UC Claimant Commitment: How to get a Second Opinion to amend it

The Claimant Commitment (CC) is central to Universal Credit (UC) and save for exceptional circumstances one must be accepted by a claimant to get UC. A CC contains the conditions to maintain the claim or face the possibility of severe financial penalties (Benefit Sanctions) for failing to complete any of the mandatory CC requirements.

Related post:Stop Press – DWP are again relaxing the Benefit Sanctions regime, due to local Covid19 ‘lockdowns

Advice and guidance: Check out claimantcommitments.org.uk as it can help to ensure a CC reflects the unique circumstances of a claimant, or seek help via advicelocal.uk and if you have “any limitation due to illness or disability” the ”Template letter to use when UC claimants are asked to accept a Claimant Commitment and to avoid #sanctions‘ could prove invaluable.

Many claimants report they have CCs that are unreasonable or difficult to understand, in these circumstances a claimant can ask a Work ‘Coach’ to amend the CC but they may be unwilling to do so.

What is often not mentioned is that claimants can request a Second Opinion (SO) of a CC, which will probably be undertaken by another ‘Coach’.

The Second Opinion process relates to when a new CC is created and during the 7 calendar day ‘cooling off‘ period [see ‘Resources‘ below] before a CC has to be accepted a SO can be requested. Below are details onasking for a SO for the first or ‘initial‘ CC. It is suggested that it is best to seek advice (check advicelocal.uk) if you are being asked to accept a newer “On-going” CC after the first/initial one has been accepted, as a claim can be closed if the SO considers the “On-going” CC is reasonable and does not need to be amended.

A pragmatic approach is to accept any CC and then tell a ‘Coach’ why it needs amending, the claimantcommitments.org.uk site can help assess whether a CC is actually reasonable and if it reflects the unique circumstances of a claimant. Claimants can also lodge a formal complaint if a ‘Coach’ declines to amend a CC after it has been accepted.

Below is a copy of the DWP’s internal guidance on requesting a Second Opinion (SO), if you seek a SO of your first/initial CC this has the least risk to UC claim and it’s payments. If you have had more than one CC, referred to as an “On-going” CC by the DWP and want it amended you can ask your Work ‘Coach’ to amend it and explain the reasons why, a ‘Coach’ should change a CC if there has been a change in a claimant’s circumstances or there are other reasons it is difficult to undertake the requirements set out in the CC or is otherwise unreasonable.

If a ‘Coach’ is unwilling to amend an On-going CC you can ask for a Second Opinion, but it is recommended to seek independent advice (check advicelocal.uk) before making a formal SO request for a On-going CC as a UC claim can be closed if the SO considers the CC is reasonable and does not need to be changed.

Notes: Due to the covid19 lockdown, since June 30th 2020, the DWP is arranging for millions of UC claimants to have a new CC [see footnote].

On claimant’s UC accounts this is being presented as a “first” CC and therefore the guidance below suggests these CCs are “Intial” CCs and therefore the guidance below that refers to an “Intial” CC should apply. If you are unsure about asking for a SO, seek independent advice (check advicelocal.uk) and or use the UC account Journal functions to request a ‘Coach’ to explain what a SO is and what could be the possible outcomes and consequences of one being arranged.

You could also ask for a copy of the DWP latest guidance on SOs, as the version below might have been updated.

The claimant’s option to request a UC Claimant Commitment Second Opinion is not mentioned by the DWP on https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions nor https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/ or for that matter of any advice agency website anywhere in the UK!

Resources

April 2019: Universal Credit guidance published (157 documents)
mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/april-2019-universal-credit-guidance-published-157-documents/

DWP Second Opinion guidance

Initial commitment: If the second opinion agrees that the original requirements are considered to be reasonable,the original commitments remain unchanged. If the claimant now choses to accept this commitment date of claim will be from the date the commitments isaccepted.If they refuse to accept it the claim is closed. If the requirements are considered unreasonable the claimant must be offered a new commitment to accept. They cannot ask for a further second opinion and there is nofurther cooling off period. It the clamant refuses to accept their commitment the claim will be closed. If they accept their commitment, the original date of claim is used.

On-going commitments:

If the second opinion agrees that the original requirements are considered to be reasonable,the claim is closed from the start of the assessment period in which the change was generated. The claimant will need to submit a new claim.

If the requirements are considered unreasonable the claimant must be offered a new commitment to accept. It the clamant refuses to accept their commitment (either the revised one or the original) the claim will be closed. If they accept their commitment, the claim continues.

Claimant Commitment – conduct a second opinion interview
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/343998/response/847335/attach/html/8/Claimant%20Commitment%20conduct%20a%20second%20interview.pdf.html

Requirement to accept a claimant’s commitment
Accepting the Claimant’s Commitments
Cooling off period
Second Opinion

Temporary lifting of requirement to accept a claimant commitment
Permanently lifting of requirement to accept a claimant commitment
3 page pdf
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2019-0465/Requirement_to_accept_a_CC-temp_removal_v6.0.pdf

Claim closure and re-claims
“The claimant may however request a second opinion on whether the requirements of their Commitment are reasonable before they accept them”
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0759/Claim_closure__re-claims_v5.0_.pdf

Claimant Commitment not accepted
If a claimant refuses to accept theirCommitments,the following options are available to them:
a cooling off period
a second opinion

refusal to accept theirCommitments
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2019-0980/30._Commitment_not_accepted_v2.0.pdf

Footnote

“26. Between 30th June 2020 and the date that a claimant accepts a new or
revised claimant commitment, they will be expected to do what they
reasonably can to search for and be available for work. Claimants will not be
subject to sanctions for failing to comply with these obligations until they
accept their new or revised claimant commitment”
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/691073/response/1648002/attach/html/3/Equality%20Analysis%20for%20Reinstatement%20of%20Conditionality.pdf.html