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Understanding the benefits system

The benefits system provides practical help and financial support if you are unemployed and looking for work. It also provides you with additional income when your earnings are low, if you are bringing up children, are retired, care for someone, are ill or have a disability.

Who pays benefits

The Department for Social Development (DSD) manages most benefits through Jobs and Benefits/Social Security offices. Benefits and entitlements for pensioners are dealt with through the Pension Service which provides a face-to-face service for those who need additional help and support.

You'll also often deal with other agencies or government departments, such as the NI Housing Executive, Land & Property Services or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

People of working age

Benefits and services for people of working age, for example Jobseeker's Allowance, are dealt with by Social Security / Jobs and Benefits offices around Northern Ireland.

These offices can help you with:

  • finding work
  • starting your own business
  • managing on a low income

If you cannot work because of an illness or disability visit the ill or injured benefits information page for more information.  Illness or accidents caused by work are dealt with by Industrial Injuries Branch.

Pensioners and people planning for their retirement

The Pension Service, which is part of DSD, provides services to:

  • anyone planning for their retirement
  • people approaching retirement
  • people who've already retired
  • employers
  • pension providers and advisers

The Northern Ireland Pension Centre looks after State Pension and Pension Credit.

Families and children

Social Security / Jobs and Benefits offices look after benefits and services for families, including those:

The Child Maintenance Service is part of DSD and is responsible for running the child maintenance system - it assesses, collects and pays child maintenance

HM Revenue and Customs deals with Child Benefit, Guardian's Allowance and tax credits.

People with disabilities and carers

The Disability and Carers Service, which is part of DSD, is responsible for benefits and services for people who are sick or have a disability, and their carers (Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance).

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is dealt with by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) if you are a tenant, and by Land & Property Services if you are a homeowner.

Who can claim benefits

To qualify for a particular benefit you must meet the conditions that the government specifies. For example, to claim Child Benefit you must be responsible for bringing up a child.

To apply for a benefit you'll normally have to fill in an application form and provide supporting information.

How benefits are paid

Direct payment is the normal way benefits are paid. It is a safe, convenient and efficient method of payment that gives customers access to a wide range of financial services.

Where to get advice

Social Security/Jobs and Benefits offices

If you're of working age, Jobs and Benefits/Social Security offices can offer advice on the various benefits you can claim. Find your local office through the Department for Social Development website or in the local phone book.  

Northern Ireland Pension Centre

If you're a pensioner or planning for retirement, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre for information on pensions and related benefits.

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