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 in this pdf.
The Department 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 2024 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.
There are some flexibilities that are available to NI claimants:
- Twice monthly payments are available to all households as the default, with monthly payments available on request
- Split payments (paid into separate bank accounts) are possible between parties in a household. This is possible on the basis of the main carer and children to be determined by the Department. It is also possible for a split payment for a couple with no children.
- Managed payment of the housing element of UC direct to the landlord is available to all, with a direct payment to the household available on request to those who meet the criteria
In addition to advance payments of UC (which need to be repaid at a later date) NI UC claimants may be able to get extra financial support.
The Financial Support Service supports people who are in need of short term financial assistance.
This short term financial assistance is available from the Finance Support Service as a:
- Universal Credit Contingency Fund Short-term Living Expenses Grant,
- Discretionary Support COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Short-term Living Expenses Grant,
- Discretionary Support
- Short Term Benefit Advance,
- Social Fund Budgeting Loan or
- Social Fund Sure Start Maternity Grant.
More information can be found on the NI Direct website.
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 Advice NI and Law Centre NI.
Additional independent advisers will also be available across all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland and located in local 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 18 May 2023