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

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:

Date Office  Postcode areas
27 September 2017 Limavady

List of the No. 1 Relevant Districts, issued 25 September 2017 (introducing Universal Credit from 27 September 2017)

15 November 2017 Ballymoney

List of the No. 2 Relevant Districts, issued 13 November 2017 (introducing Universal Credit from 15 November 2017)

13 December 2017

Magherafelt and Coleraine

List of the No. 3 Relevant Districts, issued 13 November 2017 (introducing Universal Credit from 13 December 2017)

17 January 2018

Strabane and Lisnagelvin

List of the No. 4 Relevant Districts, issued 15 January 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 17 January 2018)

7 February 2018

Foyle and Armagh

List of the No. 5 Relevant Districts, issued 15 January 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 7 February 2018)

21 February 2018

Omagh and Enniskillen

List of the No. 6 Relevant Districts, issued 15 January 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 21 February 2018)

7 March 2018

Dungannon and Portadown

List of the No. 7 Relevant Districts, issued 15 January 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 7 March 2018)

16 May 2018

Newry, Downpatrick

List of the No. 8 Relevant Districts, issued 9 May 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 16 May 2018)

30 May 2018

Lurgan, Newcastle, Kilkeel

List of the No. 9 Relevant Districts, issued 9 May 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 30 May 2018)

13 June 2018

Falls, Shankill

List of the No. 10 Relevant Districts, issued 9 May 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 13 June 2018)

27 June 2018

Andersonstown, Banbridge

List of the No. 11 Relevant Districts, issued 9 May 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 27 June 2018)

5 September 2018

Holywood Road, Ballynahinch

List of the No. 12 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 5 September 2018)
19 September 2018

Newtownabbey, Newtownards

List of the No. 13 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 19 September 2018)
3 October 2018 Shaftesbury Sq, Carrickfergus List of the No. 14 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 3 October 2018)
17 October 2018 Knockbreda, Bangor List of the No. 15 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 17 October 2018)
31 October 2018 Lisburn, Larne List of the No. 16 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 31 October 2018)
14 November 2018 North Belfast, Cookstown List of the No. 17 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 14 November 2018)
5 December 2018 Ballymena, Antrim List of the No. 18 Relevant Districts, issued 19 July 2018 (introducing Universal Credit from 5 December 2018)

TheDepartment of Finance Rate Rebate Scheme provides rates support for tenants or home owners who are entitled to UC in Northern Ireland.

Who can claim 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.

Existing tax credit claimants

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.

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:

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

Additional support

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:

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.

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.

Last reviewed/updated 14 May 2019