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What is a hardship payment and who is entitled?

Been sanctioned? If you’re struggling to make ends meet before your benefits are reinstated, you could qualify for a hardship payment.

What is a hardship payment from the Jobcentre?

Hardship payments are mainly paid to people getting Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, whose benefits have been stopped and who need money to afford basic essentials like food or heating, or who are vulnerable or care for people who would be at risk. 

Most people apply for hardship payments if their benefits have been stopped because they have been sanctioned for not keeping to the terms of their claimant commitment or missing important interviews or appointments.

Hardship payments can also be paid if you are waiting for a benefit payment, are in severe need and aren’t able to claim an advance payment or short-term benefit advance.

You usually can’t get a hardship payment if you are simply short of money or need to pay for an urgent expense.


Can I get hardship payments on Universal Credit?

You can only apply for a hardship payment if you are getting:
•    Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
•    Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
•    Universal Credit (UC)

Can I get a hardship payment on ESA or JSA?

If you’re getting income related ESA or income based JSA because your household income and savings are very low, you may qualify for a hardship payment if you can show you are in severe need. 

If you’re getting either contributory or new style JSA or ESA, you household income and savings will be means tested. If either is too high and you don’t meet the conditions for getting income related ESA or income based JSA, you won’t get a hardship payment.

Can I get a hardship payment?

To be eligible for a hardship payment you must be unable to pay for essentials, and 100% of your JSA or ESA personal allowance, or all of your Universal Credit standard allowance, must have been cut.

Payments are usually only granted to people aged 18 or over, although 16 or 17-year-olds could be eligible in certain circumstances. 

You will need to prove the reason why you need a hardship payment and show that you don’t have any access to other money or savings, are not able to borrow from family or friends and have tried to get other support first, such as help from your local council or a charity. You will need to be prepared to supply as much supporting evidence as you can to show you will be in severe need.

Is a hardship payment a loan? Do I have to pay it back?

At the moment, if you’re claiming ESA or JSA you don’t need to repay hardship payments

If you’re on Universal Credit, you will be asked to pay back the money 

After your sanction ends, money will usually be taken out of your Universal Credit until you’ve paid back the total hardship payment. If this is likely to put you into debt, you should ask your work coach to make repayments affordable. You can ask a debt adviser to help you do this.

How much do you get for hardship payments?

ESA and JSA hardship payments are paid at 60% of income related ESA or income based JSA. These are means tested benefits and only available if your household income and savings are low. 

If you’re getting either contributory or new style JSA or ESA, your household income and savings will be means tested to check if you meet the conditions for getting income related ESA or income based JSA. If your income and savings are too high, you won’t get a hardship payment.

Universal Credit hardship payments are paid at 60% of your usual UC payment.

If your reason for applying for a hardship payment is particularly severe, you could get up to 80% of your normal payments.

Circumstances in which you might a higher payment could be because you or your partner is pregnant or seriously ill. 

If your application is successful, you’ll be able to receive hardship payments for as long as your sanction lasts. If you get sanctioned again you will need to re-apply for another hardship payment. 

How to apply for a hardship payment

If you’re on JSA or ESA you should either ask about hardship payments in person at the Jobcentre Plus office, or call the DWP contact centre on 0345 608 8545

You should be set up with an appointment for the same day or the day after. You’ll be given form JSA/ESA10JP to complete before your interview with a hardship officer. If you arrange your appointment over the phone, make sure you arrive 10 minutes early to fill out the form on the day of your meeting. 

If you’re on Universal Credit ask your work coach or use your online journal to ask for a hardship payment. 

The UC helpline may also be able to point you in the right direction:

Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.

You’ll also be asked to attend an appointment at the Jobcentre Plus to explain the circumstances that mean you require a hardship payment.

What evidence do I need to apply for hardship payments?

You’ll need to supply evidence when you apply for a hardship payment. 
This could include:
•    birth certificates for any dependants
•    evidence for disabilities or health problems you or your dependants may have
•    proving that you’ve explored other avenues to obtain the money you’re asking for – like asking friends, family or charities for financial help
•    making an attempt to reduce your non-essential costs – e.g. cancelling subscriptions or cutting back on shopping
•    they may ask for a bank statement to see what you’re spending your money on or a copy of your budget 
•    your bank statement could also prove whether you have other income or savings that could be used instead of a hardship payment.

How long does it take to get a hardship payment?

If you qualify for a hardship payment, the money should be paid into your bank account immediately or on the date your next benefit payment is due.

What is a student hardship fund?

If you’re in further education, and your circumstances mean you are unable to cover essential costs like food or rent, your university may offer you money from its hardship fund. 
This is separate to benefits related hardship payments and you can apply for it through your university or college. It usually comes as a grant that doesn’t need to be paid back, although this will depend on your institution. 

If you get in touch with the student services department at your place of learning, they should be able to tell you who you need to talk to about accessing the student hardship fund. 

What is The Hardship Fund?

Despite the similar name, The Hardship Fund is not the same thing as benefit related hardship payments. 

The Hardship Fund is money that is available in England and Wales to low paid workers who have been a victim of a violent crime. 

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