Universal credit: Northern Ireland

This page explains the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) in Northern Ireland.

Welfare Reform in Northern Ireland has faced a number of difficulties and due to the many delays in getting the primary legislation in place, UC is rolling out in Northern Ireland on a different timetable to that in Great Britain.  

You can find all of the legislation in our Northern Ireland legislation section.

Roll-out timetable
Existing tax credit claimants
Changes to UC in Northern Ireland
Additional support
Welfare changes helpline

Roll-out timetable

The latest announcement from the Department for Communities confirms that UC will start to roll out in Northern Ireland from September 2017 and that it is expected to be completed by September 2018.

Until then, claimants living in Northern Ireland will continue to claim legacy benefits, including tax credits.                                    

The current roll-out is planned as follows:

Week commencing Office
25 September 2017 Limavady
13 November 2017 Ballymoney
11 December 2017

Magherafelt and Coleraine

15 January 2018

Strabane and Lisnagelvin

5 February 2018

Foyle and Armagh

19 February 2018

Omagh and Enniskillen

5 March 2018

Dungannon and Portadown

16 April 2018

Banbridge and Lurgan

30 April 2018

Kilkeel, Downpatrick and Newry

14 May 2018

Bangor, Newtownards and Holywood Road

28 May 2018

Knockbreda, Newtownabbey and Shankill

11 June 2018

Corporation Street, Falls and Andersonstown

25 June 2018

Shaftesbury Square, Lisburn and Larne

2 July 2018

Carrickfergus, Antrim and Ballymena

July-September 2018

Cookstown, Ballynahinch and Newcastle

To support the roll-out of UC, a new service centre will open in Foyle Jobs and Benefits Office and a second service centre is expected in Newry in early 2018.

A new Department of Finance Rate Rebate Scheme will provide rates support for tenants or home owners who are entitled to UC in Northern Ireland.

Existing tax credit claimants

Claimants who live in Northern Ireland and who claim tax credits or any of the other legacy benefits will be transferred to UC between July 2019 and March 2022 in line with the national plans.

See our tax credits and UC section which explains what happens to existing tax credit claimants who have changes of circumstances once UC is live in Northern Ireland.

Changes to UC in Northern Ireland

During discussions on the implementation of UC in Northern Ireland, the then Minister for Social Development secured payment flexibilities under UC for NI claimants. It was agreed that:

Twice monthly payments would be available to all households as the default, with monthly payments available on request
Split payments (paid into separate bank accounts) would be possible between parties in a household. This would be possible on the basis of the main carer and children to be determined by the Department. It would also be possible for a split payment for a couple with no children.
Managed payment of the housing element of UC direct to the landlord would be available to all, with a direct payment to the household available on request to those who meet the criteria

In January 2017 a Department for Communities screening document was published setting out the arrangements for flexible payments.

Additional support

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed support will be available for working families claiming Universal Credit. These families can apply for a supplementary payment to help with expenses because of employment.

The detail of this support is yet to be finalised and agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.  It is expected that payments will be available from autumn 2017. We will add further detail once it is available.

Welfare Changes Helpline

An independent helpline is available for anyone in Northern Ireland who wants help or advice about any of the changes to the welfare system. The helpline is operated by the Welfare Reform Advice Services Consortium (Citizen’s Advice, Advice NI and Law centre NI)

            Phone: 0808 802 0020 (9am to 5pm)

Additional independent advisers will also be available across all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland and located in local Citizens Advice and Advice NI offices to provide face-to-face help to anyone impacted by the changes to the welfare system.  In addition, specialist legal advice is available from the Law Centre and they can arrange access to specialist services when required.

These services are free for anyone who needs help or advice about any of the changes to the welfare system.

Published 16 February 2017