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Welfare Reform

Welfare reform will result in a wide range of changes to the social security system. Some current benefits will cease to exist and new benefits and payment systems will be introduced.

On 18th March 2016, the Welfare Supplementary Payments Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 were passed into law. These regulations came into force on 31st May 2016 and introduced the welfare supplementary payments to help to mitigate the effects of the benefit cap and new time limits for contributory ESA.

If you have any concerns about Welfare Reform you can contact the independent Welfare Changes Helpline - Freephone 0808 802 0020

Unclaimed benefits? Make The Call - Are you getting all the money you’re entitled to, or could you be entitled to more? It’s easy to find out – Make the Call free to the Benefits Advice Line on 0800 232 1271 to find out if you’re missing out.  Alternatively, text CHECK to 66101 and an advisor will call you back. All calls are confidential and a friend or relative can even make enquiries on your behalf. Find out more at the nidirect website

Here is more information about the key upcoming welfare reforms due to be introduced in Northern Ireland.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit will be one single benefit for people aged 18 to 64 years old paid to each household. It will replace the following means-tested benefits:

• Child Tax Credit;
• Working Tax Credit;
• Housing Benefit;
• Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance;
• Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance;
• Income Support.

A number of concessions for Northern Ireland have been made including payment of Housing Benefit directly to landlords and fortnightly payments rather than monthly payments as seen in England, Scotland and Wales.

A pilot introduction of Universal Credit is planned to commence in September 2017 with full implementation commencing in July 2018.

Online applications

New claims for Universal Credit, Housing Benefit and Rate Relief will be made online, and all subsequent contact regarding the claim will be conducted online.

Online applications for Universal Credit and Rate Relief will be launched in September 2017.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) will be introducing online applications for Housing Benefit from April 2016 on a phased basis.

Benefit Cap

From May 2016 a cap was introduced to limit the total amount that claimants could receive from a list of specified benefits and from November 2016 the cap was reduced. The cap will apply to combined income from:

• Bereavement Allowance;
• Carer’s Allowance;
• Child Benefit;
• Child Tax Credit;
• Employment and Support Allowance (except where it’s paid with the support component);
• Guardian’s Allowance;
• Housing Benefit;
• Incapacity Benefit;
• Income Support;
• Jobseeker’s Allowance;
• Maternity Allowance;
• Severe Disablement Allowance;
• Widowed Parent’s Allowance;
• Widowed Mother’s Allowance;
• Widow’s Pension.
If the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed, the claimant’s Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The level of the cap will be:
• £384.62 a week (£20,000 a year) for lone parents or couples (with or without children)
• £257.69 a week (£13,000 a year) for a single person without responsibility for children.

This will not apply if:
• The claimant receives Pension Credit or Working Tax Credit;
• A member of the claimant’s household is claiming benefits such as, but are not restricted to, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefits or the support element of Employment Support Allowance.

The Evason Report recommends supplementary payments for up to four years for families with children who may be affected by the benefit cap.

Pension Age

The age at which the State Pension is payable will increase from the current level of 65 for men and 60 for women to 66 for both. The increase is due to take place between November 2018 and October 2020 with further increases planned for 2026 and 2044.

As a result of the increased pension age, this will result in a greater number of ‘working age’ claimants. The benefits available to working age claimants are much less generous than those paid to those eligible for the state pension.

Bedroom Tax - check our latest news for updates

The social sector size criteria, also known as the bedroom tax, is a change to Housing Benefit entitlement in which claimants receive less in Housing Benefit if they live in a property that is deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms. It is proposed that the measures will be implemented on 20 February 2017 and mitigated until 2020.

We will try to keep our residents up to date with the changes as and when new information is forthcoming. Please click on the links below, for detailed up to date information (please note these are external links which will take you away from this site).

NI Direct - Government Services

NI Housing Executive

Department for Communities

Have a question? Click here to get in touch!