Welfare Rights & Welfare Reform

The UK Government has introduced the biggest changes to the welfare and benefits system in over 60 years. All benefit claimants, including those claiming Housing Benefit, are affected by these changes.

Welfare Changes

A summary of the changes is detailed at the links below:

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/support-for-those-affected

https://youtu.be/nWgvupiKe5Y

On this page you can find out about:

  • Universal Credit
  • Bedroom Tax
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Rate Rebate
Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a single payment for working-age people who may be on a low income or out of work and claiming benefit. It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as financial support for disabled people, carers and people who are too ill to work.

You can find out more about Universal Credit by clicking here

Universal Credit replaces several means-tested benefits including Housing Benefit. This is a single payment for working-age people who may be on a low income or out of work. To claim Universal Credit, the claimant must agree a commitment that they will look for work or strive to increase their earnings if they are already working.

The following means-tested benefits will be replaced by Universal Credit:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

To be eligible for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland the claimant must:

  • Live in Northern Ireland
  • Be 18 years of age or over (some claimants aged 16 may be eligible)
  • Be under State Pension age
  • Not be in full-time education
  • Not have savings or capital over £16,000
Digital Service

Universal Credit is a digital service. This means that the benefit application and all subsequent communications relating to the claim will be carried out online. Claimants will not receive letters or emails about their claim they have a responsibility to regularly log into their online Universal Credit account to access any communications about their claim.

Universal Credit will be paid monthly by default but claimants can choose to receive payments twice monthly. You will get your first payment five weeks after you put in your claim. The housing element of Universal Credit will be paid by default to your landlord on a monthly basis.

At the start of a claim for Universal Credit the joint claimants must choose whether payment is made to one single account or whether to split payments across two accounts (there is no default option).

Claims for Universal Credit must be made online, and all subsequent contact regarding weekly rental charges will also be conducted online at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/UniversalCredit

If you would like further information and advice on Universal Credit, you can visit NI Direct for up to date information by following this link below. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/universal-credit

Here is a step to step guide to making and Maintaining a Universal Creidt claim online

or you can watch this video https://youtu.be/fy06rAVZuss

Remember, to claim, you must create a Universal Credit account online

Help and Advice

If you are concerned about how the changes to the benefit system will affect you, information and advice can be obtained by contacting:

  • Rural Housing Association: 028 82 246118
  • Advice NI: 028 90645919
  • Housing Rights Service: 028 90245640
  • Citizen’s Advice Bureau: 0300 1 233 233
Bedroom Tax (Social Sector Size Criteria)

The amount of Housing Benefit paid to people of working age was changed to reflect the size of their family. Tenants of all social landlords now have their Housing Benefit payments reduced if they have more bedrooms in their home than their family needs.

The new rules allow one bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple.
  • Any other adult aged 16 or over.
  • Any two children of the same sex aged under 16.
  • Any two children aged under 10 regardless of gender.
  • Any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere).
  • A carer (or team of carers) who do not live with the claimant but provide overnight care.

If you are considered to have more bedrooms than you need, your Housing Benefit will have been reduced by:

  • 14% for under-occupying by one bedroom.
  • 25% for under-occupying by 2 or more bedrooms.

This affects all claimants of working age (up to 64 years). People over pension age have not been affected by the bedroom tax.

For up to date information please visit: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/changes-to-housing-benefit

If you are affected by the Bedroom Tax and would like to apply for alternative accommodation, please see our Apply for Housing section where you can download a transfer application form or visit the Homeswapper website https://www.homeswapper.co.uk

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people between 16 and State Pension age.

PIP helps towards some of the extra costs arising from having a long-term health condition or disability that is expected to last for 12 months or longer. Entitlement to PIP is based on the effect a long-term health condition has on your daily life, not the condition itself.

For up to date information please visit: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/personal-independence-payment-pip

What is the Rate Rebate Scheme?

Rate Rebate replaces Housing Benefit for rates for homeowners and tenants of working age. You can only claim Rate Rebate if you’re already entitled to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland. To get Rate Rebate, tenants and homeowners must apply online to Land & Property Services (LPS).

Who is eligible?

The Rate Rebate Scheme will only apply to working-age tenants.

Eligibility to claim
  • You must be entitled to Universal Credit.
  • You or your landlord must be liable for payment of rates to Land & Property Services.
  • You must occupy the property as your home.

Those eligible to claim will not be entitled to Housing Benefit for rates or Low-Income Rate Relief. *

Once you receive notification on your Universal Credit journal that you are entitled to UC you should immediately make a claim for a Rate Rebate.

Failure to do so within three months may mean you lose some of your Rate Rebate award. The Rate Rebate application process is a digital only application.

Notifying Changes

You must notify LPS of any changes relevant to your claim immediately, by logging onto your online account. Failure to notify a change of circumstance may result in an overpayment which will need to be repaid. Information on changes that need to be reported can be found at:

For further information, please use the link below: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/help-paying-your-rates/rate-rebate-scheme-people-universal-credit