information about sanctions to find out more.

What to do if you think you are being asked to look for more than 16 hours a week work, or to go to too many work focused interviews or take part in too much work preparation by your work coach:

  1. Contact the Universal Credit helpline to request an appointment with your work coach to discuss changing your amount of work focused interviews or work preparation.
  2. Also make a note in your online journal, letting your work coach know that you need to make these changes and explain why.
  3. If after discussing this with your work coach the situation is not resolved  you can make a complaint by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

At any point in this process you can contact the Gingerbread helpline or Citizen’s Advice for further support.

My youngest child is between 5 and 13 years old

When your youngest child is over five but under thirteen you will usually be expected to look for a maximum of 25 hours work per week. This is also the number of hours that you are required to spend looking for work.

You can also be required to attend work focused interviews and participate in work preparation.

If you don’t attend a work-focused interview or look for work, or if you miss work preparation that you have been asked to attend, you can be sanctioned. Being sanctioned means some of your universal credit is stopped.

You can only be sanctioned if you didn’t give your work coach a good reason for not attending – for example being ill, childcare problems or other emergency. See Citizen’s Advice’s information about sanctions to find out more.

What to do if you are being asked to look for more than 25 hours a week work, or to go to too many work focussed interviews or take part in too much work preparation by your work coach:

  1. Contact the Universal Credit helpline to request an appointment with your work coach to discuss changing your amount of work focused interviews or work preparation.
  2. Also make a note in your online journal, letting your work coach know that you need to make these changes and explain why.
  3. If after discussing this with your work coach the situation is not resolved you can make a complaint by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

At any point in this process you can contact the Gingerbread helpline or Citizen’s Advice for further support.

My youngest child is 13 years old or over

Once your youngest child is over 13 years old you can be be required to look for  a maximum of 35 hours of work per week. This is also the number of hours that you will be required to spend looking for work.

You may also be required to attend work-focussed interviews and participate in work preparation.

If you don’t attend a work-focused interview or look for work, or if you miss work preparation that you have been asked to attend, you can be sanctioned. Being sanctioned means some of your universal credit is stopped.

You can only be sanctioned if you didn’t give your work coach a good reason for not attending – for example being ill, childcare problems or other emergency. See Citizen’s Advice’s information about sanctions to find out more.

What to do if you think you are being asked to look for more than 30 hours a week work, or to go to too many work focussed interviews or take part in too much work preparation by your work coach:

  1. Contact the Universal Credit helpline to request an appointment with your work coach to discuss changing your amount of work focused interviews or work preparation.
  2. Also make a note in your online journal, letting your work coach know that you need to make these changes and explain why.
  3. If after discussing this with your work coach the situation is not resolved  you can make a complaint by phoning the Universal Credit helpline.

At any point in this process you can contact the Gingerbread helpline or Citizen’s Advice for further support.

Remember to check back

We will be updating this information on Universal Credit as and when the details become available. Do check back from time to time for updates. We will also alert you to new information in our membership newsletter.

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