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.
Existing tax credit claimants
Changes to UC in Northern Ireland
Welfare changes helpline
UC started to roll out in Northern Ireland from September 2017 and the roll-out is expected to be completed by December 2018.
Claimants living in Northern Ireland in postcode areas that have not entered the UC service will continue to claim legacy benefits, including tax credits.
The current roll-out is planned as follows:
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.
Claimants who live in Northern Ireland and who already claim tax credits or any of the other legacy benefits will be transferred to UC between July 2019 and March 2023 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.
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 will be available to all households as the default, with monthly payments available on request
- Split payments (paid into separate bank accounts) will 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 will 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.
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 2018. We will add further detail once it is available.
If a claimant is already receiving a welfare supplementary payment, because they have been impacted by a previous welfare change and they then move to UC, they will still receive their WSP as long as their circumstances and eligibility have not changed.
WSP will also be available for UC claimants who may, at a later date, be affected by the Benefit Cap, Social Sector Size Criteria, loss of carer payment or loss of contribution based ESA as a result of welfare changes. If eligible to receive these payments, they should be paid automatically without needing an application. These payments are available until 31 March 2020 and in some cases will be limited to 1 year.
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.
Last reviewed/updated 20 July 2018