If you get income based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and get a benefit ban sanction, you can apply for non recoverable Hardship Payments (HP). However, under Universal Credit (UC), unlike JSA entitlement, all cash savings and liquid [liquefiable] assets and potential help from family and friends or others are taken into account. Therefore a UC benefit sanction can lead to loss of life savings. At present no one getting a JSA HP has to repay, but under UC the DWP can recover it directly from benefits, through court imposed debt recovery and attachment of earned income.
As a further reminder, today, (Feb 12, 2014) the DWP reiterated “I can confirm that all
Universal Credit hardship payments are recoverable”