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 rolled out on a different timetable to the rest of Great Britain. UC full service roll-out is now complete in Northern Ireland (as well as the rest of the UK).
You can find all of the legislation in our Northern Ireland legislation section.
- Roll-out timetable
- Who can claim UC in Northern Ireland?
- Existing tax credit claimants
- Changes to UC in Northern Ireland
- Additional support
- Welfare changes helpline
UC started to roll out in Northern Ireland from September 2017 and the roll-out completed in December 2018.
The roll-out schedule between September 2017 and December 2018 is shown below:
TheDepartment of Finance Rate Rebate Scheme provides rates support for tenants or home owners who are entitled to UC in Northern Ireland.
The rules for who can claim UC in Northern Ireland are the same as in Great Britain - see our 'current eligibility to claim' page.
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 2023 in line with the national plans.
See our 'existing tax credits claimants' section which explains what happens to existing tax credit claimants who have changes of circumstances and plans for managed migration.
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.
Welfare Supplementary Payments may 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.
In addition to advance payments of UC (which need to be repaid at a later date) NI UC claimants may be able to get a grant from the UC Contingency Fund if they are in financial hardship. This grant does not need to be repaid.
To be eligible for a grant the claimant must:
- Have taken at least 50% of the maximum UC advance payment
- Not yet received their first full-month's payment of UC
- Need help with living expenses
- Not have had a discretionary support fund grant for living expenses in the last 12 months
Claimants should speak to their work coach who should refer them to discretionary support who administer the fund.
According to the NI direct website, the NI executive has agreed supplementary payments to help with the additional expenses of employment for low income UC claimants - we will update this page when we receive any further information. In the meantime, contact the welfare changes helpline below for more information.
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 14 May 2019