Changes to the Welfare System

 The Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 is introducing many changes to our current benefit systems. It will see many of them scrapped, with new benefits and payment systems introduced.

 The Benefit Cap

 From 31 May 2016 there is limit on the total amount of benefit you can get if you are working age. This is called the Benefit Cap.

It’s important to know if you’ll be affected, so that you can plan for the changes. If the cap affects you, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will go down.

If the cap applies to you, this means that if your income from certain benefits is more than the cap, your benefit will be cut. Therefore the amount of money that you receive above the benefit cap limit will be taken of your benefit.

How much is the cap?

From 7th November 2016 the benefit cap increased to the following amounts:

The Benefit Cap limits are:

  • £384.62 a week for couples – with or without dependent children
  • £384.62 a week if you are a lone parent with dependent children
  • £257.69 a week if you are a single person without children

Who is Exempt?

If you’re exempt from the Benefit Cap, this means your benefit won’t be capped, even if your benefit income is above the limit of the cap.

You might be exempt from the cap if:

  • you qualify for Working Tax Credit
  • you’re above the qualifying age for Pension Credit
  • you get certain benefits for sickness, disability or caring or a war pension
  • you or your partner had been in employment for at least 50 or the 52 weeks before your last day of work.

If the Benefit Cap applies to you when it is was introduced on 31 May 2016, you may be eligible for a Supplementary Payment for up to 4 years.

The Department for Communities will identify if you are eligible and will make payments to cover any loss of Housing Benefit.

For further information please contact a member of the Housing Management Team or click the link below.

Housing Benefit size restrictions in social housing (Bedroom Tax)

Since 20th February 2017, if you live in a Housing Executive or housing association home and claim Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent, your Housing Benefit may be cut. This could happen if your home is considered too large for you.

This is also known as the ‘bedroom tax’ and the ‘social sector size criteria’.  Your Housing Benefit could be cut at any time for this reason, if you move to a bigger property or if there is a change in the number of people living in your household which means that your home is considered too big for you.

If your Housing Benefit is cut, you will receive a Supplementary Payment from the Department for Communities to make up any loss of Housing Benefit which will be paid automatically. Payments can be made until 31 March 2020.

More recently, in February 2020, new Department for Communities  minister Deirdre Hargey has committed to bring forward new legislation to extend these protection measures for a further 3 years.

When will your home count as too big for you?

 If you have more bedrooms than the government says you need, your home will be counted as being too big for you. If this happens, you could lose some or all of your Housing Benefit.

It’s normally up to your landlord to say how many bedrooms your home has. Your tenancy agreement will usually say this.

You’re allowed 1 bedroom for each person living in your home unless they’re expected to share. 2 people are expected to share 1 bedroom if they’re:

  • 2 adults in a couple
  • 2 children under 10
  • 2 children under 16 if they’re the same sex

Adults in a couple don’t have to share a room if one of them has a disability which means they have to sleep apart. The disabled partner also needs to get a disability benefit.

A child is allowed their own bedroom if they have a disability that means they can’t share a room.

What happens if your home is too big for you?

If your home is considered to be too big for you, the rent used to work out your Housing Benefit (including any eligible service charges) is cut by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

For further information please contact a member of the Housing Management Team or click the link below.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is a payment for working age people, aged 18 to 64, who are on a low income or out of work. It was introduced in Northern Ireland on a phased geographical basis from September 2017.  You will claim Universal Credit online.

 Universal Credit is a single benefit that will be paid to you if your income falls below a certain level. UC is means tested, so payment will depend on other money your household has coming in. The higher your income is, the less UC you’ll get.

Benefits being replaced by Universal Credit:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit (rental)

If you currently receive any of the six benefits being replaced, you will be transferred to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022. You do not need to do anything until the Department for Communities gets in touch with you. Only people who are making new claims for benefits will get UC.

Benefits not being replaced by Universal Credit

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (contribution-based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (contribution-based)
  • Child Benefit
  • Pension Credit
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit


There are a certain set of rules you need to adhere to for UC, if these rules are not followed you could see a sanction of two weeks to a maximum of 18 months.  This will result in a loss of benefit.

For more information on sanctions or how UC is worked out and paid please click the link below

For further information please contact a member of the Housing Management Team

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a new benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged between 16 to 64 years.  PIP was introduced in Northern Ireland on 20 June 2016.

All new claimants aged between16 to 64 years will no longer make a claim to DLA, instead you should make a claim for PIP.  If you are an existing DLA claimant aged 16 to 64 years and your benefit is due to come to an end or if you report a change in your care or mobility needs, you will be invited to claim PIP.

If you are aged between 16 to 64 years and have an indefinite or lifetime award for DLA, you will be randomly selected for assessment and invited to claim PIP.  This will happen over a number of years between 12 December 2016 and December 2018.

If you are a parent or guardian of a child under 16 years who is receiving DLA we will write to you and your child in plenty of time before they turn 16 to explain how to apply for PIP, when to claim and what will happen to DLA.

For more information on how to make a claim, payments or assessments please click link below

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